In 2011 Google rolled out one of the biggest updates to its search engine, the Google Panda update, also referred to as the Farmer Update. The first tranche of the update was in February 2011 and affected all English language sites in America. The second tranche of the update was in April 2011 and affected all other English language sites.
There is a lot of conflicting opinion on whether this update was good or not. Many webmasters and blog owners feel that it was unfair as they lost a lot of traffic. Google say that users have reported improvements in search results, although a majority of Google users are totally unaware that any change took place.
The Google Panda update provides a new layer to the Google search algorithm. Prior to Panda, Google ranked web pages using its PageRank algorithm. It still does this, however, now there is a second layer to ranking. Panda ranks provides a quality check for an entire website. So a website with some very good pages which are well linked to may have received a lot of targeted traffic prior to Google Panda. However, if there is some low quality content on the site then these pages are reduced in ranking. Basically, Google now ranks websites and not just web pages.
The result is that many bloggers and website owners have seen large drops in Google traffic since the Panda updates. These site owners are often very critical of Google because of this. However, really they need to take a closer look at their business model and their websites and ask themselves, why doesn’t Google like my site anymore?
As far as Google users are concerned there are still 10 organic search results on the first page of Google when they type a search in. There is still a lot of content on the Internet to provide readers with all the answers they need.
For those that are highly critical of the Google Panda update they really need to to examine their website in great detail to improve overall site quality. This does not just mean quality of written content but also the quality of the site design, architecture, navigation and usability.
It is also painful to hear, but if a website has lost much of its business as a result of a single change by a single search engine, then their business model was broken. No business should ever rely solely on a single source of new clients. It is vital for any business to spread its risk by widening its marketing net. Google even suggests doing this themselves. Matt Cutts has said that webmasters really should look to social media and other sites for generating more business leads (traffic).
Facebook, Twitter, forums and blogs all provide opportunities for generating new business. Some of the most successful web marketeers were only receiving 25% of their traffic from Google before Panda, and these guys have well optimised websites.
The Internet is much bigger than just Google and to rely on Google for all your business is a marketing disaster waiting to happen. If you survived Google Panda in tact do not rest on your laurels. The next Google update could see your website plummet in the search index. Running a profitable website is really no different from running any other business. Make sure that you are ready to survive the crash by diversifying your marketing model.
For an example of a website that improved after the Google Panda update take a look at Shareholders Portal. The site is relatively new and does not have many links from other sites, i.e. it is the type of site which before Panda was lost in the search pages. However, since the Google update traffic has more than doubled. This is a sure sign that quality sites are being given more exposure in Google search.