Google Panda, 6 Months Later

LOS ANGELES — With Google’s infamous “Panda” update now six months old, search engine marketers are reporting mixed progress in their attempts to recover rank.

Google intended for the Panda update and other tweaks to reduce the prominence of “low quality” websites, including sites primarily composed of duplicate content, such as affiliate feeds and other non-original content sources, within its listings — reductions that dropped more than  a few websites’ traffic by 80 percent or more.

The problem for webmasters with the Panda update, or any other incident that causes a sudden, precipitous decline in organic search volume or other website traffic sources, is that many companies rely heavily on these resources for their livelihood — a worsening situation which is pronounced in adult circles, where search engine traffic is increasingly hard to come by.

“Panda has created a scenario where publishers who don’t embrace SEO are condemned to feel the sting of what happens when they don’t,” Frank Watson wrote for Search Engine Watch. “SEO does work, but you can’t rely on your father’s methods anymore.”

While some websites have recovered a portion of their lost ground, others have not since seen the sweet search engine traffic that their profits were once built upon.

“What Panda has shown is that changes have been different for sites based on their content and language — the algorithm seems to have the ability to differentiate the topics and languages and use the information to create changes in the SERPs that are tailored to that information,” Watson added. “Publishers of widespread topics have had the toughest time as what may work to help one area could hurt another, and in most cases they are using a single method to correct their problems.”

Although affected website owners have discussed strategies for coping with Panda amongst themselves, with varying degrees of success, Google’s Webmaster Guidelines — especially those centered on content and design — provide all the information that is needed to rank well within its search listings, whether or not the algorithm gets tweaked.

Experts also note the increasing importance of localized and mobile search; and recommend that webmasters focus on providing better content, more robust internal navigation and faster speed, valid coding and reduced advertising loads for better results.

“Google’s algorithm at its start mirrored how scholarly articles referenced other studies — those referenced most often were generally the seminal works on the subject. Unfortunately, this lead to link buying and link spam,” Watson concluded. “Panda is an attempt to return to these early methods, but Google can now apply latent semantics and understands duplicated content better.”