Panda/Farmer Update Rolls Out to the UK
Following the highly publicised rollout of the Google Farmer (Panda) update in the US, Google announced that the same algorithmic change had been rolled out to all English-language Google users. However, alongside the update a further enhancement was included to take into account sites blocked using the Chrome Personal Blocklist widget.
Google commented on the Webmaster Central blog:In some high-confidence situations, we are beginning to incorporate data about the sites that users block into our algorithms.
This comment suggests that they’re still evaluating the effectiveness of including the personal blocklist in their algorithm. They are hesitant perhaps after concerns from worried webmasters that it’s possible for a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) style attack against a site where hundreds of thousands of hacked computers around the world are instructed to send a block request back to Google for a specific site.
Presumably, Google has some way to monitor the quality, volume and frequency of any blocklist requests, which as a last resort may come down to a manual review. It is more than likely that Google would seek to provide an algorithmic solution that would capture other similar sites rather than one-off global blacklisting against individual sites. Otherwise, one might take this to the final degree and ask, what would happen if we all sent a personal blocklist request against one of Google’s own sites?
As in the US, there have been significant winners and losers in this latest update. Figures produced early on by Search Metrics were disputed by some webmasters that the data was calculated prior to the Panda rollout having actually taken place. However, these figures were soon backed up by a second report from SISTRIX, which broadly contained the same results as the earlier Search Metrics report.
Some of the key losers were:
- Ehow.co.uk (84%)
- Ezinearticles.com (78%)
- Twenga.co.uk (79%)
- Shopzilla.co.uk (77%)
- Ciao.co.uk (81%)
- Hotfrog.co.uk (87%)
- Reviewcentre (89%)
Whilst some of the winners included:
- Ebay.co.uk (42%)
- Econsultancy.com (37%)
- Thisismoney.co.uk (30%)
- Mirror.co.uk (24%)
- Itv.com (22%)
- Metro.co.uk (21%)
- Independent.co.uk (21%)
From our own analysis of these figures it appears that the following sites were hit hardest:
- Voucher sites where the vouchers have expired, there is little unique information about a voucher, or there are too many links off the site.
- Price comparison sites with considerable outbound links and little original content.
- Sites with little original content, such as scraped content or little unique product information.
- Article sites with content duplicated on other article sites, and a significant number of outbound links.
- Sites with too much repeated content and with no canonical attributes set in the headers.
- Sites with too many adverts (particularly above the fold), including Google AdSense.
- Sites with broken RSS feeds.
- Job sites where the job vacancy information also appears on other sites. This is likely because many job sites in the UK pull their vacancy information from Broadbean, a central recruitment management site for recruitment agents.
And of the sites that won this battle, several were media sites (ITV, Metro, Mirror, Independent) where unique content (both content by journalists and moderated user comments) are created on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, ReviewCentre.com put out a blog post on 14 April updating users on the devastating impact of the Google Panda update, and how they found it inexplicable. They proposed that they had made a re-inclusion request, but as we mentioned last month, Google is ignoring any such requests with relation to Panda. Rather, it encourages site owners to correct what Google perceives to be the faults in their site.
Taking a glance at a ReviewCentre.com page at random, such as this one, it was clear to us that the site could well be falling foul on at least two counts. First, there are way too many advertisement links on the page relative to the content. Second, there are a lot of outbound links to Ask.com at the bottom of the page which do not have a nofollow attribute set in the link.
More positively, HubPages.com has been quick to realise just how bad its 72% loss in positions has been, and has taken immediate steps to update its policies on submitted content. In a blog post on 28 April 2011, it clearly laid out new standards for publication. Other article sites should take note. Clearly HubPages.com means business and intend to regain their positions through a significant improvement in content quality. Although it is not stated in the post, we have to consider if they will drop all or most previous content or revisit it against the new standards. As Google has made clear that moving forward, the content quality will affect positions and the content of the past is no exception.
Clearly, HubPages.com have been taking some good SEO advice. And, this is exactly where a good SEO expert is vital. If you understand the essence of Google Panda (and we’re here to help you with that understanding!) you will be best placed to give your clients expert advice to help them to regain lost positions.
One of the big winners of the UK update was reportedly Econsultancy.com. Interestingly, in their own blog post of 27 April, they highlighted that they’d not seen their traffic move. Even accounting for the Easter holidays it is interesting to note that the 37% increase in traffic had not equated to any more site visitors. This could be for a number of factors, though, not least that Econsultancy.com has traditionally relied on niche phrase traffic which may not have changed in the 37% headline figure. So, it may be that the dramatic headline figures (both positive and negative) might not equate to a massive change in site traffic. However, a longer time period to assess the change, without holidays and a Royal Wedding in between, could produce some different statistics.
The same blog post also highlights some further data from Stickyeyes.com, a search marketing company. Their statistics suggest that Panda so far has had narrower-ranging impact than both the Vince and Caffeine updates previously did. This may be the case where Panda, although it has affected a large number of sites, has targeted a narrow niche of particular criteria and there will continue to be many sites out there that have felt little to no impact. The post also details the impact across six specific market segments: Credit Cards, Gambling, Flights, Hotels, Holidays and Car Insurance. Of those, Gambling sites saw the highest position improvement with Hotel sites seeing the largest fall.