What Was The Panda Update?
If you operate at all in the Internet Marketing/Search Engine Optimization industry you are all too familiar with the Panda (aka Farmer) update. For those of you not familiar with the update, Google deployed a change to their algorithm in response to several very embarrassing exploitations by major players in the Internet commerce game (history on the update can be found here). The update was created when it became apparent that large companies were buying links on questionable websites to gain an upper-hand in the SEO landscape. Google frowns on the practice of gaming their system and as such felt they needed to take action to stem the damage that had been done to the integrity of their search results. Hence the now infamous Panda Update was born.
Who It Impacted
The bad news is that if you were gaming the Google system, the update slapped you hard. The good news is that if you played by the rules and built your site according to G’s policies your site may have actually moved up in the rankings. The update was designed to penalize those sites that were manipulating the Google rankings for the niches they targeted. While it is not uncommon for SEO engineers to take certain measures to ensure sites rank well, most adhere loosely to Google’s guidelines to ensure their customer’s sites are not penalized in these types of updates (typically referred to as being White Hat). The problem Google faced is that many businesses that are avid advertisers on their AdWords network were also spending large sums of money to artificially create authority across hundreds of niches. If this were a small business site, or your homemade hobby site that was guilty of manipulating the rankings, Google would have blown your site back to the dark ages; however, Google had to penalize these businesses without discouraging them from continuing to run their ads. Most of those businesses received a manual inspection and received a manually enforced penalty, but G had to deal with other sites that had followed the business model the giants were using. To accomplish this SEO leveling, an algorithm change was introduced.
Given the complexity of the algorithm change, I suspect it was in the works well before JCPenny’s and Overstock were outed. However, it looks incredibly bad when an Internet giant is called out regarding unfair gaming of the search engine rankings by someone who has almost no SEO experience (the gentleman writing the story was a reporter by trade with little to no experience in the Internet realm).
SEO Impact To Small Business
Smaller local businesses probably didn’t feel any impact from the update to their business sites. I know that several of my clients actually experienced a net gain in the search engine rankings. I have one client that specializes in Arizona Tile, and they jumped forward two pages after the update. Likewise I have a side business that reviews items such as black picture frames
and that site saw marginal increases as well. However, if you were in the Internet spam business and your site had links from questionable neighborhoods, you may have noticed a decline in your rankings. Several folks I know experienced this negative effect. Their sites took a hit in the rankings not because they promote spam, but some of the offsite SEO they had performed caused the new algorithm to penalize their rankings.
How To Avoid Similar Penalties In The Future
The bottom line to avoiding a severe penalty like JCPenny’s and Overstock’s is to ensure the offsite SEO that is being performed on your site is being done by a professional that understands the game and that can get you the long term rankings without sending you to the bottom of the search engine results for making Google angry. I also caution my customers to be very wary of any Arizona SEO firm that promises overnight results that will take you right to the top. Proper offsite optimization takes time and needs to be done very carefully to get you the results you expect and are paying for.