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Google Panda / Farmer Update

There has been a lot of noise coming from webmasters across the pond after Google updated their algorithm with the Panda or Farmer update.

We expect to see a similar wave of disbelief as the update is rolled out across the UK and rest of the world, and so we thought we’d preempt that by discussing it here.

The result of the Panda update has seen a wide range of websites, from the small business owner through to enormous “houshold name” sites losing huge swathes of traffic as their rankings have plummeted.

One particular case to note is suite101.com which has seen it’s traffic drop by an awe inspiring 94%.

According to sources the aim of the Panda or Farmer update is to target low quality “content farms.”

These sites typically will contain maybe 30 pages all telling you how to do the same thing (like make a cheese sandwich for example), but with the content re-written around every conceivable variation of the keywords or phrases that someone looking for advice on a topic might search for.

The sole aim and reason for these sites to exist seems to be to get people onto a page so that advertisements can be displayed to them.

They typically offer low quality content that is “disguised” as advice, just for this purpose.

We’ve talked before about the importance of good quality content in our “Ask not what Google can do for you, ask what you can do for your customers” introduction to SEO, and really nothing has changed at all on this front.

When you consider that Google’s own business model is to deliver the highest possible quality results, then in order to make your site fit into that you must always have your visitors best interests at heart first.

The minute that you start to write content for the seach engines, or to try and “trick” people into landing on your site so that you can show adverts or sell thngs to them, then you’re on a slippery slope.

One interesting thing that we observed about Googles Panda or Farmer update is that they have used Human reviewers to construct part of the algorithm.

They have asked these reviewers questions like: “would you feel comfortable giving your credit card details to this website,” & “would you be happy to give your children medicine that you bought from this site?”

It seems to us that this is designed to incorporate values like trust, authority, and reputation into the algorithm.

If you listen to Google (which is always a sensible thing to do), then you’ll know that these are words that they use a lot when talking about search results.

If you think about their business model, and that they want people to continue to use Google, then you have to come to the conclusion that search results will in the end not just come down to relevance or content, but also to the user experience once that a person has arrived at a particular site.

Really the aim is to give the searcher the best experience possible, which comes down to presenting them with the information that they are looking for, and on a site that is easy to use and trustworthy.

Perhaps this is why in the Panda update there have been cases of old and well established websites with unique content in small niches that have seen their traffic drop off too.

One of these sites in particular had a very old style layout and was probably still using the same site designed 10 years ago, despite the fact that HTML, web applications, and user expectations have moved on significantly since then.

Perhaps this algortithmic update is also adding user experience (trust, reputation, and authority) into the mix in a far more meaningful way than it has been previously, and perhaps a part of this will come down not so much to the aesthetics of the website per se, but more to whether the website presents itself in a way that inspires trustworthiness in visitors to the site.

In any case, there will undoubtedly be a lot of unhappy webmasters in the UK once the algorithm hits our shores.

We’ll keep track of the changes to the rankings of the websites that we’re involved with, and report back here with the findings.

Really I don’t expect to see any adverse changes to our clients sites, since we instill in them the necessity to not only follow Googles own guidelines, but to always have their customers best interests at heart, whether it’s in the content that they present to them, or anything else.

If you do experience problems after the update hits, then feel free to contact us to discuss what we can do to help you.

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