Penguins and Pandas, Oh My!

For those in web marketing, the scariest creatures in the animal world these days are penguins and pandas.  I’ve even known some web marketers that wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat after nightmares of penguins eating their laptops and bank accounts.   Some have even permanently given up taking their lunch breaks at Panda Express.

Okay, so maybe I am exaggerating slightly.  It is the case however, that life since Google’s Panda back in February of 2011 and the more recent Penguin Update has changed life for those who make their living by getting websites ranked on SERP’s (Search Engine Results Pages).  Most web marketers, in fact, mark their professional lives in terms of pre-Panda and post-Panda.  It has been a game changer.

Google Panda One Year Later

So now that we have had a year to digest the changes, what has Google Panda meant and who have been the winners and losers in Google’s algorithm change?

Panda basically has basically made it harder for poor content to rise to the top.  It has specifically targeted content scraping websites that just took (some would say “stole”) content from other higher quality sites and passed it off as their own.   Web marketers now have to work harder to make their websites read well and must continue to work on having newer and higher quality content.

Who are the big winners in this?

It is clear the Google’s attempts to fend off Facebook and other social media has meant a new emphasis on social media content and on multi-media.  Many people have noticed that sites with video and with images have risen on SERP’s.  (Many have also noticed that Google’s own properties seem to do extra well—such as YouTube, for example.)

Who have been the big winners and losers in this?

Here are some numbers reported by Search Engine Land:

Content mills and press release websites were hit pretty hard by Panda and its updates.  But not all websites or types of websites were hit equally hard. Demand Studios and its E-How website got clobbered, but didn’t, even though both could roughly be called content mills. (Interestingly, Hubpages uses Google’s Adsense to help compensate their content producers—what a coincidence.)

What Should You Learn from the Panda?

The thing to remember about the Google algorithm is that it is not static, but a living thing. Not unlike a Panda actually.  What got your ranked well on Google in 2010 is not the same thing that gets you ranked well on Google in 2012.  And that is not just because of Panda and its subsequent updates.  Google makes tweaks to its algorithms on a daily basis.  They are not as extreme as Panda was, but they have their effect.

And Google also monitors their results from the Googleplex with actual teams of human curators who check searches and act as quality control cops. So a website that did well today might see themselves downgraded tomorrow because of users’ bounce rate among other criteria.

All of this is to say that doing well in web marketing is about adapting to your environment and continuing to produce useful and captivating content that connects to your audience.  The key of that sentence is the last part: connecting to your audience. That is what Google wants to see and what you want to do.

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