GPWA Times Magazine - Issue 17 - September 2011

Others run a broad-based campaign in which they get as many people onto their website as possible. Overall, they expend less effort per individual visitor, but they get more visitors, so it balances out. In search marketing, particularly SEO, vast websites that targeted the widest number of visitors possible from the largest amount of keywords possible became the equivalent of the giant drift net, capturing all of the users through millions of pages of content formed into a closely connected web of related content. Of course this would be fine if the users being drawn into the net were of any use to the publisher, but in most cases they weren’t. The website had nothing to offer them, so they were either squeezed back into the search results to find something else or they were encouraged to click on ads, which meant that the publisher earned money. Clearly, this presented a fairly poor user experience for searchers. Search results were clogged with low-quality, factory- created pages, reducing the level of trust people had in searching through Google. Why bother using Google to find some- thing if the only thing that you find is more links to more ads, which in turn take you to websites where you’ll find more ads, and you never get to what you actually want to find? This also presented a problem for mar- keters. The price they had to pay for traf- fic increased, because rather than the an- swer to a query being found in the Google search results, all a user got was some- thing that looked like the answer, but was in fact a page that simply provided a place where the people with the answers could pay for an ad. Google’s Panda update Google’s answer to this problem was to unleash Panda, an update to their rank- ing algorithm that attempted to remove a lot of the big nets from their index to protect the ecosystem. Overnight, pub- lishers who had operated under a model in which they created millions of pages to capture users across a huge range of key- words found that their websites had dis- appeared from Google’s results – along with their traffic. With no traffic, there is no revenue, and faced with statistics that looked like the graph below, panic ensued. Coping with Panda Initially, a lot of webmasters thought that the update would be something with only a short-term impact, but as the weeks passed it became apparent that revenue generation through developing the widest possible network of low-qual- ity content supported by highly visible ads would no longer work. Webmasters wondered what they could do to counter the effects of Google Panda. In a lot of cases, the answer was “Not much,” particularly for webmasters adhering to the concept of churning out content at a fraction of a cent per word and using that content to build out their site to target al- most every conceivable variation of a key- word that a user might search for. It soon became clear, though, that Panda was about more than just low-quality content. That was a part, but it wasn’t the whole. Panda was about improving user experience. It makes sense when you think about it. Google wants to pres- Google Panda – What it means, and what you can do!