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|Is Panda just a smokescreen?|
Google has taken on thousands of new employees lately. What are they all doing? Well there must be an awful lot of them manually checking the SERPs.
Like a lot of people I have had a stack of affiliate sites smacked recently. All of them have been hit after a manual visit from Mountain View by someone on a Mac who's looked at just a couple of pages or so, finishing with the link that takes visitors to a merchant site. In each case the page they have first visited is one that is optimised with a search term that has more than 100,000 visitors a month. Sites only get hit when they get near the top for these terms. Some of these sites have been around for years but as soon as they get too near the top: pop, they are down to -50. I have watched other competitor affiliate sites suffer the same fate: they are OK until they put their heads above the parapet, then they are gone. Competitors that are merchants - even though they act as affiliates for the product they are advertising (and regardless of how thin their content) remain untouched.
My theories from this?
1) Google intends to drive affiliates out of business (but then we already knew that).
2) I reckon they have whole batteries of people doing manual checks on the top few sites for major search terms. So, if this is correct, the Panda just isn't as clever as we were led to believe. If it was so intelligent, Google wouldn't need an army of manual checkers doing a boring job like this. Is Google turning into a glorified DMOZ, with human reviewers making the most important decisions?
I think you're looking at Panda and Google only through the lens of affiliate sites, because that's your niche. Here's why:
1. Panda's impact goes far beyond affiliates. In fact the biggest losers have been article sites and even forums.
2. Panda demotions happen on specific dates, not after quality raters visit.
3. Google has had thousands of human quality raters checking the SERPs for years long before Panda. If that army as grown lately as you say (please share the source for that information) it may also have to do with their new focus on scraper sites.
So I don't think Panda is a smokescreen for an attack on all affiliates. Yes, human quality raters seem to have a new set of much more intense guidelines and many affiliate sites are being affected. And yes, human quality raters focus on higher volume search results... they always have.
I don't believe Google is working to eliminate the affiliate system altogether - but they certainly do seem to be thinning things out quite a bit. The old methods of gaining Google traffic are not working so well, and that is definitely by design.
I've thought about this and here is my wild thorey.
Google wants the traffic going to organic results for itself.
Rather than just take it, in an obvious manner and cause huge direct uproar.
They create Panda, the good or bad site label maker.
They then take the traffic, push it onto ads and other G properties.
And rather than everyone saying what really happened.
Everyone posts about how they must be doing something wrong and how can i fix my site etc.
Google does the dirty, and webmasters feel the guilt, pretty smart PR...
Because all i can see is popular sites being hit, the crap is still there, simply because their traffic is low, why take that from them.
Oh then there is causing a stir on twitter or some SEO blog, seems a fast track way outta Panda world. Gotta keep the biggest voices quiet.
[edited by: Dave_Hybrid at 4:14 pm (utc) on Sep 16, 2011]
Google headcount (horrible de-humanising word) was about 20,000 in November 2010. Latest published number from their financial reports is 28,768 at the end of June, not including 400 or so from aquisitions. That's a lot of extra people in about 7 months. Up until Panda hit the trail I'd never seen any human visitors in my logs from Google IP addresses, and I check all of them, daily. My good performing sites now get checked about every 2 weeks. These guys aren't cheap labour people from India, they come from the Plex's IP address. I'm also hearing more and more reports from other webmasters about manual penalties.
I appreciate that algorithm demotions happen and that other types of sites are hit by them and to be frank I can accept that because there is an element of fairness to the same rules being applied to all websites. However, since the Panda is supposed to select the best sites for visitors, I wonder why do they need human reviewers on top of that. If a site is good enough to rise to the top, what justification is there to manually demote it? Surely a good algo can spot abusive ranking methods and if a site has risen to the top on it's own merits then manually downgrading it because of the pursuit of a particular agenda (such as the culling of affiliates) is a clear abuse of power. Hidden, perhaps, behind the smokescreen of a new super-algorithm.
First not just affiliates were hit by panda so let's not try to purposefully confuse the two, small mom-and-pop businesses were destroyed as well. And not just obviously bad sites. Not that making money by affiliate marketing is bad provided you provide a service, in fact even Google has invested in quite a few of them [googleventures.com...] and 99% of G Search users don't know that (Would they get a "maybe you should try..." tip like Hubpages got after calling Google a monopoly?). Even clicking on organic searches could make money for Google.
Those manual inspectors follow the ever-changing guidelines from the top, and when Google is in the same business, in every rational human a conflict of interest bell rings. The sites could be bad of course, or it could just be a business decision by Google.
The Google headcount rise is mostly to cold calls and to make more money. Google reached the peak with automation by providing zero support and that has backfired since people wonder what happens if their acct is frozen along with all their G services. Now with "G offers" and the small biz push they will need to do lots of cold calling and act as if they provide support.
Google is giving "free websites" to many small businesses along with a $100 voucher for adwords for a year. I will predict that another Panda is going to force them to advertise by next year. Quality and all, Google fashion.
And then Google has decided to get into everything, from cell phones to affiliate to marketing. Maybe tomorrow they'll make shoes--at 50% off if you let them analyze your sweat, track your movement and accept mailers from drug companies and your local police station. Never know with them.
Let me get this straight: Google offers free websites and free advertising so that small businesses can get kick-started online... then after a year of good graces in their search results they pull the rug out from under them, forcing them either to either quit or invest more with the adwords?
That is a very sneaky theory... the stuff of legend!
|1) Google intends to drive affiliates out of business (but then we already knew that). |
I've been looking at a lot of digital camera review sites whose monetization is from affiliate links, and they seem to do quite well, all filling up the top SERPs; Despite the fact that these sites are not famous "brands", they generally outrank the manufacturer's sites, as well as the well known tech sites out there
They don't try to cover up that they are affiliate sites; they proudly state that if you find the review helpful, please purchase through one of the affiliate links on their site.
They do provide TERRIFIC reviews of the cameras, usually providing side by side comparisons of some of the closest competition to each model. As a shopper, it is hard for me to imagine people who WOULDN'T find a lot of value from these particular sites.
So while I am sure that google is now classifying more and more affiliate sites as "doorway" sites, if you have something very helpful, like independent side by side reviews, I don't think there would be much problem ranking.
(Apologies to moderators over use of keywords: I just thought mentioning the specific types of products would better illustrate the example than using "widgets".)
|since the Panda is supposed to select the best sites for visitors, I wonder why do they need human reviewers on top of that. If a site is good enough to rise to the top, what justification is there to manually demote it? |
Panda itself does not use human reviewers to assign its demotions and promotions. Human reviewers did create the seed set that started the machine learning for Panda, but now it runs periodically as an automated algorithm. Then its output gets integrated into the overall algorithm scoring, applied on top of all the factors that are already in place like relevance, authority, PageRank, etc.
About your second question above: Sites can "rise to the top" by finding and leveraging loopholes in the overall algorithm - because any algorithm can be subverted, that's inherent in a machine algorithm of any kind. Also, as I already mentioned, Google has been using human reviewers to quality check the algorithm's output for quite a few years.
I'm not saying something new and adversarial isn't going on with Google. But I am saying it's important to understand how the rankings are being created before forming opinions and theories.
What I would like find out is what all the different affiliate networks thoughts are on how to handle such an attack on their publishers. There is bound to be a few worried networks around at the moment.
As Planet13 said affiliates do give something to the net, from reviews to price comparison the public are treated to a wealth of information from diferent sites and diferent perspectives.
Google may want to take this over, and they probably could, but will there be they be able to give all the independent views that there has been on the web in the so far.
I agree. I would even like to know IF the affiliate networks are feeling anything like "an attack on their publishers". It's not impossible that, overall, they are not seeing it. Maybe the winners among the affiliate publishers are making up for what the losers have see evaporate.
If the networks ARE feeling a significant negative impact, then they should be getting vocal.
|Google intends to drive affiliates out of business (but then we already knew that). |
From a business perspective Google is a central pivot to the e-economy. It makes sense for them to direct as much of that economy via itself by eliminating affiliates and/or other sites that do not add value, since Google has the opportunity to monetise direct relationships with business with larger ad margins on a shortened supply chain and vastly increase it's profit.
So the mantra appears to be eliminate affiliates by default & connect SME's ( small,medium enterprises ) using places. Google's goal seems to be to make every business on the planet effectively one of it's own affiliates, monetising the relationship wherever it can.
If you have affiliate channels , those partners need to add more than just publish price comparisons, badges , similar or same content. It wouldn't surprise me if Google knows via it's algorithmn , who those sites associate with, and just for that they may have a lower quality score.
I'm looking at several sets of SERP results, and only one very precarious affiliate ( with lots of aggregated content ) that has been effected in the long tail appears in the top 10 results.
My initial understanding was that Panda would sweep 12% out of the serps as "farms, etc."
What is most interesting, if you think about it, is how the rank and file here at Webmasterworld has cried foul. Are we in the 12%?
(Had no losses in any Panda regardless of version number)... but a number of my clients have, so I feel the same pain.
Just seems like more than 12% of WW kiddies seem to have been hit... and perhaps that suggests a different question?
(Call this Devil's Advocate)
Walkman, I think a lot of us are in the same predicament, in a few months I will no longer have any employees, and my house is on the market. But I can admit that some of my sites that got hit, did "deserve" to get hit. I have invested all I have into replacing what I believe to be all offending content to what Google wants.
If its an algorithm then it should be fine, and eventually adjust accordingly. From there I will feel better, and can use some of the money I get from selling my house to start over again.
Shopping comparison sites are fine I believe, as long as the content they have is unique with information and user reviews. But not stolen content or thin.
Walkman, can you honestly say there are no pages in your site/s that have no copied content or very thin?
|I don't think Google has a problem with affiliate sites, as long as they are offering a genuine user experience |
I think they do. It's more income for them and talking about subject A or product B in 100 different ways soon isn't going to add value. So I guess I'm agreeing in a round about way.
Suprisingly, this is a double edged sword - if you eliminate the competition you eliminate the need to have a search engine. The technology is getting simpler to build.
Just imagine if all the airlines, or banking systems got together again to build their own distribution systems outside of the search engines. They can see their margins under pressure as well.
These groups were ahead of their time in the late 60's building massive internal process' to introduce some of the first global systems. All the data is there's anyway, and they have the capacity to build competing systems easily enough it's pretty much there.
I think the pressure will come back from the principal industry groupings and deals will be done with middlemen again. But if you're an unsophisticated affiliate it will be very difficult to survive. But to keep on track with the thread - is Panda a smoke screen - for a bigger agenda - absolutely.
But what about the economy of the search engine - it can make or break a business, as in e.g. there is perhaps enough search traffic for the keyword "mortgages" and related terms, to give enough business to support an online mortgage company, but would that mean that google could essentially feasibly start Google.com/loans, and offer their own loans? Suppressing all other loan companies and banks in the SERPs?
What if this is the long-long-term plan, to build up the brand enough to eventually offer all the services themselves, buying out whoever they need on the way?
Just a thought.
|but would that mean that google could essentially feasibly start Google.com/loans, and offer their own loans? |
They already do offer financial products and take a fee :
Are these loan offers sponsored?
Yes they are. Google is paid when you contact a mortgage lender through Google Advisor. We work directly with the lenders to provide you with details of available offers, and a better experience. By default, we show offers with the lowest APR at the top of your results.
How often do you update rates?
We update the mortgage rates listed in Google Advisor several times a day to make sure that the rates you see are up-to-date.
Credit Cards https://www.google.com/advisor/uscredit#!overview
Are these credit card offers sponsored?
No they are not. Google is not currently paid for showing these offers. We work directly with banks and search the web to find available credit card offers. By default, we show cards with the lowest intro balance transfer APR at the top of your results.
The list goes on, and in other different verticals. Google will earn money from anywhere it can see a dollar, provided it meets it's strategic objectives.
At least they don't have a banking licence - but that may effectively come through "partnerships".
|Walkman, can you honestly say there are no pages in your site/s that have no copied content or very thin? |
I can honestly say that I have no more than those ranking on top when it's all said and done. In fact i have a very limited number of pages (under 1000,) some have even millions. Trust me, it's impossible to have that many useful pages in my niche, but they got a free pass. I never claimed that I should be #1 or even #12 for a keyword or another, and have also have admitted that they are many better sites (overall) that mine. I do however question a sitewide Panda penalty, not based on content, and for many keywords I should rank near the top every once in a while. Getting more Google referrals than type-ins, when others are getting tens of thousands Google referrals a day, is not much to ask, no? I work on my site every single day, I am not trying to cheat anyone.
|but would that mean that google could essentially feasibly start Google.com/loans, and offer their own loans? Suppressing all other loan companies and banks in the SERPs? |
Google has already done that and that's on top of all ads. Google is making everyone compete on adwords, margins are squeezed and Google wins. No affiliate can compete with the original since the affiliates have rent, salaries and expenses to pay. But banks and insurance companies can compete with each other to give Google as much money as possible. As a bonus, Google also destroys many competitors and weaken even the strongest ones. Why should Google promote a loan /insurance /credit card /travel search engine only to help users?
I have never spent more than a few $100 in adwords amonth, yet I have gotten cold calls from Google. Imagine what went on with the Geico, Progressive...and Bank of America accounts. Imagine the winks and the nods from the people that really matter at Google to convince them to spend more on Google and less on magazines, TV, or radio. Billions are at stake, they don't get the boilerplate email.
I would have thought Google would be a smoke free workplace.
It's worth noting that the US/Canada is more vulnerable to the immediacy of change because the data is in a limited number of hands. There are verticals in other regions under threat [ like UK/Europe / Australia / NZ ] but the real competitive core is on home turf.
Sometimes i wonder if the online economic World isn't going to disappear up it's own passage or Google's.
Google will control more and more of the media, likely getting mainstream. For example now we have smart TVs it doesn't take a genius to work out that we will likely see an Android OS any time on these.
|Maybe the winners among the affiliate publishers are making up for what the losers have see evaporate. If the networks ARE feeling a significant negative impact, then they should be getting vocal. |
I agree, it has to be worring time for these companies. I was one of the larger affiliates and there are no other affiliates in the place of my results. The money I have lost for the affiliate company is sure to have an impact on their business.
|I do however question a sitewide Panda penalty |
Is panda a penality though, I think Google will tell you no, although I agree any sitewide penality has to be frowned upon unless you are harming the public. The penality should be for pages they check, how can someone say there is something wrong with your whole site after a manual check of 3 or 4 pages.
If it is linking that causes a penality, is the penality caused by Google devaluing all your links, thus you are the same as having no links, so you rank accordingly -50? I have never heard that this is the case, but a close friend that had a -50 penality for a few years began ranking again after talking another webmaster to link to him with a PR5.
It's a penalty for lack of better word, but the consensus seems to be it is an algorithm that checks certain criteria, if you do not meet the standard then your site will suffer from reduced rankings, which is essentially a penalty.
|Google will control more and more of the media, likely getting mainstream. For example now we have smart TVs it doesn't take a genius to work out that we will likely see an Android OS any time on these. |
Doubt it, everywhere they re trying to get in they are failing and meeting resistance. They can push webmasters around but not the big boys. They were forced to pay $12.5 billion to try to defend Android and it is not even over yet.Google would not make had it started this year, they are way behind in everything. Even FB has better data-centers now and the hottest online products are non-Google. But they played the users perfectly this past decade, and now are milking it to death, probably even selling their users' underwear info. That money allows them to experiment and to try to kill competition.
|The penality should be for pages they check, how can someone say there is something wrong with your whole site after a manual check of 3 or 4 pages. |
The Panda penalty, as whatson explained take down your entire site and I think it freezes people out of the best keywords. I see it and suggy saw it too. You may rank on some extraordinary pages but that's because they have many links and are way above competition.
It almost certainly checks how users interact with the pages. The trick is that your traffic is horrible after being hit by Panda and you get traffic for "cheap widgets with yellow ribbons" when you just mention yellow ribbons on your "cheap widgets" page. Obviously many click back. So they send you bad traffic and then penalize your entire site for it, when all they know is that the page might not be an ideal match for the keyword they sent. It's almost criminal, I hope they pay for it one way or another.
|It's a penalty for lack of better word, but the consensus seems to be it is an algorithm that checks certain criteria, if you do not meet the standard then your site will suffer from reduced rankings, which is essentially a penalty. |
The first line of the algo must start with the equivalent of "If not a brand...."
"The Panda penalty, as whatson explained take down your entire site and I think it freezes people out of the best keywords."
I run a pandarised forum, the subpages tanked but the homepage still ranks for money terms.
|3. Google has had thousands of human quality raters checking the SERPs for years long before Panda. If that army as grown lately as you say (please share the source for that information) it may also have to do with their new focus on scraper sites. |
I dont know about thousands, but i do know about hundreds and their quality is more than questionable, I participate in their programs once in a while. At freelance outlets they hire for a few dollars. I hang out there too, because the insight you get there you cant buy for money. (I participated for example recently in a Google Maps project too, and mostly people from Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Phillipines were rating Google Map serps from Germany ) and no I never had to sign a NDA..., and at one freelance site (starts with an o and ends with a k) they claim to be the biggest employer...
Didn't they have (or have) 1000s of quality checkers, but they were all volunteers? I recall this maybe a few years ago, but can't find anything mentioned about it.
|It almost certainly checks how users interact with the pages. |
I don't think you can say this, what do you have to support it? There are some seriously bad sites out there, that have not been affected at all.
|Didn't they have (or have) 1000s of quality checkers, but they were all volunteers? |
No, they have always been contract workers but not full employees as far as I know.
What was their actual job? To create a quality score for web sites, that serve as a ranking factor?
Google runs an affiliate system, assimilate or perish.
|I dont know about thousands, but i do know about hundreds and their quality is more than questionable, I participate in their programs once in a while. At freelance outlets they hire for a few dollars. I hang out there too, because the insight you get there you cant buy for money. (I participated for example recently in a Google Maps project too, and mostly people from Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Phillipines were rating Google Map serps from Germany ) and no I never had to sign a NDA..., and at one freelance site (starts with an o and ends with a k) they claim to be the biggest employer... |
Very interesting. Care to share more detail?
| This 34 message thread spans 2 pages: 34 (  2 ) > > |