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A quick theory about Panda Updates

 9:15 pm on Feb 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Just a quick theory about Panda. Google essentially does an economic analysis on all sites just like with its Adwords system. If you have Adsense on your pages, your site is pushed to the top of the queue. You also have big brand sites which cannot be affected by panda because users recognize them and wouldn't use Google if they didn't exist. Google knows exactly the amount of money they can make if they get a click on your site (via your ads) versus simply sending them to the ads within their search results. Therefore, your site gets hit by Panda, if more money can be made by just sending them to an ad on their search results page. So, search results are purposely degraded to a certain extent (there is some sort of user satisfaction algorithm in place so they are not degraded too much) to send more clicks to their ads on their search results.

You can also look at it from an advertiserís point of view. Google essentially lowers the amount of available inventory for ads by demoting publishers. Therefore raising the CPC amounts that advertisers pay, creating a win, win scenario.

This can also be applied if your site competes in a niche with a Google product or a potential Google product. The fact of the matter is why share advertising revenue with you, when they can keep 100% if itís on their own pages. So, each iteration of Panda increases Google's profitability by eliminating the percentage paid to publishers hit by panda (not completely because they do have to send traffic to some publishers so they could potentially keep 15 or so percent of the difference between your site, the new publisher result, and the profit from their ads on their own search results (insert the big data analysis here)). So, each panda judgment is ultimately done with Google's bottom line in mind.

Does Panda actually make some judgments about the quality of the website? Yes, this is true, but I argue it plays a much smaller role than they say it does. Because with this latest Panda Update you have people saying it happened on the 15th, 22nd, 23rd of February etc., etc... Rather, this essentially was when the economic analysis of these sites took place by machine or human with help of machine (Far fetched, but I can literally imagine a red or green light (true or false) based upon a very extensive algorithmic economic analysis that is shown or not shown to a human).

Why could this theory be true? Because Google hasn't come up with any good ideas lately to increase profitability, and android ad revenue only accounts for 2 billion in Revenue (correct me if I'm wrong on that). They have a share price and investors to worry about.

What can small to medium publishers do? Unfortunately, not much. I only see this Panda problem getting progressively worse as more and more traffic is squeezed from publishers and sent back to Google. One area of hope for the internet is the democratization of it through other forms of traffic such as Twitter and Facebook (both hate Google) and indicative that competition is good.

Some final notes. I think it would be interesting to do an analysis of the dates that Google does Panda and the resulting increase in traffic back to Google Properties. A site by site analysis would be difficult but something a data warehouse like Alexa could do. It would also be interesting to use the corporate quarterly statements and compare the resulting increase or decrease to Google Properties and Panda sites based on Panda dates.

Finally, it would be cool to start a search engine dedicated to websites hit by Panda. Quality and if a site contains malware (toolbarís and unwanted browsers) are incredibly subjective measurements especially when there is a big profit motive. I bet the quality of the results to the ďuserĒ might be surprisingly high.

Disclaimer: This is speculation and is an opinion

[edited by: tedster at 10:23 pm (utc) on Feb 29, 2012]



 9:56 pm on Feb 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Welcome to the forums, Aoe2913.

Unfortunately, our first interaction is going to be a bit confrontational, because I couldn't disagree more. What you describe would not have taken over a year to develop, but Pandas did - over a year in development before it was deployed.

Also, I am certain that Google's search algorithms are developed without direct input from Adwords or Adsense data.

Panda, generically speaking, is a further development of Google's many year focus on measuring user engagement of web pages. Highly Engaging results is what Google's users appreciate the most, and it's what they intend to deliver. Does this means that "big brands" tend to rank well more often? Sure - because they already have developed strong user engagement through many channels.

Most of your speculation is a restatement of various conspiracy theories - the kind that were around well before Panda and just will not die. The thing webmasters need to appreciate is that Google's purpose is NOT to send them traffic, and it will never be. That's just not their business model. If it were, there wouldn't really be any business there.


 10:53 pm on Feb 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thank you for allowing my post.

I understand the post might have a conspiracy slant to it. But, Google, by far the market leader of search, kind of has the obligation to prove this theory wrong. I personally havenít seen a lot of effort on their end, aside from a few paragraphs about the changes behind Panda. What I have seen are consistent efforts to avoid the hard questions whether through congressional testimony or the information that they give to the public. I am kind of baffled, given the size of their market power, why they canít allow an external independent auditor to come in and confirm that these systems are not interlinked. I get the competition argument but what about corporate social responsibility.

You say that you are certain that the systems arenít interlinked (maybe not directly). But thatís like saying youíre certain that youíre going to get 10% every year from Bernie Madoff or stating that Microsoft always has had the best intentions. History has shown time and time again that corporations with monopolistic power are not out to act in anyoneís but their own best interest. The market forces are simply too great in this situation to prove otherwise.

So basically, itís not a matter of if there will be antitrust judgments, itís a matter of when. Then this begs the question, who should hold the stewardship of the global search industry? I am kind of found of Wikipediaís open search initiative.

Again, I am not saying that Google doesnít provide great search, they definitely have a technological edge. They just need a tad bit more transparency.


 11:08 pm on Feb 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Well, this forum is about doing SEO for Google. We have another forum to discuss Google Business practices [webmasterworld.com].

When it comes to Panda, saying it's up to Google to be more transparent is like throwing in the towel. This forum has many members who did NOT throw in the towel and who have recovered after Panda hurt their traffic. So if the area of Panda problems has practical importance for you, I think you'll find a lot of helpful ideas in our threads.


 11:32 pm on Feb 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

I won't respond to this thread anymore. I think it has significance to SEO in that it has to been in the back of everyone's mind when optimizing and choosing niches. It's currently not possible to throw in the towel, agreed.


 4:29 am on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

Tedster, I've been wanting to say this like...forever, but if there's a most valuable player on webmasterworld, you have to be IT. Your courtesy and focusing is amazing, not to mention the knowledge you bring to the table. I've nevern learned more online than I have from reading your Panda and SEO posts.


 5:20 am on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

Wow - thank you, coachm. Websites have been my life since 1995, and I do try to honestly share what I know, and also be clear about the difference between what I know and what is really an educated guess. It's good to know I've helped you.

When it comes to Panda, last year at the Vegas Pubcon, it was certainly a big discussion topic after hours. A lot of really good SEO minds had a lot of observations and knowledge to share.

I think it's important for anyone whose livelihood is made on the web to benefit from what a few of us might exchange after hours - that's a big part of why why I have this gig. Just as others helped me in the early days, I want to pay it forward.


 7:07 am on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google essentially lowers the amount of available inventory for ads by demoting publishers. Therefore raising the CPC amounts that advertisers pay, creating a win, win scenario.

That is an interesting scenario, a question perhaps best addressed to the AdWords crowd. I hope you (the OP) don't mind but I posed the question in a new discussion [webmasterworld.com] in the AdWords forum. I really am curious if there is or is not an uptick in AdWords competition following a Google Search update.


 12:08 pm on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

Agreed about Tedster. That's the first guy I look for when Panda is discussed, though I don't agree with one point made a few days back. Something along the lines of Google is now better at finding/showing better quality content. If I want to find prices on something it's Google. Information, Bing.


 1:01 pm on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

@ martinibuster
AdWords competition following a Google Search update.

You may be interested in reading this thread.


 1:37 pm on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

One big flaw in your theory. It totally goes against Google's stated purpose to show the most relevant results possible. That's for both organic and sponsored results.

The ads are going to take care of themselves thanks to the Quality Score system. The cream is going to rise to the top.

Now, I don't believe they would purposely degrade the organics. But they are always trying to find out ways to make the ads more attractive. They've been doing this for over a year now with numerous tests and actual changes in how Adwords shows ads. They've always been doing this but since last year, the pace seems to be accelerating but that may be just my impression. Like any other good business, they are trying to maximize their revenues while balancing product quality on the part they don't make money. Question is, has their revenue and profit gone up significantly compared to other years in 2011?

Trying to get sites with Adsense higher in the rankings at the expense of quality goes against what they've been saying for years about themselves. We can't prove one way or another that there's such a component to the ranking formula. So in my mind, all you have is a theory which will never be proven. You're not the first to suggest things like this and won't be the last.

You say Google demotes publishers. The reason publishers are demoted is by not following policies. This does not lower the ad inventory. It lowers the number of sites an advertiser can use but this inventory of Adsense sites is so large, it has no effect. It certainly does not increase CPC. That's just not the way Adwords works.

Google's definition of site quality is not the same as most people think. Most people are stuck on the word quality to mean a certain thing when in fact, it means something totally different to Google.

Why would Google squeeze publishers? They want more of them and of good quality. Reducing that inventory just doesn't make sense. Your argument, and I've heard it before, is to avoid paying whatever percentage they make from people clicking ads. But if there was not ads to click on and no publishers, they wouldn't make money. If that were the case, you wouldn't have affiliate marketing. Why would I pay someone a percentage of my sale to you for referrign that sale? Because it works and I'm making more money that way.


 1:53 pm on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

Does Panda actually make some judgments about the quality of the website? Yes, this is true, but I argue it plays a much smaller role than they say it does.

A cherry pick quote. G does, and must, make that quality score, else their SERPS become krap. That they are krap is an indication they are following their own rules... and still serving semi-decent results.

I've been known the parade around in my PJs with the brilliant tin foil hat, but I can't see G shooting themselves in the foot for obtuse reasons. Odd, strange, perplexing, but not obtuse. :)

(ME) still working with G, but Bing and other diverse (tv, radio, print) is my best current focus. You don't forget the pony that brought you to the race, even if it comes in third...


 5:24 pm on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

I am certain that google's search algorithms are developed without direct input from Adwords or Adsense data.

This I agree with. Whether you have Adsense on your site, use Adwords, or have any other type of advertising is not (or was not in 2011) a Panda factor, as far as I could tell.

Panda, generically speaking, is a further development of google's many year focus on measuring user engagement of web pages.

This is am not so sure about, I have not seen any examples of sites downgraded that had a poor user engagement that did not have a bunch of other problems.

I had 2 sites affected by Panda, and one made a full recovery and the other I am still working on. For both it really is about the quality of the content. Google does not seem to care how you monetise those sites (or did not, as there was the layout update this year) or what people do once they find the site.

Although many people talk about bounce rate I am yet to see an example of a site that either gained or lost rankings after making changes to affect bounce rate. I personally made a lot of efforts early/mid 2011 to reduce bounce rate with no luck at recovering from the penalty at all.

At least from the sites I deal with, Panda really is about focusing on the quality of the written content and ensuring that you do not repeat yourself. Whether you have 50 pages, 2000 pages or considerably more makes little difference - if there is drivel and repetition you will struggle.


 6:21 pm on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

>> Panda, generically speaking, is a further development of google's many year focus on measuring user engagement of web pages.

>> This is am not so sure about.

I agree with tedster as I believe he's talking about user engagement at the results page, not engagement with the web site once they click a link. In other words, the click rate of each result link. I don't think Google or any other search engine cares what happens once you click a result link. Their job is done once they give you those results.


 7:23 pm on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

I don't think Google or any other search engine cares what happens once you click a result link. Their job is done once they give you those results.

You have a long way to go in your understanding of how Google works. I'm trying to pass along some knowledge to you, not quibble with you. So please don't take this as criticism of you.

A great deal of Panda is about user engagement with the sites after the click from the SERPs. They engaged quality raters to hand review websites in order to create an alogrithmic rating system for judging things that please or displease Google users about a site. User engagement on the sites they send people is very important. Heck, just today there's an article in the NYTimes [nytimes.com] about how Google is measuring how fast a website downloads. We all know that site speed is a part of the algorithm [mattcutts.com].

The quality of the user experience once a user clicks a serp is paramount to Google. Many years ago I had lunch at the Yahoo cafeteria with Tim Mayer and Jeremy Zawodny. In conversation I suggested to Jeremy Zawodny that something Yahoo should work on is identifying hacked sites so as not to send their users there. Jeremy Zawodny literally rolled his eyes and replied that people's problems with their servers and site technologies was not Yahoo's problem, totally missing the point that the user's experience is Yahoo's problem. About six months to a year later Google started highlighing sites in their SERPs that were infected with viruses, warning their user's about the dangers of visiting that site.

You see, that's another example of how Google is focused on the user experience once they click off the SERPs.

The reason publishers are demoted is by not following policies.

That's just one reason publishers are demoted. The Panda thing is separate from the quality of the content or how the site was promoted. A large part of it is determining if the site looks spammy. That's the big flaw in Panda because it can hit an otherwise non-spammy site just for following Google's own AdSense Ad Placement Suggestions.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 2:35 am (utc) on Mar 3, 2012]
[edit reason] fixed link [/edit]


 7:43 pm on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

Martiniebuster, just to add about the Panda flaw...and correct me if I have that wrong, but by moving from page level analysis to what is site wide and even same owner analysis, they are bound to demote a lot of pages that would be useful to visitors. The notion of demoting entire sites has made the whole thing a disaster, for many reasons.
Not the least of it is that it's sent thousands of webmaster into trying to guess what, on their site, might be responsible for the demotion of otherwise fine pages.


 7:54 pm on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

...might be responsible for the demotion of otherwise fine pages.

And cause some publishers to create subdomains [webmasterworld.com] so that those high quality pages are no longer demoted. Not only does this go against Google's encouragement to build for the user, not the search engine, but it seems something is not right when an algorithm can't rank quality content without a webmaster having to create subdomains to please the search engine.

I haven't been affected by Panda. I have no ulterior motive about this so don't ascribe any to me. I'm just making some observations in the spirit of constructive criticism.


 8:44 pm on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google not only says the webmasters to provide the best user experience, but also follows the same principle, I believe. Quality is the single factor that determines the fate of a site and also for a search engine. Google is not an exception. It is 100% true that Panda is all about quality. You says that big brands are not affected by Panda. But the best example is Hubpages. Google has to give more important to quality( it really does ) to remian at the top.

One of the recent updates is about the travel information that reminds me about the hot topic not long ago about Bing giving more accurate information about air travel than Google. It shows that Google is not complacent about its current position.


 5:05 am on Mar 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Quality is not the single factor, I know of a site that is wordpress based and only has 1 post and yet it is PR7-8 thanks to the size and age of the network it is in(major well known and well established Chinese site). It simply never got developed and has all but been forgotten, yet it's there.

The fact it exists at PR7-8(fluctuates) and is #1 for that article is enough to tell me that quality is not the end all of rankings. The "article" is just 2 sentences long and is basically a coming soon message.

I knew of a second such site attached to a wordpress template network of sites but that one got de-ranked about 2 years ago, it wasn't as old and had pr5. It happens.

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