If you're reading this you've likely read all the theories as to what Google may have done that has affected a full one eighth of all internet searches. Everything from duplicate product descriptions to changes in backlink value to other less tangible ideas have been thrown about and mulled over like a dog on a juicy bone. Except Panda wasn't so juicy for many, in fact many have seen their traffic dry up.
I've read all of the theories too and in as practical a manner as I could I've tested what could be tested with varying degrees of success. Frustrated, like many of you, I stepped back and tried to grasp the bigger picture and I've come up with yet another theory for you to mull over.
- 1/8th of internet searches were affected.
- Google dislikes spam in its index.
- Google likes interlinking its properties and features.
- Google has invested heavily in maps, places and various incarnations of local content.
Using just those facts my theory is that one thing in common to most spam sites is that they have a lot of product based content with a lack of a brick and mortar business address behind the site/business. Before I suggest that Google is giving more weight to sites with an identifiable business address I want to explain why, if that's true, it's not JUST a business address that matters. In true Google style it seems to be more complicated than that.
Blue widgets, lets assume my testing was about blue widgets. They are popular and many sites write about them and they are in fact a product that is part of most people's every day life. Sold everywhere, etc. Post Panda I wish you good luck in ranking a new page for the term blue widgets, it's near impossible. At first I thought that was because the competition was too extreme but I've found several product keywords that have relatively little competition, in the range of about 1.2 million results in Google.
The testing begins with these keywords.
Sure enough my blue widgets articles fail to break into the top 200 right out of the gate despite being in prime locations on established sites. Variations on blue widgets however, such as vintage blue widgets for example, are immediately in the top 20. Is that because there is less competition? No, it's not, there are 1.15M competing results for that term too. It seems that popular product names, when used in a manner to suggest a page IS about that product, have some sort of glass ceiling in place. The variation keyword does not share that glass ceiling despite being equally represented in search results.
So the theory is now that to rank for a product based keyword your overall site must pass a sniff test for that product and it looks like being tied to a brick and mortar address/store is one of the stronger authority signals. It makes sense that if you sell a product that you know a little something about it, which is something many content farm sites do not, especially with cheaply paid(or free), 3rd party outsourced content.
The theory: The level of authority required to unlock rankings on a product based keyword has been increased and a brick and mortar shop/business seems to be one of the no doubt many primary indicators.
I can't find any signals to disprove my theory and I can duplicate the effects it has predictably so while I'm sure it's not EXACTLY what Google changed it's tied to it somehow it is something I can act on. I do own a company that sells blue widgets and so I can let Google know I'm the blue widget guy for searches in the 123 anytown part of the world.