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SES NYC 2011: ‘Panda: The Aftermath’

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Panda: The Aftermath

A Search Engine Watch Round Table Special
Session description: Not since Google update Florida has there been such a huge furor around a Google algorithm change. Nobody is crying over the loss of some crappy content in Google’s index. But many are annoyed that they were playing by the rules and still got hit. Do you have any recourse with Google if you suddenly find yourself minus a ton of traffic with revenues plummeting? It begs the question: Should you base the bulk of your potential business revenues around a mathematical equation that you have no control over?

Moderator:Mike Grehan, Chair SES Advisory Board, Global VP Content, SES/Search Engine Watch/ClickZ
Jonathan Allen, Director, SearchEngineWatch
Frank Watson, CEO, Kangamurra Media
Danny Goodwin, Associate Editor, Search Engine Watch

Quotes are direct quotations. Things not in quotes are paraphrased.

The skinny

If you want to know where the geekiest of geeks are at SES, they’re in this room. “Why are you sitting in the back?” asks moderator Mike. “You know we’re going to finish with a group hug.” Perhaps that’s why they’re sitting in the back…

What they said

Mike: “If you’re not sure what (Panda) is, not only are you in the wrong room, you’re at the wrong conference.”

[Introductions all around. Everyone is sober enough to talk in complete sentences. There are about 200 people in the room.]

Risk management and Google

Mike: Back in the day, Google was the only place to hang out. But if you rely so heavily on income from a third-party that decides to make some changes, you need a plan. “It’s always been a rule never to let the customer own more of your business than you do,” but effectively with Google, that’s what we do. Maybe we should have taken some precautions.

Jonathan: It’s all about managing risk. One of the ways of qualifying yourself as an SEO is getting hit badly by an update. That means you’re actually cracking the algorithm and Google is taking action against you. You can have fast and dirty or long-term slow and steady kind of approach.

Frank: “We all know that Google is not the government. But they do set out all these bogus rules that we should follow and such and such…” and if they’re pushing this out, we should be pushing back. “We should be pushing the limit to the Terms and Conditions. … Find the loophole.” You have to spend time on Google, but you also have to spend time looking at social media, you have to get involved in forums… “There are ways of generating traffic that aren’t dependent on Google.” You should spend about 20 percent of your time in those places.

Mike: It’s mainly the people in the white hat industry that are complaining about Panda. Danny, what have you noticed generally?

Danny: “In one case, a guy got dropped 400 for a simple spelling error in an H3.” Check for spelling! They’re looking at word counts. Grammar. Also, “if you’re pointing links to every page on your website, you’re not telling Google what are your money pages. What do you want to rank for?”

Low-quality content and Panda

Mike: If Google wants good content, it begs the question, what is content? What’s low-quality content?

Frank: They didn’t hit brands in this update. Use your name in links.

Jonathan: A lot of people doing link building, are not thinking about their own brand and how much value they can create for their own website.

Who was affected?

Mike: How many people got hit by Panda and lost? [Show of hands] About 15. How many went up? [Show of hands] About 15.

[Long case study from audience member 1 who lost half of her traffic, despite being completely white hat.]

Audience member 2: “I own possibly the world’s wackiest gift gallery. … I got too comfortable. What worked for me, kept working for me, since 1998. … I knew, that if the faucet was shut, my day would be done.” We’re doing well with Facebook and social, but that doesn’t produce the revenue that Google’s organic search did. I wish I had a head start. I wish I had some sort of indication.

Mike: So what’s wrong with giving Google some of the money back with advertising?

Audience member 2: Exactly. I am. It’s just going to take time.

Mike: It sounds like Search Engine Watch needs to ask for a warning from Google.

Frank: They’re not going to be able to tell you everything. But maybe they can give us a little time: we have an update coming in a month.

Audience member 1: “Why can’t everyone live every day like we had that advance warning?”

Mike: Who went up?

Jonathan: “Search Engine Watch went up.” But it sounds like a lot of people are putting a lot of effort in their onpage SEO, but you should be concentrating on your offpage stuff, too. Go into long page content and think about ways to promote that, perhaps with a widget.

Audience member 3: BusinessWire went up. We didn’t use link farms. They dinged our competitor for doing what they’re doing that they shouldn’t be.

Mike: “We shouldn’t be calling it SEO anymore.” Call it user interaction. You have to convert better using other methods.

[Mike brings up Thom Craver, a regular writer for Search Engine Watch.]

Thom: Nothing Google does is by coincidence. Remember, Panda was actually two updates. They hit the scrapers and then the content farm people. And the blocking thing was just a few weeks ago. Yes, it’s your on-page things you’re doing. And I think Google watches bounce rates.

Mike: The strongest signal to Google is end-user behavior.

Audience member 2: We get a lot of people who come in out of curiosity. I’m going to see how I can keep them on our site.

Mike: Content should stop people from hitting the back button. … With the toolbar, Google can now follow you, and the target page for the user might be five or six pages away from where they first clicked. Google’s going to pay attention to that.

Jonathan: Google wants everyone, and they’re working hard to understand search intent. About content and the back button… turn your product pages into social pages that create some level of engagement.

Audience member 2: We’re selling a wine bra. There’s a lot of people coming in just to look, but long-term I have to decide if they’re helping me or hurting me!

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