Despite Concerns from Content Owners, Google’s Panda Update is a Win for Users

May 17th, 2011

Topics: Ads, Search Engine Marketing

Google has been consistently updating their algorithm to improve the organic results since their inception.   Previously, these updates were often referred to as “the Google dance”, where organic rankings would change based on new variables and algorithmic elements and webmasters would be scrambling to make changes to improve their rank within the SERP. Recently, Google has released several iterations of its “Panda” algorithm which is designed to weed out content farms and ensure that users are receiving quality results when conducting a search.

Working to solve issues that were impacting the quality of results provided by their previous algorithm, Google unveiled the first iteration of Panda on February 24th, and it affected roughly 12% of the rankings in the US.  The driving force behind Google’s algorithm change was to discourage the usage of SEO techniques that artificially elevate a site’s organic rankings in the search results by using tactics such as excessive link building and content generation for the sake of ranking organically to drive traffic to the site in order to generate advertising impressions and revenue.  An excellent illustrative example of the problem is given by David Segal’s article published recently in the New York Times. This quote from the article provides an excellent metaphor for the issue Google is grappling with:

“…[the internet resembles] a city with a few familiar, well-kept buildings, surrounded by millions of hovels kept upright for no purpose other than the ads that are painted on their walls.”

The well-kept buildings are the high-quality sites Google wishes to reward with strong organic rankings, and the hovels are the low-quality sites that are created solely for the purpose artificially inflating organic search rankings and arbitraging search traffic to sell ads.

Although Google depends on paid ads for the majority of its revenue, the organic results are the most important part of Google’s search operations.  If Google were to stop providing relevant information to users, it could start to lose the 65% of search market share (which drives users to the paid ads) that it’s been holding on to for years.   Google’s organic algorithms for determining relevance of a page have been predominately based on inbound links and the content on the site.

Since the release of the update, webmasters have been scrambling to determine how their site’s rankings have been affected. There have been countless articles published that talk about which sites have seen a negative impact from the algorithm’s release, traffic declines to content farms, and even articles about the impact of the update to the livelihood of those who built content farms for a living, but there is one important thing to note – there haven’t been any negative feedback from the end users.

Users aren’t concerned that the affected sites aren’t appearing in the SERP, or that Panda has negatively impacted their search experience by giving them more relevant information.  If anything users are embracing these changes as based on the most recent comScore numbers.

What are your thoughts? Any concerns or are you also embracing the “Panda”?