Google Panda Algorithm Exploit Uncovered

May 7th

In the Manufacturing Consent DVD a newspaper executive highlighted that they liked to have a 60/40 ratio between ads and content.

Google says that if over half your page's content is ads then your pages are of insufficient value.

What Google engineers miss when delivering sermons to webmasters is that Google is fine with disappearing their organic search results for self promotion & even advertises that consumers can't tell the difference between their search ads and the organic results.

You see, tricking people is bad. Unless you are Google. In which case you have to hit the quarterly numbers.

Everyone else needs to read Google platitudes, create deep content, and pray to turn the corner before bankruptcy hits.

Matt Cutts stated that you should make your products like Apple products by packaging them nicely.

For illustrative purposes:

It was easy for Google to speak from a moral high ground when their growth was above 50% a year, but now that growth has slowed over the past couple years they have been willing to do things they wouldn't have. In November of 2009 when I saw the following I knew the writing was on the wall.

Since then Google has only dialed up local more. If you are not in the top 1 or 2 organic (non-localized) search results then in some cases when they get localized you end up somewhere on page #2.

When Google Instant launched, we got to test Google's 50% content theory. And they hit the numbers perfectly. A full 50% of web users could see 2 organic listings above the fold when instant was extended (the other half of folks could only see one or none).

As if the massive Youtube promotion & the magically shrinking search results for everyone else were not bad enough, with Panda they suck at determining the original content source.

This site you are reading wasn't hit by Panda, which makes us lucky, as it allows us to rank as high as #3 for our own content (while Google pays dozens of other webmasters to snag it wholesale and wrap it in AdSense).

We got lucky though. If we had been hit by Panda (like 10,000's of other webmasters) we probably wouldn't even rank on the first page of the search results for our own content.

When Google screws up source attribution they are working counter to open culture, because they are having you bear 100% of the cost of content production, and then they are immediately paying someone else for your work. Do that long enough and the quality content disappears & we get a web full of eHow-like sites.

And yet Google tells us the secret recipe (which may or may not work at some unknown time) is to pour more money into content development.

The solution to this problem is more deep content. Keep feeding Google (and their AdSense scraper partners) and hope that after you pour $50,000 into your site that some small fraction of it ends up back in your bank account (while the larger share winds up in Google's and their AdSense partners).

As bad as all that is, I recently got selected as a lucky beta user for the next version of Google's search results. Notice the horizontal spacing that drives down the organic search results. After the top AdWords listings the organic listings start off 88 pixels lower on the screen.

I have a huge monitor. Less than 10% of people have a monitor as large as mine. Before this new search result I saw 8 organic search results above the fold on my large monitor. Now it is down to 5 (and that is with no Google video ad, no Google vertical comparison ad like the above credit card one, no browser toolbars, no browser status bar, and only 1 of the advertisers having ad sitelinks).

So how does Google score now on their ad to content ratio?

When Google's new search results roll out, there are some keywords where less than 1 in 3 searchers will be able to see a single organic listing above the fold! And lest you think that spacing is about improving user experience, notice how wide the spacing in the left column is, and how narrow the right rail AdWords spacing is. This is all about juicing revenues & hitting the number.

Which leads me to the Google Panda loophole I mentioned in the headline. It is an easy (but painful) one-step process.

All Google's propaganda about the horrors of paid inclusion look absurd when compared against the search result with 0 organic listings above the fold for half of desktop computer users.

The only "exploit" here is how Google is paying people to steal other's content, then ranking the stolen stuff above the original source.

PS: wake up Larry! ;)

Published: May 7, 2011

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Comments

May 7, 2011 - 8:28am
  • Google was saying you need deep content (and the sinkhole is deep). The sinkhole represents the alleged elixir content while also representing the money you need to spend on said content.
  • The Google panda is overlooking your efforts & ensuring that no matter what you do it gets wrapped in AdSense by somebody.
  • Everything is wrapped in an iPad because Matt Cutts stated you should be like Apple & Apple products are beautiful.
May 7, 2011 - 10:48am

Good article. Think the reason those scraper sites are out rankin you is due to the title tags of their pages more closely matching the query used in that example.

For instance: google search results get local push

Shows you #1.

May 7, 2011 - 7:43pm

is bad algorithms from Google.

We intentionally mix up page titles & on-page headings to help protect (somewhat) from scrapers. And the above sorta shows why that is needed.

May 8, 2011 - 1:32pm

No wonder why some titles and descriptions are RIDICULOUS, as you pointed out in one of your posts. The class is not smart enough to pull smart titles. I have sites where my titles just make no sense. It is another featured where google failed big time.

May 7, 2011 - 12:25pm

Great post Aaron, but you made me laugh too hard before sufficient caffeine intake. iPad and Adsense "loophole"c heck graphics are priceless. As everyone knows, Yahoo!/Bing are gaining share at Google's expense which slows growth, causes irrational design decisions and drives the ad to content ratio fiasco. I too have noticed the dwindling space for organic above the fold for keywords that Google deems to have local intent which seems to becoming a greater % of the searches. For local businesses, that means rank for Google places. Unless this changes, I predict an acceleration of Yahoo!/Bing growth of US market share. We'll see when the April stats are released from Hitwise.

May 7, 2011 - 3:28pm

I always laugh at Google's double talk. Oh get more content you will rank higher, blah, blah. Actually, where is Google content? Scraping sites and presenting it in search results, cache, etc, Scraping news and presenting it in Google news. Scraping books and scanning thousand of them and making them available in the net. In essence Google scrape sites and present them to the poor souls searching for something over the net. In the mean time if you pay them enough money for a link in the search results, Guess what? You will be #1, bolded and on yellow above the hard content that you got on your site.

May 7, 2011 - 7:46pm

And yet there are SEOs who pride themselves on outing others, in spite of the absurdity of Google's claims & approach.

May 7, 2011 - 8:39pm

New York Times getting high and mighty: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/07/business/07flowers.html?_r=4&hp

But, I guess when you're whitelisted, no worries.

Google got so big so fast because they were better. They no longer hold that high ground, but are milking consumer habits ("I've used Google for 5 years so I keep using Google") for maximum profit.

I've said it again and again, Google does not want to "control" the internet. Google wants to BE the internet.

May 7, 2011 - 9:52pm

Hi NeonDog!

Aaron and I have been on a big discussion regarding that Outing and the entire Due Diligence Company outing model. Already responded to the NY Times article! Look at http://www.seobook.com/digital-due-diligence

May 7, 2011 - 10:21pm

Ya, I read that post but missed the mention of the NYT in the comments. Good catch.

May 7, 2011 - 3:43pm

Aaron, you been nailing the topic big time. I appreciate your feedback here is what I have to say.

1. Google Adsense Team and Google Search Team need to sit down and talk to each other before rolling out an update. Google Adsense team sends us mass emails about how we are missing on cash with Adsense, they mail us layouts which may look spammy to Amit (search team) but on the other hand which looks great to Adsense Team. Which one should we work for? Not sure what to do, as you mentioned in your other email Google is spamming people with mail that they should place Ads here and there and all that BS and then you have Amit who talks about quality.

2. Google.com itself is 80% Ads and 20% natural listings as I see in a lot of verticals 80% of the listings are Ads from Google. As you have mentioned this is the start of paid inclusion. Because if you are not on the top then you are not going to make anything.

3. Quality Content? Another BS propaganda by Google. We had a lot of sites that got hit as well and now sites that are junk ranking #1

4. Self Promotion --> Google is aggressively promoting its own websites.

5. I have no doubt that Bing will catch up. Larry is killing Google big time.

Wake up Larry before it is too late.

May 7, 2011 - 7:47pm

A search company is expecting a lot from its partners if it is asking its partners to know not to trust other representatives of that very same company!

May 7, 2011 - 8:55pm

I probably already mentioned this here, but I've been pointed to a few posts where an Adwords campaign was setup entirely by Google's Adwords reps and then was permanently banned.

The Adwords reps response was basically, "sorry, the policy team is separate from us".

UNbelievable.

Large ships have compartmentalized sections that can be sealed off in case water breaches one of them, thus saving the rest of the ship. Google is like a ship that is so full of compartmentalized sections filled with water it's sinking, but thinks it's fine because the water is "behind that others guy's door".

Compartmentalization can be disastrous for large organizations, and I think that's what we're seeing more of with Google. But hey, they have beanbag chairs!

May 7, 2011 - 10:24pm

That is the height of dysfunction. Perhaps Google's conflicting goals (& desire to have a strong cohesive public relations messaging strategy) are combining to have Google melt down from the inside out?

May 8, 2011 - 4:30am

Google's rewarding scrapers, so before it was becoming common for site owners to duplicate their own sites over and over and Google whacked them - but the scrapers are essentially doing the same thing and nobody's getting whacked anymore, or so it would seem based on what we're looking at. Here's an absurd suggestion: Maybe the Panda exploit is to duplicate our own content again.

May 8, 2011 - 5:32am

...they soon find they get loads more of.

When they make stupid decisions it can be quite harmful to the web ecosystem!

May 7, 2011 - 4:39pm

I'm loving that someone with a bit of a pedestal is willing to say something about Google's deterioration. I hate that so many SEO companies just insistently bow to the latest algorithm update without commenting on its effectiveness, quality, or affect on the end user.

I hope that we never see the day when Google starts 'manually correcting' rankings for sites that are critical of its work and methodology.

I talk a lot on my own blog about how Google has forgotten its core business, and like so many other market share giants before it, has forgotten to focus on innovation, creativity and user experience, rather than simply trying to protect and expand into other areas.

If Google keeps this up, I hope that they become the next MySpace.

May 8, 2011 - 3:56am

Tipping point...cough...

Keep screwing up Google, I long for the day when I can dance all over your grave. Never been so disgusted by a company.

May 8, 2011 - 4:15am

Building a new company blog site now with an IP blocker set up until it's ready. Seriously thinking of giving access to the bots only for a while. Of course Google may take that as a form of cloaking - they're seeing content, the general user sees a "site coming soon, please check back" message - that wouldn't make the scrapers happy.

May 8, 2011 - 5:00am

I'd love to see what would happen to Google if just for one year every SEO'd web site removed Google Analytics and switched to a different system independent of them. They're gaining more info from our sites that way then they do from anywhere else.

May 8, 2011 - 5:53am

...they are already recording a ton of the data about the traffic they send to sites from Google. Logging into their webmaster console almost looks/feels like you are looking at a full on web analytics tool. The only they don't really have access to there is your conversion metrics, but they get a good feel for those just based on AdWords bid prices.

They can further spy on web users through things like:

  • their toolbar (12% of searches are via web toolbars & their toolbar is the most widely spread)
  • their browser (something like 10% market penetration & increasing as they plow marketing Dollars into advertising it...they are even running TV ads)
  • their mobile operating system (they recently put out a research paper on using driving directions as a relevancy signal...since if many people are trying to get directions to go somewhere that indicates some level of demand, and thus some minimum threshold of quality & relevancy, at least at that moment in time)
  • AdSense & DoubleClick ads
  • Gmail
  • Youtube
  • various Google promoted verticals (local, ebooks, etc.)
  • etc. etc. etc.

& they would have all that data even without their analytics product.

May 8, 2011 - 4:04pm

Current results in educational realm are crazy. MFA sites with content written by people without any knowledge of the topic are ranking on the top.

What is shocking is that the top 3 sites in our niche are all SPAMMY sites with junk content which is just keyword spam further they have 3 ads on top over the fold.

Amit Sehgal you are driving me insane, in a blink you guys destroyed tons of business and you are still happy with Panda Update.

May 9, 2011 - 1:31am

in that niche, which had tons of pages....and that opened up some spots for some of the types of sites you highlighted there.

May 8, 2011 - 9:23pm

GOOGLE's NEW SERPS: I'm 54 and have a good bit of trouble seeing the new SERPs (outside of the headings). The text is gray and lacks the high contrast black text offers. I have also worked in IT / MIS in offices employing the visually impaired, and as a volunteer at the Light House, teaching computer to people who are visually impaired and blind. Here's a link to the Dept of Justice web site search link for the phrase "websites" http://searchjustice.usdoj.gov/search?q=websites&btnG=Search+ADA+Website...

Not only do the visually handicapped need great contrast, but they must also increase the font and page size - the new SERPs will probably provide only one or possibly two returns - and they'll be paid ads - victimizing the handicapped who won't see anything but paid inclusion advertising in search results.

Even I don't like the look of the new SERPs due to low contrast, and have to increase the font size by five scrolls on my mouse wheel, showing only two results. Accessibility is definitely reduced, and I see a class action law suit and an army of NYC lawyers coming on really fast with this one.

May 9, 2011 - 1:27am

...they will fix the contrast issue pretty soon. They are pretty sensitive to brand & it won't take many complaints for that to get fixed. As the exploit the whole of the population with ad blending one of the worst messages they could send would be exploiting the disabled.

But I do see them sticking with the extra white space strategy in the left rail to drive down the "organic" results and juice revenues.

May 9, 2011 - 2:42pm

Did you notice that Google removed the links for Cached and Similar versions of a organic listing?

May 9, 2011 - 2:57pm

Somehow I am not currently in that test anymore, but I wonder if those links appear when you scroll over the listing. Those links are there part for utility, but also part for leverage...they like offering those as they keep working at chipping away on copyright.

May 9, 2011 - 3:22pm

With all the scraper sites ranking so well maybe we should dust off our copies of Traffic Equalizer :-)

Remember those days?

May 9, 2011 - 11:31pm

...Google is telling everyone to do, based on what they are ranking. ;)

Though my bet is that those scraping sites which were hit by Panda will make more money than those who are just scraping the search results.

May 10, 2011 - 8:55am

This information about Google strikes me as funny and pathetic at the same time. Google should send this to every employee so they have a pre-made excuse for when their numbers start dropping. Whatever Google once was it obviously is not any longer. Bend over for wall street I guess it is. Anythng to keep the stock up. Sad really.

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