Google Update Panda

Mar 9th
posted in

Google tries to wrestle back index update naming from the pundits, naming the update "Panda". Named after one of their engineers, apparently.

The official Google line - and I'm paraphrasing here - is this:

Trust us. We're putting the bad guys on one side, and the good guys on the other

I like how Wired didn't let them off the hook.

Wired persisted:

Wired.com: Some people say you should be transparent, to prove that you aren’t making those algorithms to help your advertisers, something I know that you will deny.

Singhal: I can say categorically that money does not impact our decisions.

Wired.com: But people want the proof.

This answer, from Matt Cutts, was interesting:

Cutts: If someone has a specific question about, for example, why a site dropped, I think it’s fair and justifiable and defensible to tell them why that site dropped. But for example, our most recent algorithm does contain signals that can be gamed. If that one were 100 percent transparent, the bad guys would know how to optimize their way back into the rankings

Why Not Just Tell Us What You Want, Already!

Blekko makes a big deal about being transparent and open, but Google have always been secretive. After all, if Google want us to produce quality documents their users like and trust, then why not just tell us exactly what a quality document their users like and trust looks like?

Trouble is, Google's algorithmns clearly aren't that bulletproof, as Google admit they can still be gamed, hence the secrecy. Matt says he would like to think there would be a time they could open source the algorithms, but it's clear that time isn't now.

Do We Know Anything New?

So, what are we to conclude?

  • Google can be gamed. We kinda knew that....
  • Google still aren't telling us much. No change there....

Then again, there's this:

Google have filed a patent that sounds very similar to what Demand Media does i.e looks for serp areas that are under-served by content, and prompts writers to write for it.

The patent basically covers a system for identifying search queries which have low quality content and then asking either publishers or the people searching for that topic to create some better content themselves. The system takes into account the volume of searches when looking at the quality of the content so for bigger keywords the content would need to be better in order for Google to not need to suggest somebody else writes something

If Google do implement technology based on this patent, then it would appear they aren't down on the "Content Farm" model. They may even integrate it themselves.

Until then....

How To Avoid Getting Labelled A Content Farmer

The question remains: how do you prevent being labelled as a low-quality publisher, especially when sites like eHow remain untouched, yet Cult Of Mac gets taken out? Note: Cult Of Mac appears to have been reinstated, but one wonders if that was the result of the media attention, or an algo tweak.

Google want content their users find useful. As always, they're cagey about what "useful" means, so those who want to publish content, and want to rank well, but do not want be confused with a content farm, are left to guess. And do a little reverse-engineering.

Here's a stab, based on our investigations, the conference scene, Google's rhetoric, and pure conjecture thus far:

  • A useful document will pass a human inspection
  • A useful document is not ad heavy
  • A useful document is well linked externally
  • A useful document is not a copy of another document
  • A useful document is typically created by a brand or an entity which has a distribution channel outside of the search channel
  • A useful document does not have a 100% bounce rate followed by a click on a different search result for that same search query ;)

Kinda obvious. Are we off-base here? Something else? What is the difference, as far as algo is concerned, between e-How and Suite 101? Usage patterns?

Still doesn't explain YouTube, though, which brings us back to:

Wired.com: But people want the proof

YouTube, the domain, is incredibly useful, but some pages - not so much. Did YouTube get hammered by update Panda, too?

Many would say that's unlikely.

I guess "who you know" helps.

In the Panda update some websites got owned. Others are owned and operated by Google. :D

Published: March 9, 2011

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Comments

March 9, 2011 - 2:55pm

Google is becoming more and more "evil" (you know, that thing they aren't) with each update.

I would love to see some posts on Adwords. Despite this being an SEO blog Adwords has become a veritable exercise in SEO itself just to get pages approved. And you best do it right the first time, lest you lose your entire account.

It looks like there has been a recent push to ban more Adwords accounts although it seems people are being banned for ads that were run and DELETED years ago. Yes, Google is retroactively banning accounts for things that were allowed years ago- even if the ads were deleted.

You might find the following links of interest:

http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/AdWords/thread?tid=3c7e9e63d9a56f9...
http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/AdWords/thread?tid=705d3db2a541b35...
http://andrewhansen.name/affiliate-marketing/google-checkmates-me-but-re...

There's more results like that out there...but what stands out is that Google is now banning accounts not based on any current infraction but instead based on something in the past that is now DELETED. Are we living in a Philip K. Dick novel?

This would be akin to keyword stuffing a page 4 years ago and then deleting it only to then get banned from the SERPS today. Then google would tell you that to get reinstated you'd need to recreate the 4 year old page and delete the keyword stuffing...even if the page had already been entirely deleted.

Don't try to figure it out. I'm sure it has nothing to do with money.

March 9, 2011 - 3:25pm

That is why it is so hard to have *any* coherent lasting strategy. You not only need to optimize for a competitive revenue yield / profitability today, but down the road you might have past actions turned retroactively into the equivalent of crimes. Hey at least it is not as bad as precrime, but then Google is still evolving their model. ;)

Philip K. Dick is perhaps the perfect parallel to the Google driven reality in which we live ... where Google will buy out a website & then ban it the next day for not following Google's guidelines.

March 9, 2011 - 5:19pm

I just found another gem: http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/AdWords/thread?tid=167ae70685a9013...

Forced to make changes on a deleted campaign?

Apparently...you can't ever delete...Google KNOWS.

This guy got bit too: http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/AdWords/thread?tid=1aad90ad7ae7f9e...

Google uses "quality score" and "violations" as a pretext to thin the herd of small scale advertisers to make room for the big fish. I remember when my ads were first hit with "quality score" a couple of years ago and in their place were ringtone ads in the spaces I used to occupy. Quality?

Google doesn't want to tell you what the rules are because it would make it more difficult to remove you from the market if they found more profitable advertisers.

Let's face it, the small-medium sized business is more likely to fanatically test and track their clicks and overall ROI. Large companies that use Adwords for branding are less likely to realize they are spending way too much per click.

At what point do we have a monopoly issue when a company controls the majority of search traffic but can shut a business out of that market completely.

No closed system can ever be equitable or fair. It's like a secret tribunal for secret laws.

Some people might think that's overly hyperbolic but when entire businesses are destroyed by being shut out of arguably the largest online marketplace I think it's appropriate.

And finally, let's realize that the true scammers who really are out to steal and hurt visitors will continue to churn through Adwords accounts by continually setting up new proxy accounts through offshore companies. Joe Schmoe's travel agency will just be left out in the cold.

March 9, 2011 - 5:24pm

That patent document you referenced scares the piss out of me!

If you read between the lines, it could be the death knell for a whole range of online publishers - particularly those (like myself) who specialize in 'thin' content (think longtail QA) - which I would argue is NOT synonymous with 'low quality'.

Read this passage an tell me that the great Goog isn't contemplating breaking every best practice they've established and perhaps even becoming a publisher themselves (or a glorified scraper).

"[0032]The content generators 220, 230, 240 can also include automated content generators 240. Automated content generators, for example, can operate to provide an aggregation 245 of content from multiple sites into a single page. An automated content generator 240, for example, can copy content from multiple sites and generate a single document that includes the copied content. In one implementation, the automated content generator 240 can be configured to copy content only from specified sites. This can enable the automated content generator 240 to copy content only from sites/users with whom the automated content generator 240 has a license. The automated content generator 240 can also provide, for example, an aggregation 245 of links to content related to a particular topic. The automated content generator 240 can be combined with web publishers 220 or user contribution sites 230 to provide stub information for the creation of new content."

March 11, 2011 - 11:37am

As per my above posts, we now have it "straight from the horse's mouth" so to speak:

http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/AdWords/thread?tid=167ae70685a9013...

QUOTE from Google employee: "If the disapproved ad is already deleted then you will need to recreate it and then save, so that it is submitted for review per all our guidelines again"

I have an over 10 years-old Adwords account...I wonder if they'll someday ask me to go back and change campaigns from 2001? You know, when we were building Google into the monster they are today...

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