AdWords: Yet Another Problem With Google's Panda Update

May 10th

Hit By Panda

In a recent comment someone shared the fate of Patrick Jordan, owner of justanotheripadblog.com.

Since the Panda update happened, some scraper websites (monetized by Google AdSense) have started outranking Patrick for his own content.

Panda = No AdWords Soup for You

Distraught with the decline in traffic, Patrick turned to AdWords to try to bridge the gap and drive some revenues.

Unfortunately, Google wouldn't let him do that either:

I asked on what grounds he had decided that my site does not produce original content. His answer was that he had typed a sentence into Google and found it contained at many sites around the web. Seriously, I made a lengthy strong case for my site's record of having 100% original content and he typed one sentence into a Google search.

I emailed back and asked him to be specific about his search. This was his reply:

"An example of a specific sentence that appears in multiple websites is "a superb app for iPad and iPhone that lets you quickly and easily transfer photos and videos between iOS devices and computers – has been updated this week, to Version 2.3."

Google Rolls Out the Red Rug (for AdSense Scrapers)

Think about how perverse this is:

  • Google algorithmically penalizes your site
  • Google won't say why it is penalized, other than some abstract notion of "quality"
  • Google offers no timetable on when things can improve, but suggests you keep spending increasing sums of capital to increase "quality"
  • Google pays scraper sites to steal your content & wrap it in AdSense ads
  • Google ranks the stolen content above your site (so the content has plenty of "quality" but it is just not "quality" on your website)
  • Google ignores your spam reports & DMCA notifications about how they are paying people to steal your content
  • Google tells you that you can't even buy AdWords ads, because you are now duplicate content for your own content!

Contributory Copyright Infringement

So now we have Google telling advertisers "I won't even take your money" precisely because Google is paying people to steal their content. Small publishers likely don't have the capital needed to sue Google, but clearly what Google is doing here *is* flagrant, systematic, abusive, and illegal (contributory copyright infringement).

One of Google's larger enemies may want to fund some sort of class-action lawsuit. Google deserves far more of a black eye than they have got in the press from the embarrassment that is the Panda update.

Um, Could You Please Help Me Out a Bit Here Google?

Patrick Jordan begged Google for help in March. In response they sent him this:

Yet Another Webmaster Loses Faith (& Trust) in Google

Since Google has ignored him (for months), Patrick felt he had to rebrand & redirect his old website to a new iPad website. Google made (a rather long and egregious series of) mistakes. And he had to pay the price for it, because Google is a monopoly that doesn't give a crap about how destructive their business is on the ecosystem, so long as it increases their profits.

Again I ask, how long does Google leave this mess in place before publishers broadly take a more adversarial approach to publishing?

Now that Google is aware that the panda fallout is costing THEM money, it will likely get cleared up quickly. I suspect to see an update within the next couple weeks at most. And it would happen even quicker if the press actually did its job. ;)

Update: Matt Cutts stated that the site wasn't hit by Panda here, so that wasn't what caused this. However that still means that Google has to work on better highlighting original content sources over the scrapers, stop funding the scrapers via AdSense, and improve the internal policies which state that you can't buy ads if a scraper outranks you for your own content!

Published: May 10, 2011

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Comments

May 10, 2011 - 1:52pm

Hi Aaron,
This new algorithm is a nightmare and here is a specific example. One site we have for a freeware program http://www.dopdf.com was hit by Panda too, even if it's our own created content and we don't engage in any blackhat tricks. And get this, if you search for a phrase like - doPDF is a free PDF converter for both personal and commercial use - we end up being on the 20th place!!! It's so obvious this is copied from us because the name of our product is dopdf and the domain name we have that text on is dopdf.com. Why isn't the new algorithm capable of determining brands?
I really hope they sort things out rather than posting useless comments on getting rid of the "thin content".

May 10, 2011 - 3:05pm

...is that most webmasters keep believing on what ever Google says on their videos or blog post. It is like if Coca Cola has a blog were they are going to tell the people small pieces of information on the secret receipt on how to make Coca Cola. Yeah right, nobody will believe them. Google has been trying to change the flavor of its Coca Cola but not to satisfy the customers but rather their pockets. At the end they will learn the hard way, that if they mess the receipt people wont buy the product anymore. As I have said in the past Google Stock performance since Panda: -13% or down 86 points, compared to the market that is up +4% and now Apple is the most valuable company in the planet not Google. No wonder why now Matt Cutts can say that Apple create beautiful products while Google creates awful algorithms.

May 10, 2011 - 3:07pm

Aaron, as you been touching this topic in depth for a while now, what amazes me that none of the press is picking up all the things that are going on.

Kids that have no idea think Google is doing a great job with this update. I have no idea how I can compare my site which was 34 pages of great material with images, references to ehow which is massive. Why do I get penalized for mess someone else done and which is so visible.

The comedy called Panda continues.

May 10, 2011 - 10:12pm

what amazes me that none of the press is picking up all the things that are going on.

Well, if you look a bit below the surface, the answer to that question emerges:

“A private understanding was reached between the OPA and Google,” an office assistant with e-mail evidence told Politically Illustrated. “The organization is responsible for coordinating legal and legislative matters that impact our members, and one of the issues was applying pressure to Google to get them to adjust their search algorithm to favor our members.”

May 10, 2011 - 5:09pm

Hi Aaron

Thanks for this article highlighting my horrific experience. I wanted to point out a couple quick things related to this:

-- I even sent the reviewers a specific breakdown of the search results they had dinged my site on. Showing them numerous results at scraper sites that had not even bothered to remove my site's copyright info in post footer and with a link back to my original content. They ignored this completely.

-- I didn't change my site name in reaction to any of this though. That was something I had been wanting to do for ages, and I'm very happy with my new domain name.

Oh, and 3 spam reports via Webmaster Tools on one blatant scraper site still have zero response.

May 10, 2011 - 5:46pm

I'm glad you grabbed this :)

Google, is without a doubt, the largest copyright infringer on the planet.

Aaron, if I posted copyrighted information here in the comments and you received a DMCA notice about it and ignored it- how long before YOU became a contributory infringer? A few days to a week or so maybe IMO. Certainly any decent attorney would argue that.

Google doesn't even care anymore. They know that unless you have millions to tie up in litigation that there is nothing you can do.

Where is the press?

Antitrust is the only thing that even mildly scares Google now. I think they are so full of hubris at the moment that it will take extreme press exposure and/or regulatory intervention. Or maybe they've rationalized that their reign is ending and they figure it's just time to grab all the cash possible.

May 10, 2011 - 10:55pm

Where is the press?

like with most big, highly-profitable scams...they are complicit.

May 10, 2011 - 10:53pm

I even sent the reviewers a specific breakdown of the search results they had dinged my site on. Showing them numerous results at scraper sites that had not even bothered to remove my site's copyright info in post footer and with a link back to my original content. They ignored this completely.

My guess is that they have someone making a low hourly wage doing the reviews on this front & they teach that person to "follow orders" rather than "exercise critical thinking skills."

I didn't change my site name in reaction to any of this though. That was something I had been wanting to do for ages, and I'm very happy with my new domain name.

Would you have went through the risk of a rebrand if your traffic hadn't already declined sharply?

With how unstable Google has been this year I wouldn't even consider rebrands on established content sites unless I was certain that I had at least a half-dozen smashing marketing ideas I was going to deploy after the rebrand.

3 spam reports via Webmaster Tools on one blatant scraper site still have zero response.

Recently they started doing the same sort of response to DMCA requests as well. Pretty scary stuff!

May 10, 2011 - 11:24pm
May 10, 2011 - 11:30pm

I was also encouraged that most of the comments were decidedly anti-Google.

May 11, 2011 - 2:52am

Back to work.

For a SEO blog it amazes me how much content is G bashing lol

May 11, 2011 - 4:15am

I don't really consider highlighting the abuse of power by a monopoly as being particularly "bashing"

Bashing is largely when you take things out of context to smear someone or something (like Google did when they spread the bogus claim that Bing copied their search results). The above is not taking anything out of context, but rather is more akin to the typical experience felt by many independent webmasters. They may not get screwed daily, or during every update, but absolutely the above is far more commonplace than either Google or I would care to admit.

Google's channels for customer service had obviously blown off their customers (even the paying ones) so other than externally highlighting it, how exactly do you get a company to see (& fix) extreme internal problems?

May 11, 2011 - 6:46am

When the Manic Street Preachers even write a song criticising Google, you know Google have gone too far :)

Don't Be Evil by Manic Street Preachers (I don't think it's copyright to copy/paste some lyrics widely available online but here goes):-

The lines have all been blurred
To the point of no return
The sickos and the bullies praise your name
You've enriched their lives with pleasure and fame
As a corporate as the suits you won't wear
As stupid as the jeans you tear
As evil as the pretence you care
God save us all from Satan's stare
Don't be evil, just be corporate
Fool the world with all your own importance
Portray your tedium for the world to see
Your own movie star and it's for free

The lines have all been blurred
To the point of no return
With normal people living normal lives
Normal things seen through normal eyes
As a corporate as the suits you won't wear
As stupid as the jeans you tear
As evil as the pretence you care
God save us all from Satan's stare
Don't be evil, just be corporate
Fool the world with all your own importance
Portray your tedium for the world to see
Your own movie star and it's for free

The music is going, the sun ain't showing
The printed word is all done and dusted
Don't be evil, just be corporate
Fool the world with all your own importance
The music is going, the sun ain't showing
Pretend technology made us equal
Don't be evil, just be corporate
Fool the world with all your own importance

May 20, 2011 - 10:50pm

I added the Youtube video to another post & bought their CD.

May 11, 2011 - 3:29pm

It's not just the mainstream guys ignoring this.

Many of the major SEO and search news sites do little more than slobber all over Google and their policies with very little to no criticism of Google.

It's so lame hearing some "well respected" SEO" continuously playing up Google's stance on things. For some sites it is so obvious they are doing it to somehow get favor with Google.

For me, when I see this, that person/company instantly loses all credibility with me.

Google and SEOs ARE NOT partners with the aim of working together for "white hat" standards. I can just imagine the internal meetings at Google where they make fun on these guys that they can manipulate with ease to spread their FUD.

Keep doing what your doing Aaron.

May 12, 2011 - 7:29pm

Aaron,

All SEO's know the purpose of the Panda update was to crackdown on content farms.
Sometimes other people get burned. You can't make an omlette...
Many new SEO's are attracted, unwittingley, to content farms, who ruthlessly punish their naivety - using no follows, 301ing to high ranking sites to show up for high PR, removing links later. The list goes on.
The less content farms out there, the better in the long run. The long term goal is required, not quick fixes.

Regards.

May 13, 2011 - 1:52am

All SEO's know the purpose of the Panda update was to crackdown on content farms.
Sometimes other people get burned. You can't make an omlette...

the whole "you can't make an omelette" angle is absolutely false in this case

  • if Google only wanted to hit content farms they could have only applied the algorithm to sites above 5,000 or 10,000 pages. they didn't however, so a lot of the collateral damage isn't accidental, but rather intentional.
  • further, Google is promoting the growth of a ton of scraper sites by paying them AdSense money & ranking them above the original source. that will increase the number of parasitic spam sites (rather than decreasing it)

The less content farms out there, the better in the long run. The long term goal is required, not quick fixes.

The longterm solution for many (non-content farms who were torched by Google) will be bankruptcy. When that is caused by Google doing a whack job on someone & then paying another outfit to steal that very same content, then absolutely Google deserves a black eye on the public relations front for that. Over and over and over and over again. And again!

May 13, 2011 - 5:56pm

Google seems to be trying to level the playing field.

Quality content is being indexed, which is a huge step in the right direction.

Surely this is good news for SEO's who genuinley strive for long term relevance.

Surely Google wouldn't damage own reputation by seggested naive behaviour. Does it really need the cash?

I think we all need to focus on 'long term' benefite here.

Where will 'search' be in 3, or even 2 years time?

May 13, 2011 - 7:15pm

Why do you think one of the most profitable companies in the world is such a benevolent creature?

Their interest is self-interest. Their history is full of flagrant abuse.

If we want to know where Google is headed, look at where they've been. 2 or 3 years ago things were a lot better for the average webmaster.

Now it's easy to get shut out of Adsense for legit sites, have Adwords tell you, "never come back ever" based on something Google promoted in 2003 and then Google knocks your sites back to page 5 while scrapers surrounded by Adsense take your spot on the first page.

Meanwhile the first page of all the big commercial keywords are guaranteed to be Fortune 500 companies, Wikipedia and of course, Google properties. The small relevant site has no chance anymore.

Google wants a digital plantation. I don't particularly feel like being their slave. Do you?

May 13, 2011 - 8:06pm

Amen to that.

May 16, 2011 - 12:26pm

Website Designer, you couldn't be more wrong. I am an SEO and I know with absolute certainty that the Panda was not really about content farms at all.

Aaron speaks the truth, there are much greater things at play here. The top 5 results for any major keyword now show results only for major fortune 500 companies, Wikipedia, etc. Below this you still have the scrapers because Google does not know how to weed these out of their SERP's. Their search algo has failed - and the only thing they can do is make it look pretty by injecting known brands at the top.

When you say "Every SEO knows..." you are just regurgitating the coroporate pap fed to us by Google on their blog.

May 11, 2011 - 4:18pm

...Action. Google has taken 500 millions dollars as they face possible charges in the USA and filed it to the SEC More at http://money.cnn.com/2011/05/11/technology/google_doj_settlement/ . It seems like I know I was DWI and now I have this money to buy some justice....Time is running out and investors are fleeing out. That is what happens when you manually manipulate your SERPs, adwords and you are not transparent on your business. Exactly what Google says you should be is what Google is NOT about.

May 12, 2011 - 11:18am

once an organisation gets too big for itself there are all kinds of personal motives in play and becomes a bad bureaucracy. Google has been protected from monopoly prosecutions because of their successful propaganda of being "the good guys". Of course they are going to abuse their power in all sorts of ways. It's human nature. It takes people like you to write about their practices to actually start to turn the tide of public opinion. The government ALWAYS jumps on the bandwagon ONCE it is at speed to paint themselves as people "who do good for the public" as well. It's a performance by all actors, but YOU are responsible for not turning your friends and family away from Google. Public opinion is much stronger than any well funded competitor.

May 12, 2011 - 9:18pm

After being a non-fraud AdSense publisher for over 8 years, my account was suspended last January. After appealling, I was finallly told that it "posed a risk to advertisers". While few of my sites were of great quality, being a non-fraud publisher means that advertisers should have been getting clicks from people that were interested in what they were offering. Our appeal was denied and we lost Google as a revenue stream.

If this can happen to us, it can happen to anyone.

As a publisher and as an AdWords account manager for many accounts spending huge amounts of money, I can confirm most of the negative feelings expressed here. This treatment of customers and publishers should result in loss of business, but like turning the Titanic it's not going to be easy or quick. Do what you can to protect yourself from future loss and to support other companies that compete with those you don't like.

May 13, 2011 - 3:51pm

The idea and concept of quality, and Google's overall vague language is what's most troubling.

I go Google, look up a question, find a result and may think: QUALITY. Someone else may get to the same result and think: quality?

It's so subjective. How can Google really determine this? With "research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on"? Still a very subjective and vague point of view . . . .

May 16, 2011 - 11:14am

Aaron,
Thank you for taking up the sword on behalf of all of us. It's so good to read these updates, and gives me heart that we may yet see a change from Google. With enough negative fallout Google will surely have to something.

I agree with nielsencl - "Do what you can to protect yourself from future loss and to support other companies that compete with those you don't like."

I am currently telling everyon I know to use an alternate engine - avoid Google products as if their lives depended on it.

May 20, 2011 - 2:50am

I've been talking to Patrick on FriendFeed. Patrick's site (justanotheripadblog.com) was never affected by Panda. The AdWords issue he had was unrelated to Panda, and I believe the AdWords issue was resolved. He did have a traffic drop earlier this month, but it was related to the fact that he moved domains, from justanotheripadblog.com to ipadinsight.com.

May 20, 2011 - 5:14am

will Tweety your comment.

May 23, 2011 - 10:05pm

Matt,

We have had a very similar issue happen to our site. Crenk.com is a basic original blog that I have done since 2008. All content on the site is original.

Since panda update it seems as though our site content hasnt been ranking at all and at least 5 sites have been scraping our content and they have been ranking very highly... please explain!

Im now at a point where Im wondering whether I should even write on the site anymore.

May 20, 2011 - 8:41pm

Matt, first I'd like to thank you for joining the conversation. Great to hear that Patrick's site wasn't affected by Panda.

Now, what about the rest of us? We're all watching this issue closely simply because we're all in a similar boat. Sure, we're not all having problems buying adwords, but we sure as heck are seeing all of our original content being outranked by scrapers. DMCA's are ineffective and don't scale when you've got tens of thousands of pages that have each been scraped 3-4 times.

We all appreciate what you guys do, but we're trying to feed our children here.

May 20, 2011 - 10:46pm

Your username is a smart ass one...which is rude.

The reason we require user registration is so that we only have to delete 3 to 5 third world spam comments everyday. If we didn't require registration that number would often be well into the hundreds. If I spend 3 hours a day deleting comment spam so I can please bitchy freetards then that food comes out of someone else's mouth (mine, my wife's, places we donate money to, some of our customers, etc.)

When asking for help it is useful to not act like a jerk.

I would have thought someone from Internet Brands would have understood how communities work, but it looks like that is not always the case!

May 31, 2011 - 3:16am

hmmmmmm just tried a search for "google panda solution" The top 15 or so listings are an auto generated "article" on crappy article submission sites -- hahahahaha outstanding job!

May 31, 2011 - 5:08am

Anyone who was smart enough to be certain of the answer wouldn't be dumb enough to specifically point it out publicly. :D

May 31, 2011 - 4:03pm

how disappointing - your response seems like a straw man put down on the most obvious case. I am not expecting the solution on a silver platter (tho I wouldn't mind) as your kinda flippant response assumes. What I am expecting and I am finding is lots of discussion and ideas, some good some bad, theories, lots of people smarter and more experiences than me, and some not, discussing approaches & experiences - Isn't that the web?

May 31, 2011 - 5:19pm

...but that bit isn't one worth sharing publicly, IMHO ;) :D

I equate it to this: Warren Buffet will tell you what stock he bought *after* they buy it (as he is forced to disclose this), but you won't see him publicly stating what stocks he feel look attractive in front of him buying them.

Widely disseminating publicly what you feel is an algorithmic driver would only guarantee that you are unable to benefit from it for very long. This is why you can see lists of everything but the kitchen sink listed as variables (because there is no risk in highlighting literally everything, as doing so highlights nothing). But if a person publicly says "I think this is x" then either they are wrong, or if they are right they set themselves up for retribution from Google.

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