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Panda: The Aftermath - #SESNY Round Table Discussion

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Google's recent Panda algorithm update affected many Web sites. History is repeating itself again. For many site owners, this is a lot like Florida update all over again. One of the most anticipated sessions at SES New York was Panda: The Aftermath. The Search Engine Watch panel consisted of Jonathan Allen, Director; Danny Goodwin, Associate Editor and Frank Watson, a contributing member. Mike Grehan, Chair SES Advisory Board moderated the group.

Frank Watson was introduced and started in on why and how site owners should optimize for Google. His advice: you don't need to spend as much time on optimizing for Google as the traffic it gives you. "Google is not the government," said Frank. "You're not breaking the law when you do something against Google."

Google will punish you - even if you're a big brand like JCPenney. However if, like them, you want to gear back up for the holiday season, find the new way to game the system.

The advice given was that you have to look at all the new issues and changes that are coming up with the search engines. Stay up to date on search engine news. Spend at least 20% of your time keeping up with changes in search engines. If you're a black hat,or if you are trying to game the system, you can't really complain about it.

Over the past few weeks, Danny Goodwin has been reading everything he could. If you were hit by Panda, it's going to be at least a month before you're recrawled. Some of the basic advice he gave:

  • Google is now looking at spelling and grammar even more. Check your basic English language skills, if you're trying to fix up.
  • Look for links. If you have links to every page of your site, then that's not good. Check your internal link structure.
  • Check your content. You need unique, original content.
  • Mike brought up xe.com. The site has ranked first for currency conversion terms for years. There is a banner ad and a widget, but no unique content on the site. Have good content but don't over think it.

    A poll went out into the crowd. First question: How many people got hit? One-third of the audience hands went up in the air.

    Naturally, the next question was: How many people got bumped? Another one-third of hands went up. Straw, unscientific poll of the audience shows as many got a bump by the Panda update as got dropped.

    Next, the session opened up to comments from the audience. One women in the audience mentioned U.S. visitors going from 90,000 to 15,000 because of Panda. But her International traffic is up. Remember, Panda has only affected the US version of Google.

    Another gentleman who runs a weird, unique gift shop said "Our engines are on fire now." He agrees with others and the panel. Since 1998, he - like others - have been living comfortably on Google rankings and he's now dropped and it has hurt its business.

    Those site owners that scraped or didn't have quality, unique content aren't really complaining. General consensus is that people feel they have quality content. Those site owners are still scratching their heads to figure out why.

    A discussion ensued about if Google had pre-warned site owners that they might get hit, he would have had a chance to react. Not that Google would have given warnings, but many site owners would have considered AdWords campaigns. However, the truth is that we should live each day as if that warning was just given.

    If you look at your analytics and discover that 90% of your traffic comes from Google, you must really re-think your strategy. That faucet of traffic can be turned off at any time.

    Toward the end of the session, the panel called me up on stage. I've been researching this extensively. As the site owner of a business school at a technical university, my .EDU site should rule the roost. Yet, our site lost ranking for over 500 pages that comprise our faculty directory. It used to be that you could search for a faculty member and get his or her bio page. Now those pages are gone.

    One possible reason is the user factor signals. These bio pages generate a high bounce rate. Why? Students search for a faculty member, find the professor's office location and hours, then leave to go find the professor. If Google tells me to write for my users and my users find exactly the information they need on the first page, haven't I done my users a service? Is this a signal in the penalty?

    The panel wrapped up with the usual talk that we all preach: content is king, test your results and keep changing your pages to meet your goals. If 90% of your traffic is from one source, you need to correct that. If that source is Google, and the Panda update hit you, you know that already.


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