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Latest Google Panda Update Favors Video, Big Brands, Google Properties

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Will Google's latest Panda update get the attention of the antitrust investigators given the boost it gave their own properties? Are Google search results becoming just a list of big brands?

These are just a couple of the questions being asked following the Panda update made late Wednesday last week. The changes were first noticed by Dani Horowitz on Friday morning when the analytics for the previous day were posted in to her GA account for DaniWeb.

Daniweb, the programmers forum with over a million members, had been hit by Panda back in late February and had worked back through changes made on the site. The new Panda update knocked the site back to where it was after the first update despite the optimization work done.

While Google confirmed the update, they did not give details, but if you look at the winners and losers found by Searchmetrics below, it is obvious certain big brands, including Google properties were the big winners and some of Google's competitors took a hit.

Here's are the winners:

google-panda-winners-sept-2011-searchmetrics

And the losers:

google-panda-losers-sept-2011-searchmetrics

YouTube was the biggest winner, according to Searchmetrics, as were a number of big brand video sites - Hulu, MTV, NBC, CBS, HBO and a number of others that contain a large amount of video content.

Was the new update a move to improve rankings for sites that use video? Maybe Google has seen the web users' move to wanting more video and the change is a reflection of that. MetaCafe was a new winner - the site hosts free videos - and has over 1,250 Google +1s. MySpace is not showing any +1s in my search results. Wikipedia which has no video content does have more than 5,600 +1s.

Most losers seem to have less video content - and a few have had their run-ins with Google (though this is not to say it was a direct reason they were on the list). Both Comcast and NBC were on the other side of net neutrality, but NBC gained (they have video content). Verizon, on the other hand supported Google's position on net neutrality and still dropped.

Controversial site, Ripoff Reports, received a boost, while ConsumerAffairs.com made the top 25 losers list - ConsumerAffairs recently posted an article suggesting the public's perception of Google isn't always positive.

Horowitz noted her site had had an unexplained increase in bounce rate and drop in time on site, just prior to the update.

The Alexa results below show that time on site is mixed - Hulu doesn't beat Amazon for example.

alexa-time-on-site-comparison

"We're continuing to iterate on our Panda algorithm as part of our commitment to returning high-quality sites to Google users," a Google spokesperson told WebProNews Friday. "This most recent update is one of the roughly 500 changes we make to our ranking algorithms each year."

With the boost in brand sites, perhaps Google has been tracking sites that get a large amount of their traffic directly - seeing that as an indicator of user popularity - and are downplaying sites that rely solely on search traffic and have high bounce rates. Google obviously sees their +1s as popularity votes - a comparison between the two lists may bring some insights.

Aaron Wall brings up some interesting points in a humorous animated video - challenging the push of their own properties. While it may never be known if Google was looking for ways to push their own sites before the fact, there is no doubt this update helped them.

So if this is a shift to increased importance of video content, will the video part of universal search be dropped because the sites will already be in the SERPs?

While Google has given users the ability to search by reading level since before Panda that filter had been suggested as a factor of earlier Panda updates - now the influence of video appears to be a factor. Guess Google has realized being too literate turns people off, too.

If you've noticed any other possible factors that may be impacting these results, please post about them in the comments.


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