Panda 4.0 and the demise of certain websites
On May 20th Google released the latest version of their Panda algorithm targeted towards websites with poor content and affected approximately 7.5% of the search queries. Although, many webmasters refer to this as the Panda 4.0 update, Google has actually refreshed their algorithm 25 times.
Many of the Panda refreshes didn’t cause major changes in the SERPs and were often unnoticed by webmasters. The rumour in the SEO community about the Panda 4.0 update is that it will be “gentler“ when compared with the previous versions – the first Panda update affected around 12% of all search queries.
After every Panda update there are websites that lose more than 50% of their visibility in the search results due to the lack of good and relevant content on their web pages. The Panda 4.0 is no exception – some of the biggest losers after the update are ebay.com, ask.com, yourtango.com, examiner.co, spoonful.com and few dozen other websites. When we look at the percentage, there is no obvious pattern – the websites loose between 33% and 75% of their search visibility.
What is different about the Panda 4.0 update is that there are websites that actually managed to improve their visibility. Some did face an increase of more than 100%! A great study on the winners and losers after the Google Panda 4.0 update is already published on searchmetrics.com, so make sure you check it out!
The most popular Panda 4.0 loser
Over the past few days, ebay.com was the most discussed website, despite the fact that it lost only 33% of its search visibility.
Before the Panda 4.0 was released on 20th May, ebay.com was dominating the SERPs and was one of the top 10 best ranking websites in the world. However, in just 3 days, eBay fell from number 6 to number 25 in the Moz big ten. Dr. Pete Meyers from Moz has created a very detailed study on the ranking shifts that eBay experienced.
Why did eBay get hit?
Let’s face it – everyone doing SEO for some time, was thinking that big brands such as Amazon, Apple and eBay are kind of immune to penalties of all kinds. However, now it looks like things aren’t what they seem – one of the largest websites for online shopping ebay.com was just punished by the Panda 4.0. Now everyone in the SEO community is asking themselves – what went wrong with eBay?
The best way to find out what’s going on is to visit any of the eBay’s product listings. There seem to be some things we consistently notice:
– Very often search result pages appear in the organic SERPs
– There are ads
– There are many keyword rich external links on every page
In the footer of every page on eBay, in the “More to explore” section there are typically more than 10 keyword rich anchor text links, containing long tail keywords. This seems to be the main strategy used by the company to obtain vast search visibility.
Another issue with eBay’s SEO strategy is that they use doorway pages, generated based on user queries. These pages not only have almost no content, but also contain hundreds of internal links and advertisements. Furthermore, the website’s navigation contains more than 100 keyword rich anchors.
By pushing eBay down the SERPs, Google seems to be forcing the website to produce better content for its users and stop their aggressive internal linking strategy. The true winner in this case will be the website visitor – people will stop being redirected through various doorway pages and will also be able to navigate through eBay more easily.
How to avoid Panda 4.0?
The Panda 4.0 update is meant to punish websites providing thin content and negative user experience. To avoid being hit by this penalty, you need to:
– Only create top quality and well researched content, which your visitors will find interesting and share on their social media profiles.
– Keep your website’s content fresh and update it regularly. If you do so, people will not only come back to your website when they need info, but also link to you.
– Analyze your website’s technical structure and make sure it’s optimized. Having huge navigation menus, unclear structure and other technical issues almost always results in a negative user experience.
– Focus on only getting links from top quality niche websites and stop getting links from low quality websites with your main keywords. Although, not entirely relevant to the Panda 4.0 update, I think it’s important to mention this, because it is another pretty common reason for getting in trouble with Google – focus on building authority in your niche, rather than just building backlinks and you will see how your traffic and the amount of links you get will increase!
What does Panda 4.0 means to you?
Last month Google’s Matt Cutts announced that the company plans to release Panda updates on a monthly basis, to help clean up the SERPs from low quality websites and deliver better experience to the search engine users.
The Panda 4.0 should serve as a wakeup call for all webmasters to start producing high quality content for their websites. However, keep in mind that it’s often better to leave content creation to professionals such as OMC Web Design, simply because they are able to tailor the content to align with your audience and goals. Creating content that truly makes an impact requires lots of analysis and if you can’t do it yourself, it’s better to hire someone to do it for you.