Last February 24, 2011, Google implemented a new algorithm called Panda Algorithm. The implementation has been widely tagged by many SEO practitioners as the “Farmer Update.” For the past weeks, we have been experiencing rather unstable movements on our rankings in Google. During the first weeks of February, I have attributed the changes to the issues concerning JC Penney; the issue that I believed forced Google to immediately tweak their algorithm. I believe that during that time, Google simply considered some signals and reverted the algorithm discrediting stand alone links.
We strongly got back to the ranking on the 3rd week of February and have been slightly affected by the Panda Algorithm. However, many of the primary keywords of PulseUniform have showed significant increment as far as SERP is concerned.
Eventually, I have observed that every keywords of PulseUniform had not been submitted to the same avenues. I considered “medical scrubs” and found out that mostly of the off-pages where this keyphrase is on, are article submission sites. I wondered then why “medical uniforms” and “medical uniform” take a good place on SERP despite these keywords being used too on article submission sites. My guess was that, these two keywords have a good and diverse back link base and considerably high on-page optimization rating.
So, with these changes Google implemented, we were left with questions like where are we going, what should we do, and what do we expect to happen?
I have two expectations on the latest algo update:
1. I expect that Google will not revert back the algorithm in order to favor those authority sites that have been affected, it will never tweak a portion of the algorithm so to automatically give exemptions on already affected websites, and it will be impossible for it to manually consider and put exemptions on every website that might attempt to apply for exemption.
2. I expect that Google will surely upgrade and update their algorithm in the coming weeks; it will use other metrics and will consider other signals that will satisfy previous algorithmic changes, and it will surely affect our rankings.
With these two expectations what options are left for us?
It is good to first take a note on what some experts say about the update and here let’s take a look at Rand Fishkin’s (SEOMoz) observations.
“Based on these, we have some guesses about what signals Google may have used in this update:
• User/usage data – signals like click-through-rate, time-on-site, “success” of the search visit (based on other usage data)
• Quality raters – a machine-learning type algorithm could be applied to sites quality raters liked vs. didn’t to build features/factors that would boost the “liked” sites and lower the “disliked” sites. This can be a dangerous way to build algorithms, though, because no human can really say why a site is ranking higher vs. lower or what the factors are – they might be derivatives of very weird datapoints rather than explainable mechanisms.
• Content analysis – topic modeling algorithms, those that calculate/score readability, uniqueness/robustness analysis and perhaps even visual “attractiveness” of content presentation could be used (or other signals that conform well to these).”
Here are the things that I think we should be considering now after the algo update:
1. Content alone is no longer KING
With the current trends and changes, content is no longer king. What is king then? Good and original content submitted to “good” sites. Good sites would mean any website that is currently having good SE traffic as far as SE is concerned and are basically algorithmically considered sound. For now, we cannot acknowledge www.ezinearticles.com to be a good site because of the current changes but later on, things might simply change. The problem with EzineArticles is that, it accepts reproduction of articles as long as submitted by the same author. Bad thing is that, Google’s new algo may no longer count multiple submissions under originality signal. But we cannot get relevancy without content farms or article submission sites. So with these, what are we going to do? My take is this: We will still consider article submission sites to be important sites but multiple submissions to different must be avoided. This would mean that, submitting one original article to different sites should be minimized. We must also avoid those article submission sites that are known to be the source of many “article syndicates” or the so called “scraper sites.”
Here is my interpretation on the Farmer Update as far as content farms are concerned:
a. Algorithms to be effective, it must answer logical questions that can be measured automatically without so much of human intervention. Remember that there are only two answers that can be answered by algorithms, TRUE or FALSE. If you are technical enough to understand, these two words are represented by the numbers 1 and 0 respectively. There are factors that I consider to be important in this new algorithm:
1. Content originality and relevancy – content originality may be measured by the number of content reproduced (as far as G SE algo is concerned). Please refer to number 3 and 4 for some explanation and observation about originality and relevancy.
2. Time and date of submission – considering the new capability and speed of Google Instant (the new spider of G that carries with it the algorithm) time of the submission and the date it was submitted can now be taken in a short time. Thus, time and date is a viable signal that can be measured that allowed me to consider it as one of the important factors regarded by the Panda Algorithm.
3. Number of times the content has been submitted to different sites – this is where originality comes into picture. If in a span of 24 hours (this is just an estimate) one has submitted 1 article to say 30 article submission sites, the version of the copy that has been published first I believe will be considered by G as the original. All the other articles that will be published within that 24 hour frame or whatever time frame it might be, may be considered by the algo as mere copies. These copies may no longer be indexed and links to the source may no longer be credited.
4. Number of times content has been reproduced over a certain period – this is where relevancy I believe comes into picture. If a particular article will be reproduced by another website or an article submission site, it will be counted as relevance though this can only happen after a certain period of days or weeks. While this guess is not that plausible, relevance or importance of the article can be measured up not just by the number of reproduction but also by the number of backlinks(tweets, facebook share, SB’s, etc.) an article post has. So your judgment is important on this signal.
5. Site ad architecture – I got this theory on Fishkin’s comparison between EzineArticles and eHow pages. On the part of EzineArticles, it hosted several boxes of advertisement in almost all of the corners of the article page. eHow on the other hand has lesser ads on pages. Matt Cutts, during the debate between Harry Shum of Bing and Richard Skentra of Blekko last Feb 2, 2011, said that they are not considering ads as factor in their algorithms and that includes ads Google serves. So is the new algo now discrediting sites with ads on its pages? My answer would be no. Ads are great and they are not being considered by Google as spam (they too have ads being served). However, taking the example on EzineArticle pages, it seems to me that, having 4 boxes of ads that speaks and tells you about the same products is simply not a good idea. One box of G Ads is just fair as far as G SE is concerned.
If you are not comfortable using article submission sites just yet, submitting to other websites that stores articles into other formats is a better alternative. For example, we can use www.scribd.com to publish e-books in PDF formats. We can upload powerpoint presentations to www.slideshare.com without the worry on being syndicated (embedding the .swf from SlideShare can be considered syndicated in other terms but not with the SE’s). Other options would be submitting to “winning” websites like www.ehow.com.
2. Social Media sites are now considered a good market place
By the end of 2008, the power of social media had been discovered. The successes of www.facebook.com, www.twitter.com and www.myspace.com paved way for more opportunities in business. www.youtube.com on the other hand had become the authority on sharing video after it has been purchased by Google. There are also other video hosting sites like www.vimeo.com that are comparably successful as YouTube. So what do these things tell us? While most of the social networking and media sites follow piously Google’s rule on using the rel=nofollow attribute on links, it does not necessarily mean that sites like these are no longer effective in marketing. Remember, links may not always come directly from these sites to your site; most often, they come from the people that has been impacted by the media and networking sites.
So how will we be able to use social networking and media sites in our campaigns? I thought of one thing. What about allowing all our employees create their own accounts on these sites and let them make friends with as many as they can. Demographics at this stage are not yet important. So how will they be able to utilize media and networking sites? We will make resource contents in the form of white papers, DIY articles, video tutorials, slides, podcasts, and issue/opinion responses and we will let our employees share all these materials to their friends on facebook, myspace, and twitter. The resource contents may not necessarily be uploaded to our banner website in order for it to be effective. For one, we can make use of other data hosting site to upload our resource contents and then we’ll just get the embed code or the page link of the content.
The technique I enumerated above is the other form of linkbuilding. This is what I considered an indirect linkbuilding campaign wherein we as marketers will create a brand – the PulseUniform for example– in order for people to link to it naturally.
3. Social Bookmarks, Blog Comments, Forum Posts, and Directory Lists are still useful tools
I do not want to start a debate here about good or bad practices in SEO. Many will surely dispute that using these types of campaigns will definitely mirrors low quality campaign but no; I still am positive that these types of campaigns when used properly will yield positive effects both for your marketing and link building efforts.
Unlike those usual flooding and spamming on blog comments and social bookmarking sites, our approach should now be more inclined with marketing than purely linkbuilding in its corrupted sense. Creating a network of friends by commenting or by targeting specific audience in SB sites should be a primary concern when doing this campaign. However, I greatly advise to still use keywords for anchor texts but only on a very sound judgment thereby preserving network and not jeopardizing the marketing campaign.
4. Mentions are becoming effective too
The term “mentions” is basically what we call the word of mouth. As we think more of branding, then mentions are an effective tool. These do not actually get the juice or the credit to your site but they do get attention from the search engines. This works best using networking sites and other sites that has a healthy community interaction.
5. Do not shift to other approaches that fast yet
We know about it already that any abrupt change in whether positive or negative is considered by Google as something not cool. So, while we move towards some refinement on our campaigns, slowly doing it and still maintaining the momentum of the old ways should be highly considered.
Nobody would dream about a messy and spam saturated net. No one would ever wish to land at an auto parts site after searching for cheap computers. I totally agree with how Google initiates cleaning up the web as the market leader and I equally laud Blekko and Bing for becoming that vigilant. So while we have made some submissions to content farms in past, we do not regret having used them to share our ideas and our services to people who might need them. One thing that I am so proud about our campaigns done using the content submission was that, all articles we submitted to these sites are all original and well written.
This is another challenge from Google that we have taken into serious consideration and we are dedicated to be on track to comply not just with Google, or Bing, or Blekko but to our clients and clients-to-be in terms of transparency and good practices.
Joseph Glenn Austero Jr.
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