Google's New Panda Algorithm Changes The Face of Search Rankings

In Google’s never-ending effort to rid their indexes of low or no-quality websites while boosting rankings for higher-quality sites, they have launched a new algorithm focused primarily on user feedback. As a publisher myself, this is a very important change. However, since I don’t practice in any deceiving tactics in order to boost my own traffic, I’m not too worried about it. As always, with any site that I write for or work on, what you see is what you get.

For those who have spent lots of time and other resources on building worthless websites, ripping content from higher quality sites, participating in link farms or any other form of “search fraud”, you can probably kiss your work goodbye. At this point, it’s only a matter of time until you lose your foothold and/or become removed altogether.

What did Google change?

To put it as simply as possible, Google changed the way it ranks websites. Before, it was all about keywords, how those keywords related to content, links and other factors. As of a month ago, it’s more about user opinions on particular sites. Essentially these are user feedback signals that can affect how well a site will rank compared to others of similar content. The goal for this change is to allow users (in time) to generate the popularity of the search results. While this may seem like a good plan on the surface, adding any human element of this magnitude can possibly carry some negative side effects:

  1. Some users mistake low-quality sites for high-quality sites and vote accordingly. For example, a person who has always gotten their “news” from AssociatedContent.com might feel like it’s more authoritative than Msn.com, thus making MSN rank lower.
  2. DoS-type attacks. I don’t know of any way to stop someone from creating some kind of bot that allows them to “vote down” targeted websites in hopes of getting their own site ranked higher.

More local search results

Another major change is the localization of results. For those of you who have some type of Google account, be it iGoogle, Gmail, AdSense, etc., you are already aware of how specialized the search results are for you based on a number of things like your previous searches, but this new update brings up more related results to your area based on your Internet connection.

Granted, this is helpful when you’re looking for local businesses or places to eat, but what about if you’re looking for national or international businesses? The Internet was designed to connect you to the world and some of the main reasons most people use it is to find those obscure places to buy products or to get information you can’t get locally. So what happens? Well, those results are more likely to get drowned out down into the next couple of pages.

The upsides

If you’ve built an all-original site and have continued to update it without the use of shady tactics aimed at gaining your higher search results, then you generally have nothing to worry about. In fact, these changes might actually help your site because it’ll clear out most of the junk that is probably ranking higher than you right now.

If you’re just a Google user, then these changes will help you dramatically because over time, the results you see will be based on what other people have said about a particular site and how great they felt the content was. Plus, we should be able to kiss the days when any search would pull up 20 spam sites goodbye!

My two cents

My one tip of advice: don’t write content just to get more traffic! Always write with the user in mind. Trust me on this. It will take longer to do and cause you to spend more time researching, but it will pay off greatly in the end. You can play the SEO game until you’re blue in the face, but what’s it all worth if you spend countless hours and money getting all this traffic to your site only to have Google make one simple change down the road that causes your site to lose 75% of your efforts?!

Use SEO as a way to make your already-great content shine even more. Don’t use it to just to play the ranking game. The best side-effect of this approach is that Google will never penalize great, original websites, so you’ll never have to worry about another Google update!

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