07 Mar 2011

How To Fill the Farmer (Panda) Update Void

Google Panda Farmer Update

Busy times at the Googleplex

First we had some big news about some well known websites all being penalized by Google for being on one side or the other of paid links.  This was quickly followed by the biggest Google search result shake up in years called the Farmer Update by us SEOs but Google named it the Panda Update.  This update apparently targets content farms or sites with massive, low quality content and a whole bunch of other items.

The Farmer (Panda) Update is all about good content (more or less)

We have been expecting something like this for a while now, which is why we have been pushing and prodding our clients to concentrate on building great content on their website, as opposed to just focusing on pure link acquisition. We are sure thousands of SEOs all around the world have been discussing article marketing the last several days.  That’s because the many of them use article marketing to one degree or another for link building and other SEO needs, even though they won’t admit it (similar to paid links). After all, how do you think sites like Yahoo’s Associated Content accumulated two million articles?  And that is just one site.  The reality is we all knew those were inexpensive, easy to get articles and links and now Google has put the kibosh on most of them.

Where do you go from here?

If you have seen no change or an increase in traffic, you should keep doing what you have been doing. If you were going to be impacted in a negative way with this update you should already see that in your rankings and traffic.  If you have seen a significant drop in traffic (and rankings), we recommend looking at a holistic approach to your SEO and web marketing efforts. What do we mean by that? It means a few things. One, if you are concentrating on obtaining backlinks, you should be doing this through diverse methods based on having magnetic content that people will want to link to based its own merits. Two, take a look at your site architecture.

As our friend Alan Bleiweiss has quietly mentioned a time or two, you can do yourself a lot of good by concentrating on on-page SEO. Three, if you are interested in traffic that has your best chance of converting, we recommend promoting your website through a variety of methods, with excellent content as the cornerstone. Here are two excellent articles with more in-depth info that doesn’t need to be repeated here: Tom Critchlow at Distilled and Ben Pfeiffer at Search Engine Roundtable.

Is this update actually an opportunity for you?

It just might be! Millions of webpages that were filling up the top rankings in Google just got penalized; some in a very big way, and we don’t see many of them coming back any time soon. To us, this leaves a bit of a void. It’s been speculated that Google has been working on this big update for more than a year, and one of the issues that concerned them was a void of “on topic-ness”:  that says opportunity to us.

You have the opportunity to fill the gap with real, valuable content on your site.  That’s what Google wants to see.  Websites stepping up to be the authority in their specific area of expertise. In the February 28 Wall Street Journal, executives from Google was quoted as saying, “Sites with original content such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on, will move up.” It’s all about the content stupid.

So step up and fill that void. Create some fun, informative, engaging content that targets the same audience that the content farms were targeting; those seeking help in long-tail searches.  Many content farm contributors were excellent at crafting titles that were found by searchers.  The content was usually worthless, but they knew how to optimize those articles to be found online.  Now that many of them are gone, it opens the door for you to create optimized content, but instead of “cranking it out”, slow down and make it valuable to your audience.

You know the difference and they know the difference. Create “how to” videos, or posts that answer questions you get asked most often, or even an infographic that tells a story. In fact, April Fools is coming soon in the U.S., can you think of something clever that you can produce that your audience just might share?

The convergence of search, social & content

At Vertical Measures, we have defined an 8-step content process to help grow your business online.  It includes strategy, research, content development, optimization, promotion, distribution, link building and measurement. We strongly encourage you to consider this or a similar strategy moving forward.  Don’t rely on your content being found on third party sites, instead be the place people turn for expert advice in your specific field of expertise. Whether you do this in-house or work with a firm like ours, we feel this is the best approach to building a long and steady stream of loyal customers for any business.

Would love to hear your reactions and thoughts on this.


  • TrafficColeman Mar 07, 2011

    Arnie I’m all for search traffic, but if your getting most of your traffic from there then your in trouble my friend..I tell people to get traffic from many places because you can;t control Google..but they can control your site rankings..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • Arnie Kuenn Mar 07, 2011

    @TC It’s all a matter of perspective and how you approach your business model. Everything should be diversified, even your approach to natural search results.

  • Miguel Mar 07, 2011

    Hi Arnie, great post and yes this Panda Farmer update was just what content marketers have been expecting for years now. So that has to be a bit vindicating. The thing that to me is weird is that it looks like this update targeted a very specific group of sites and that 98% of the rest of the world’s domains were unaffected, and even some of the sites that should have been in that 2% affected were not which adds more fuel to this idea that this was not as “algorithmic” as Google said it was. Any thoughts on that?

    Secondly, I think that it would be useful to do a post on how small businesses, or those with very small budgets, can compete with a content marketing strategy. Typically this is an expensive and time consuming strategy that only larger firms have the resources to successfully employ. So any tips on strong content marketing strategies that can be executed on a shoestring budget would be fantastic.

  • Arnie Kuenn Mar 07, 2011

    @Miguel – I think Google updates have almost nothing to do with manually targeting sites. In fact, Vanessa Fox (ex-Googler) wrote an excellent post today which helps explain the process: http://searchengineland.com/your-sites-traffic-has-plummeted-since-googles-farmerpanda-update-now-what-66769

    Re your 2nd suggestion. That is a great idea and something we have been trying to do in our webinars (https://www.verticalmeasures.com/webinars/) and other content. In fact, I am coming out with a book in April covering that exact topic. And our team is coming out with a series of “How To” books covering Twitter, Facebook, Blogging, Keyword Research and Local Search all in the hopes of reaching the SMBs. But we will try to do more in our blog posts to help the small businesses compete with the big guns.

  • KrysVS Mar 07, 2011

    As a user, I am so glad to see this kind of update.
    As a content producer, I’m excited to help people get their message out, and get it heard above all the noise :)

  • Mike Mar 07, 2011

    Nice article Arnie, and thanks for the link to Vanessa’s article too. I’m currently searching the net for solutions to a (new) clients problem. They have massive amounts of autogenerated pages to attract visitors to a service they provide. They’re a perfect Panda target – no questions there, but their problem is that they need the extremely long tail since there’s really no telling where their customers might come in. No evident search phrases to target. The combinations of words leads to tens of thousands of pages and they have managed to get top positions on many of the unusual combinations and backup the more competitive ones with better comtent.

    Their fear now is that most of their network might take a huge hit, leaving them spending all their money on Adwords. Again, one might argue that’s just fine – they’re occupying SERP space with little content and dupes with just the few words altered. But I’m stumped as to what they could have done differently on a limited budget. One alternative is to divide the network into different domains, spin content and try to fake being unique, but I’m not sure that makes the net a better place even if I get away with it. The current solution seems more “honest”.

    I guess this is Googles way of saying “no, you can’t do business that way”, and on the personal level I agree. With my business hat on I’m worried. The Panda has yet to reach Europe, but that’s just a matter of time.


  • Ole Mar 08, 2011

    Is there any word on when the Pandafarmer update reaches Europe

    I have 2 affiliate sites which was on 1st place in Google, one of them dropped 4 places the other one stayed in the top, so maybe its here already ?

  • Mark Mar 16, 2011

    This update is still only in US right? I’m a bit confused on what that really means. A website on US datacenters will get affected? If you declare default country as US in analytics? Registered in the US? Because I can be outside US but most of my traffic is coming in from the US.

  • Ole Apr 06, 2011

    I think its has hit Europe now, or else Google just dont like my site anymore