My Marketing Thing

Pandas, farmers and Google

Panda Farmer Google cartoon

Up until recently, article marketing used to mean writing a ‘how to’ article (preferably a keyword laden one) and pasting it into as many article directories as you can (like Articles Base, Article Directory and Article Dashboard).

Having your article duplicated on a multitude of top ranking sites meant that people had a better chance of finding out about you – not just through your articles but also through Google ranking.

The keywords in your articles would be rewarded by Google. And having your website address in your author profile of these directories was enough to significantly help your search engine optimisation (SEO).


So what’s changed?

Google has been a bit of a mystery from the start. No one knows exactly what’s going on in Googleland. So it’s fitting that the latest dramatic change might be called ‘Panda’ or it might be called ‘Farmer’. We’re not really sure.

What we do know is that on 24 February 2011, Google did a major ranking algorithm update. For many, this has halved their sites’ visitor numbers. It started causing havoc in the US (because they don’t have enough problems at the moment), but it’s soon to work its magic in other countries, too.

The main problem seems to be around unoriginal and duplicated material. Article directories have had a particularly rough time with this new change.

Some spectacular examples

According to Search Engine Journal:

“Ezine Articles and Suite 101 lost over half of their visibility, with Wisegeek getting devastated at a 93% drop. The percentage of loss as calculated by Sistrix placed some prominent sites such as Associated Content,, and Articles Base at over 90% of traffic which simply evaporated overnight….While major sites such as YouTube, eBay, and Facebook were considered net winners in the Google algorithm modification, some prominent publishing sites such as Ezine Articles, Buzzle, and HubPages were seen to lose considerable traffic.”


Why is Google being so cruel?

The aim of this change is to remove poor quality sites from the top of Google’s results pages. Matt Cutts, Google’s head of spam, explains their intention in his update announcement post on the 24th of February:

“This update is designed to reduce rankings for low quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.”

Sounds fair enough.


But accidents happen.

So Google have asked those with “a high quality site that has been negatively affected by this change” to let them know about it. That is, if you can work out that your site has been unfairly affected by Panda. Or Farmer. Good luck with that.

And then there was April Fools…

April 1st didn’t help things. This year, Google continued its proud tradition of April Fools’ Day pranks with a ‘new’ Gmail application and the unveiling of CADIE, a Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity.

Billed as the world’s first artificial intelligence tasked-array system, CADIE had already scanned the Web and created her own homepage, which demonstrated the entity’s love of all things panda-related (see it here). We already feel foolish enough around Google. Did they really have to make us feel stupider?


Jokes aside – what now?

  • Quality content is still king – best have your original, niche-driven content appearing on your own website. If you are too broad in your topic range, Google won’t like you as much.
  • If you have lots of articles on your site, have a list of ‘categories’ on your home page which leads to those articles on a particular theme.
  • Don’t have too many advertisements on your site. Google won’t like that either.
  • Try reducing the number of article directories you use to the top ranking ones.
  • Find other ways to get your website link onto other sites – ways that have a more natural relationship-building approach.
  • Embrace social media – if you can bear it (excuse the Panda pun).

Being an authority in your area of expertise is still what everyone is banging on about. Most importantly, I feel, is being committed to it for the long-term. Apparently Google rewards those who ‘keep calm and carry on’.


This post was written by Megan Hills. Megan is a writer, cartoonist and marketing consultant who is waiting for Google to blackmark anyone who uses Facebook or Twitter. Now that would be interesting. Find out more about Megan

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