panda-penguin-hummingbird3-620x350Google has been rolling out updates for its algorithm since it started in the search engine world way back in the late 1990s. They make these changes because they’ve either worked out a way of interpreting websites and search queries better or they’re attempting to stop people “gaming” the system through spammy tactics.

It’s estimated that they make about 500 adjustments to the algorithm every year as it’s very fluid these days and they can adapt quickly, but for the past few years they’ve also been making some very big changes which have had some people scurrying in panic to make sure their sites don’t get knocked back or removed from the index altogether.

The two big changes are dubbed “Penguin” and “Panda” and it’s the latter that has been updated this week.

What does Panda do?

Panda is a “content” update and Panda 4.0 has “noticeably” affected at least 7.5% of all English-language Google searches. Content marketing is the big thing these days and many people (including us) have been extolling the virtues of creating good information and getting it out to your potential customers for a long time now and this latest update cements that view. The whole idea behind this update to the algorithm is to weed out the sites with poor content, referred to as “thin” content that sometimes fills the search results. Sites affected by this update tend to be those targeting specific keywords in an attempt to sell products. For example, in the internet marketing world there are many people creating websites to sell weight loss products. These have a high cost and margin and to make the sites attractive to Google they would simply fill them with content relating to weight loss. In the old days before Panda, these sites could rank quickly. Now, it’s a lot harder.

Google’s getting clever now and by examining not only the site but also people’s interaction with those sites it can understand when a site is simply there to gain ranking and “bait” people or is a genuine site with content aimed at helping people.

However, there’s been a very surprising and high profile site that’s been hit – eBay.

What did eBay do wrong?

You may remember a time when eBay seemed to have lots of adverts all over Google whenever you searched for any kind of product. Last year they worked out this didn’t work for them and so they decided instead to focus on attracting customers using organic search. That’s where it started to unravel.

Whether by accident or design, a lot of search results for eBay came under the banner of “thin” content, for example, this page (thanks to Wordstream for the link, contains very little content but lots of links to other parts of the site:


Why is this such an issue?

Google really wants people to get right to the content they asked for when searching. They don’t want people to search and then have to navigate through a forest of more links and internal searches to find what they’ve after. They want the top ten results to be quality content, chock-full of good content that gives people answers, shows them a product they want or in some other way allows them to get right to what they’re after with the minimum of fuss.

If you want to gain more customers from the Internet you need to get your site found and to do that you need to feed the beast that is Google. Google is hungry and wants lots of high quality content. If you provide such content then you are well on your way to getting found and more importantly, gaining more customers.