Those of us involved in SEO and website design will already be familiar with the introduction of the Google Panda algorithm in February 2011 and the impact it had on various types of websites. The exact nature of Google Panda algorithm is of course confidential and is constantly evolving. The aim of the Google Panda release was to reduce the rankings of content mills and low-quality websites with excess advertising. Many of these sites were indeed impacted and suffered a serious drop in their rankings on Google searches. Unfortunately, the Google algo change also affected genuine content providers that relied on revenue sharing/ advertising to stay in business. These websites had to revise their business model to survive, and the content mills were forced to improve the quality of their content to remain competitive. Reports at the time indicated that news and social media sites improved their ranking but sites such as eBay took a major hit.
The latest Google algorithm changes for Google Panda tended to focus on what Google perceive to be ads on the ‘above the fold’ area of the web page. The ‘above the fold’ area can be loosely defined as the visible area of a web page that does not require scrolling to review. Of course, with smartphones and other devices increasingly popular this is not a precise definition. Perhaps a better one is that area of the page that is not contained within the HTML <body> tags. Many website use images to entice a user to go to a particular page, whether it is a shop or contact form and it seems that they may now be penalized for doing do, despite the fact that the image or banner involved is not strictly speaking an advertisement. This Google algorithm change is not a popular one and seems to reflect somewhat of a double standard, since every Google search performed results in ads at the top of the page. It seems Google are allowed to utilize an advertising program but everyone else will be penalized in search results. This will obviously force business owner to use the Google AdSense program in order to promote their business effectively.
Google have claimed that this will only penalize those who use this method excessively but as is common, failed to define the limits allowed before a penalty occurs. Those who use the home page as a jumping off point to multiple pages may find themselves dropping dramatically down the search engine listings for their defined keywords.
What can you do about it? Well, redesigning the page layout may solve the issue and like many other areas of SEO, we can only experiment using defined criteria and analyze the results for success or failure. How long it takes to obtain the results will depend on the size of the website, number of pages, number of links and all the other usual criteria ‘defined’ in Google Webmaster Tools. All Google algorithm changes will remain a mystery to those outside the Google team – unavoidable since if the full details of Google Panda were released, the scammers and content mills would soon use it to their advantage. The best advice offered is to concentrate on providing unique, original content on a regular basis and not to focus on Google algorithm changes too much.