By Tinkering With Panda, Google Rankles Retailers & Reporters


Image by: George Lu
By Gordon J. Pruitt

The all-mighty, all-powerful Google recently rankled the Internet world by overhauling their search engine algorithm dubbed “Panda,” effectively changing the rules by which much of the internet commerce world and online news operations had been operating. Many companies that routinely relied on Google’s results to drive traffic to their sites and money into their coffers via advertising and sales saw their fortunes fall as much as 50% or more.

Ouch.

That change was the third in a series of search shake-ups by Google which started with the roll-out of Panda back in February 2011. Except this time it was different … this time it was much more severe and immediately noticeable by conscientious website owners. Lives were ruined, business models shattered. And for its actions, Google – no stranger to mass concern and a watchful government eye – caught holy hell from thousands of companies and Internet information sites demanding that they undue the damage.

According to several articles who have delved into the online overhaul, many victims took to lodging complaints via a Google blog set up specifically for that purpose, asking for their digital mojo back. And many of those squeaky wheels – several of them with behind-the-scenes connections – were rewarded with tweaks that allowed them get back some, if not all, of their traffic back. But Google did not make any wholesale changes, instead tackling each case one by one.

Some victims, however, decided that they couldn’t depend on some button pushing customer service rep or a friend of a friend to resolve sudden serious flaws in their game plans. There were multimillions at stake, after all. So they took matters into their own hands.

As reported by The New York Times, price-comparison website Nextag suffered greatly, losing as much of half of their leads normally generated by the search giant. The company’s CEO, Jeffrey G. Katz, quickly moved into action, compensating for the losses by purchasing twice as many ads on Google’s paid search results. He had no choice.

“We’re living in Google’s world,” Katz, who heads up Nextag’s parent company Wize Commerce, told the Times.

Katz isn’t the only one who is well aware that Google enjoys an almost ludicrous dominance in the search engine market (67%) and consequently rakes in 75% of search advertising revenue because of it (stats via the Times).

While Katz’s nimble maneuvers staved off disaster for Nextag, others weren’t so lucky. Badly affected were small regional news outlets who were accustomed to getting a fair shake in Google News searches, rightly ranking right up there with the big boy media empires at their peak traffic. The online news playing field was thought to be level, all voices big and small getting a chance to shine, the little guy singing the praises of Google. But all of that changed in March of this year as Google again updated Panda, and some say for the worse.

So what happened? Google isn’t saying much and is decidedly unapologetic. So, with the damage done, what can these battered behemoths and digital mom and pops do to combat Google’s aggressive territorial pissing?

Fight back.

First off, you should diversify your anchor text as much as possible. Meaning, if the name of the site or slogan is your anchor text, Panda will punish you if you do not change it up. Yes, I know – more work, thanks Panda. But that’s how you play the game – and you wanted to play the game, right?

A second way to overcome the Panda changes and get that traffic back is by linking back to your own content whenever it is relevant. Make that site scream “I have great content, check it out!” While this was always important to Google and Panda, now it is more crucial than ever. All of the links on your site shouldn’t merely take you back to the home page.

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