Is Panda a Well-Disguised Google Favoritism Update?

When Google rolled out its Panda update earlier this year, it was supposed to signal the death of content farms and link buyers in the industry. Poorly optimized sites would sink and us little guys who strive to come up with good content and honest optimization methods would finally get our fair shake.

Enter November 2011: some of those things came to pass and some didn’t. The Ezines and WiseGeeks of the world lost their ranking mojo while eHow continues to show up for a bevy of competitive keywords even though the content isn’t exactly stellar. Keywords like “laptops for sale” and “cars for sale” still yield a mix of well-optimized and poorly optimized sites. Why does this happen? Are some sites just too powerful in terms of link and domain authority that they rank despite bad optimization practices, or is there a rationale behind this paradox?

A recent post by Andrew Johnson over at SEOBook provides some very interesting insight on why Google cracks down hard on some offenders while turning a blind eye on others. Here’s an excerpt:


Google will not disrupt a site or advertiser that will negatively impact their own quarterly earnings. When Google does disrupt one, it is because they have a backup in place. That backup may be their own internal project or a competitor of yours who sends 95% of their advertising through Google’s ad platforms. When Google claimed they were going after content farms, and Demand Media’s properties (which are explicitly spam) were spared, the reason was obvious, because it would have visibly impacted their bottom line.


Johnson continues by writing;


 My conclusion: first, I monetize my existing sites with Google’s own products as much as possible. Second: I no longer invest my time or money in new businesses that require Google’s traffic. Google should expect more walled content gardens in their future. Google’s biggest challengers such as Facebook and Apple recognize this, and their platforms are very much walled gardens. That is too bad for the web as we know it today.


Whew, talk about letting some zingers fly. This may sound like something straight out of Conspiracy Theory to some of us, but I can see exactly where the author is coming from. The fact of the matter is that Google is a business and all businesses are bound to have their sets of interests. Those interests will always be pursued and if you’re in the way, then that’s a bummer. You may be doing all that’s right, but when the dragon swings its tail, all you can really do is hope it misses you.

It’s not much different from the current labor dispute in the NBA. The players may have the morally upright position but the owners are holding all the financial trump cards. As steadfast and united as the players’ union is, they’re bound to be outlasted and outfoxed by the billionaire owners at the negotiating table.

Some of us love Google; some of us have a growing contempt for how it does business. One thing’s for sure, though. As long as Google’s too big to fail, we all have to play by its rules.

  • Godfadr

    I think, in the end, it will all work out fine for legitimate online marketers.

    Sure, there will be a glitch here and there, but I have no problem with unique quality content getting “favoritism.” – Heck, it is what I want to find when I search, why should it be any different for the rest of the world :)

  • Rebecca | Bicycle And Bikes

    Hey Andy – I was feeling ambivalent about these updates because they didn’t seem to have any effect on my bicycles site … until October 13 that is. Went from averaging around 800 uniques per day to averaging 300 uniques per day, which even though not huge numbers all up – it’s a huge percentage. Should see my google analytics curve!

    However, if Google really does continue work to its goal of continuing to improve the user experience, then proper websites shouldn’t have anything to worry about …

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