Slapped By Google’s Bear of an Algorithm Change

Sue Pelletier,  editor/blogger for Medical Meetings/Capsules and face2face blogs, explains how B2B pubs can make lemonade from the sour search traffic stats resulting from Google’s algorithm change.

Google’s recent algorithm update, code-named Panda, savaged a lot of B2B media Web sites when it initially forayed from its cage this winter, then drew blood again when it was officially released in early April.

While the intent of the update is to stop awarding high rankings to low-quality content farms, it also resulted in sometimes precipitous drops from some non-farming sites, including some B2B media sites.

The update has affected 12 percent of all search queries, according to Google. Just how many sites does that translate to? It’s hard to know for sure, but about 62 percent of those who responded to a poll shortly after Panda initially rolled out said it affected their site’s traffic, and 45 percent of that 62 percent said it was not in a good way. And that was before the official April release.

If you don’t know whether or not your site has been gouged, take a look at your analytics to find out how your Google referrer numbers are holding up. Go ahead, I’ll wait. If you’re one of the lucky ones who weren’t affected or saw a jump in Google referrers in April, congratulations. Keep on doing whatever it is you’re doing.

But if you’re not, don’t despair. Even some good B2B media sites have taken a hit. How can that be, they cry. Do they not have exactly what Google says this update is supposed to favor: “high-quality sites — sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on”?

Sure, there’s likely a lot of great stuff on your site. But be honest: Maybe there’s just a teensy bit of filler, some lightly rewritten press releases that get thrown up on the site on days where you just don’t have a meaty story to post. Maybe some of your inbound links are a tad dubious. Maybe there are some articles that never got optimized for search engines.

Now’s the time to learn from your analytics: Which areas are still pulling well from Google? Which areas aren’t? What can you learn from each moving forward? Are there areas of your site that you just need to let go of?

While you’re crunching the data, here are a few ideas I’ve heard people are putting into play to counter the post-Panda dip:

  • Add original content to rehashed press releases by including reviews and ratings.
  • Do some investigating to see if other sites or blogs are duplicating your content without your consent. Get offenders to cease and desist.
  • If you have old-but-evergreen articles that used to get a lot of traffic but have fallen off post-Panda, it’s time to go back and optimize them.
  • Google likes sticky articles — think about what you can do to increase the amount of time someone spends on your site, such as including internal links in the story or embedding a video.
  • Check your inbound links. You want those who link to you to be considered authoritative and high quality by Google, since it now penalizes sites that rely on inbound links from low-end sites for their Google juice.

So we need to showcase the good stuff, clear out our sites’ deadwood, do some remedial work on what’s still salvageable, and optimize the living daylights out of anything new. Oh, and write stunningly fabulous original content.

B2B publications have reaped a lot of traffic benefits from the great and powerful Google, and I’m sure that will continue. But Google, and the other search engines, will continue to tweak their algorithms, and future shocks are almost certainly coming.

When I look at the bigger picture, I can’t help but think that we need to find ways to be less reliant on the search giants to drive so much of our traffic. But how can we build our non-search-engine-generated traffic? E-newsletters, blogs, and other social media must be a part of the answer, but I’m not convinced they can do enough to inoculate B2B sites from the vagaries of search. Where will our future online readers come from? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Please share this page with your friends and colleagues.