The dust has settled – but we still don’t know for sure how it all got stirred up in the first place. I’m referring of course to the Farmer Update that Google prefers to call the ‘Panda Update’. A few hundred US sites caught it hard at the end of February – and now we’re looking to see how the situation around ‘farmer’ content looks today. Plus we will address the question plaguing non-US based website operators: will it catch me?
Looking at weekly visibility changes for the US there are the usual ups and downs – but no particularly strong losses or gains by sites affected by the Farmer Update. However, something that is particularly impressive is the curve from eHow, the largest site from Demand Media, who, according to everyone with an opinion, were recently targeted by Google. Except that now it’s rushing to an all-time high.
But while the update-winner eHow continues to win more, on the other side of the scale everything has stayed somehow the same. Top losers like suite101.com, answerbag.com, answers.com, and mahalo.com are still far below their previous visibility.
We could only find three recoveries. And it’s possible that they have other reasons for their loss of visibility and subsequent recoveries.
It seems that Google didn’t want to hit any special interest sites with the Farmer Update, but rather sites featuring flat content from all subject areas. These three then correspond with (e.g. in the use of advertising) with precisely those factors suspected to be at play by some SEOs. It’s also possible that that after complaints they were once more manually ‘liberated’.
Google has stuck with it in the last three weeks and has scarcely altered the update. But they still haven’t rolled it out anywhere else – and the suspense continues to grow as people worry how it will affect other countries.
Is there salvation before the update?
What can you do if you are afraid of losing with your content when the update is rolled out in Europe? Not a lot probably. eHow shows indeed that it can be evaded and their renewed increase can be credited to a mid-March relaunch. But what works for eHow, won’t necessarily work with other sites. It is clear that the ranking factors that have lead to the massive losses of some sites are still quite vague. Therefore you can only guess whether your own site will be affected. Two examples:
Upon request, one of our clients named four US websites that were similar to their German site.
The curves of the four US sites are on the right. The most well known site has stayed constant after a short-lived high – all three others have lost massively in the Farmer Update. Now our client is rightly nervous and therefore already working on optimizing their site in terms of presentation, loading times, bounce rate and so on.
Because we think that these factors comprise a large part of the farmer update. Of course, it is not very likely that you can escape the impending Farmer Update with a few quick changes. But it is also not unlikely that in the worst case you might potentially achieve a quick recovery.
Another client can clearly name a site that is very similar to theirs. This site rose incredibly following the Farmer Update – and then really sank to the bottom – but not nearly as drastically as answerbag.com & co. Here too, nervousness rules – but we analyzed very precisely which keywords were losing in the US example and through this can identify the area of loss. From this we can derive clear recommendation for further development of the German site.
In any case, we won’t have to deal with a real Farmer drama. And neither should anyone else working with brands and quality content distanced from the content farms. Here are three examples of ‘quality sites’.
P.S.: Who’s writing this stuff? My name is Eric Kubitz and I am one of the co-founders of CONTENTmanufaktur GmbH Anyone trying to reach me can do so via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on Twitter. ‘Til next time!