Panda 4.0: Good News for Smaller Affiliate Sites?

Sylvia Nankivell

As Affiliate Window’s Traffic Acquisition Manager, Sylvia is responsible for hand picking publisher sites with the highest potential and providing hands-on support for traffic acquisition (SEO, PPC, social media and conversions).

Prior to this role, she worked as an SEO specialist on large-scale B2B websites such as www.icis.com, www.bankersaccuity.com and www.xperthr.co.uk, which gave her a solid foundation in both the softer and more technical SEO skills.

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Panda 4.0: Good News for Smaller Affiliate Sites?
Photo by Brian Jeffery Beggerly Creative Commons license

These days, when we hear that Google has released another algorithm update, sites, and in particular affiliate sites, understandably tend to at the very least feel a sense of dread, and in many cases even a little panicked. This feeling can even last beyond the time that we have frantically checked our traffic analytics. “I might not have been hit yet, but it could happen at any time”.

The introduction of Penguin and Panda updates have seen many affiliate sites taking hits to their traffic over the past few years, and have even led some to be pushed out of the affiliate business altogether. Certainly, the game is a lot harder than it used to be.

So, the innate dread that some of us now feel upon hearing the news of a new algorithm update is understandable. But, maybe, for those of you that have seen a big increase in Google traffic, occurring on the 19th May, you might actually be able to let go of that disbelieving breath.

Yes, that’s right, Panda 4.0, is actually benefiting smaller affiliate sites.

At the Search Marketing Expo in March, Google’s Head of Search Spam, Matt Cutts, disclosed that; “One Googler on his team was specifically working on ways to help small web sites and businesses do better in the Google search results. This next generation update to Panda is one specific algorithmic change that should have a positive impact on the smaller businesses.”

The end of Google Panda Brand Protection

As always, if certain sites are moving up in Google results due to an algorithm update, other sites will be moving down. And, in fact, much of the news and articles you read around Panda 4.0 will centre on the fall in rankings that some huge sites such as ebay.com, ask.com and the American voucher code site retailmenot.com have experienced at the hands of Panda 4.0.

In the past, Google’s updates may have felt somewhat unjust to some smaller affiliate sites, and there has been much talk of the magical protection of the big brand. I have heard complaints from affiliates with pages of in-depth, rich content, losing out to big brands with a page containing only a short sentence on it.

Perhaps this new Panda 4.0 update is in response to these sorts of complaints. It seems that now, big name brands, as well as the smaller businesses, need to consider how information rich all of their pages and directories are.  If they don’t, then they are in danger of joining the Panda 4 ‘losers list’.

This does however mean that sites which have suffered damage to their traffic from Panda in the past, may now feel that justice is being done. With the introduction of this new algorithm change, thin directory pages such as those within http://ebay.com/bhp/ and http://www.ask.com/question/ are no longer outranking well thought-out, informative content on smaller sites, simply because they are on a big brand website.

What Next?

The narrative given by Google around this latest update focuses on the ‘softening’ of Google Panda, and that it “also lays groundwork for future iteration”.

This means that even if your company or site hasn’t been hit by Panda 4.0 on the 19th May, thin content pages will still be at risk of future Panda 4.0 updates (that future “iteration”). If a company site which you work on has a series of pages with insufficient informative content on it, then it may well be time to consider how you are going to turn these pages around. A strategy of quality over quantity is a good rule of thumb for avoiding that big scary Panda.

Hopefully, though, this will mean that more future updates to Panda will continue to help smaller affiliate sites recover.

If you have any thoughts on Panda 4.0 or have experienced a big change in organic Google traffic (up or down) around the 19th May, then it would be great to hear about it in the comments below.