Hot At Sphinn: Google’s Farmer Update, How It Should’ve Worked & SEO Help For Affected Sites

sphinn-logoIt should be no surprise that Google’s Farmer update (AKA “Panda” update) dominated the conversation and activity on our sister site, Sphinn, last week. Several stories related to the Farmer update were popular among commenters, Twitter users, and Facebook users — including discussions about the update itself, articles about how affected sites should react and how Demand Media avoided Google’s axe.

Our favorite comment of the week came in our “Discussion of the Week,” which asked: Google’s Farmer Update: How should it have worked? In that discussion, which currently has 16 comments, Sphinn member Aaron Bradley of SEO Skeptic compared the Farmer update to another major Google update from many years ago:

I certainly can’t recall an update since “Florida” with such a wide-ranging impact on search rankings globally, and with such collateral damage reported. “Florida,” I think, actually did represent a major innovation, and was driven by an actual need to correct the SERPs because rankings were being fairly easily maniuplated by generating a high volume of poor quality links.

“Farmer,” on the other hand, as a reaction to criticisms regarding the quality – as opposed to relevance – of sites appearing in the search results, has achieved the same sort of scale of collateral damage as “Florida” without actually hitting the mark.

This is Aaron’s second consecutive nod for top comment. You can still join the discussion on Sphinn and see what others have said about the Farmer update.

Other hot stories on Sphinn last week included tips on how affected sites can respond to the Farmer update, how Demand Media avoided the negative impact of Google’s algorithm change, and more. Here’s the full list of Sphinn’s most popular stories from the past week.

Most Comments

  • DOTW: Google's Farmer Update: How should it have worked? – Some dodgy sites have been hit hard by the Farmer update. But some non-dodgy sites have also been hit hard — so bad that Google is already trying to fix that collateral damage. As the dust begins to settle on the Farmer update, a simple question for our "Discussion of the Week" — how should this update have worked? What did Google get right, and what did it get wrong?
  • Your Site’s Traffic Has Plummeted Since Google’s Farmer/Panda Update. Now What? – This is pretty much a masterclass in SEO from Vanessa Fox for sites that are suffering from the effects of Google's recent algorithm changes.
  • Did you get rocked by Google? – I just read the post about google slightly changing the algorithm. How bad do you think its going to affect internet marketers. I mean everyone uses article marketing to get traffic (well except me of course). Has anyone see a significant decrease in the amount of traffic that they have been receiving? Let's hear your story.
  • Can Competitors Hurt Your Rankings With Bad Links? – Actually, this post doesn't answer its title's question, but offers valuable advice on how a webmaster can deal with links launched by a competitor to harm rankings.
  • Google: We’re Working to Help Good Sites Caught by Spam Cleanup – From Google Fellow Amit Singhal: “We deeply care about the people who are generating high-quality content sites, which are the key to a healthy web ecosystem" he also states “no algorithm is 100 percent accurate.” But what are their real efforts (if any)?

Most Tweeted (not already listed above)

  • How Demand Media Used PR Spin to Have Google Kill Their Competitors – Google Kills eHow Competitors, eHow Rankings Up
  • How Econsultancy measures Twitter via Google Analytics – An interesting read about how one site tracks its Twitter marketing & outreach via web analytics. Should provide some ideas for other companies looking to do the same.
  • The Race to Build a PageRank for the Social Web Continues – It's not just Klout. Mathew Ingram looks at how Peer Index is also trying to be the default standard for measuring social infliuence online. Not sure either company will get it right, but it's an interesting topic to think about with search engines also trying to account for social influence in ranking algorithms now.
  • Google Bounce Rates: The Untold Story – Good piece by Kate Morris on bounce rates — including when they don't really matter as a measurement of success, especially for some bloggers and affiliate marketers.
  • Questionable SEO (aka WebSpam) in practice at Facebook – One should think that major sites like Facebook maintain squeaky clean SEO, right? Of course that's naive. Rishi Lakhani reveals that Facebook spams search engines with gazillions of well optimized machine generated doorway pages in order to funnel long tail search traffic into their site. Funny, err, sad enough, Google's recent scraper/farmer updates didn't hurt these 'social spammers'.

Hot On Sphinn: February 28 to March 6, 2011

  • Skyrocket Your Productivity by Trimming the Fat – I can attest to the validity of this post via my own personal experience. Worth a read.
  • Link Building 101 – WordPress SEO guru Yoast breaks down the basics of link building in light of the recent JC Penny slap with "Link Building 101"
  • How Many Words In ALT Text For Google, Yahoo & Bing? – "How many words will Google, Yahoo and Bing count as part of ALT Text on a page? Someone asked me this on the other day and I wondered if a little simple test might offer an answer. This sort of post is usually a decent way of picking up natural forum links wether it’s right or wrong…."
  • The Ultimate Social Media Profile Chart – A list of the most popular social media sites, all arranged by category. Besides the obvious factor that these sites allow you to get involved in their communities, they also allow you to create a unique profile which includes your own custom URL, a link(s) back to your site and information about you and/or your company.
  • 10 Steps To Writing Better Web Content – Your Web content is in a constant battle against a number of variables competing for your readers’ attention: A link to another website, the back button, their task at hand, the size of their monitor, the number hours in the day. For those reasons and many others, it’s crucial to give your readers easy access to the information they want, without making them think, and without getting in their way with marketese and fluff. Here are some of the most useful guidelines I’ve come to appreciate in my quest to continually improve my content writing.
  • The Canonical Tag Can Save You from the Duplicate Content Monster – The canonical tag (rel="canonical") is an essential tool in the search engine optimization (SEO) toolbox. It is often a better solution that a 301 redirect in cleaning up duplicate content issues. So let's explore what those issues are and what the tag does.
  • How To Define, Measure & Test Conversion Events – You've got the rankings, you've got the traffic, now you just need the conversions. Excellent tips on how to better your conversion rate.
  • How to Unnaturally Naturally Vary Your Anchor Text – Ross Hudgens offers up a very detailed tutorial on how to "naturally" vary your anchor text. Good stuff.
  • Yelp: Google Told Us “Our Way Or The Highway” – If you wanted to see Yelp reviews for a particular restaurant you could either go to or you could go to Google’s Place Page for that same location — and that’s what Yelp is worried about. For the past year or so Yelp and Google have been a little like the two Koreas, not at war but not at peace either.
  • How To Trick People Into Reading Your Blog – A few ways that Lisa Barone regularly trick people into reading the posts that she writes across the Web. They are all of course based on providing unique value.
  • What Happens When You Build 10,000 Dodgy Links to a New Domain in 24 Hours? – The type of SEO experiment which rarely gets blogged about – very interesting results from a spammy style of link building.
  • Google Farmer Update – Self Diagnostic Kit – I have been having lots of people contact me over the weekend panicing over whether they have been affected by Google’s latest algorithmic update “Farmer”. If you have relatively stable search traffic volume it is fairly easy to detect and I have a custom report set up to do the sleuthing work.
  • Is there an argument to review Google’s link guidelines? – Of course, says Peter Young, and many will agree: "My argument isn’t that there are guidelines in place – far from it, We need guidelines – my main concern is that we are increasingly creating an industry often misaligned with that of other mainstream channels – siloed for the sole benefit of a Google algorithm which was originally created with the premise of rewarding good content and good content sites. However things have moved on – and maybe just maybe its time that to review things as just because we have always done things one way – doesnt mean that necessarily the best way….."
  • How to Pimp Your Google Places Page for Better Rankings – Dawn Wentzell delivers a good guest post on the basics of how to get your Google Places page on the map.  Even the not so exicitng stuff (but stuff that matters).
  • Web Tracking Protection: An Emerging Internet Standard that Helps Protect Consumers from Tracking – Today, the W3C has accepted and published Microsoft’s member submission for an Internet standard to help protect consumer privacy. This announcement from the Web standards body responsible for HTML5 is an important step forward for people and businesses that interact online…
  • Google Tweaks Guidelines on Soliciting Reviews … But Is It Enough? – Google recently rewrote its guidelines on review solicitation and significantly narrowed what it considers to be inappropriate tactics for getting reviews. The change is very recent, and appears to be related to Google’s own promotion of HotPot in the Portland, Oregon market a couple months ago. But I can’t help wondering if another rewrite is in order./a>

This is the latest in a weekly look at the stories that were “hot” on Sphinn in the past week. We’ll post these recaps every week.

Related Topics: Channel: Other | Sphinn


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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