I’ve seen a few hundred articles and columns and blog posts about the GFP update, ranging from small SEO blogs all the way up to the Wall Street Journal.
The primary focus of all these articles has been two-fold. First, those who are operating what was deemed as “shallow” content have taken a hit in their search rank. Good. Second, some sites that never were content farms and had original content were caught up in the algo tweak and became collateral damage. Not so good.
Having lived through every Google update, I’m not going to pile on with another I told you so post. All I’ll say is after 16 years and hundreds of clients, I have seen zero negative impact to rankings due to the Farmer/Panda update.
Mostly it has been positive. The reason is because I have never utilized the shallow content approach to any of my content or linking strategies. This doesn’t make me any smarter than any other link builder or SEO.
It’s just that any time I look at a potential linking or content strategy, I always ask myself if that strategy would make any sense to implement if there was no Google. If the answer was no, then I didn’t implement it. In other words, I never let the engines be the driver of my linking strategies. Your content drives your strategy, not Google, not Yahoo, not Bing, not Blekko, not any engine.
The result of this approach is that when used properly on behalf of truly top shelf content, improved search rank happens anyway. I’ve said before that “high search rank is the result of meritorious content well linked“. This is even more true today than during my first campaign for Sea Ray Boats in 1995.
The Secondary Impact On Links
While the update itself was not aimed squarely at links per se, you must remember that those millions of “shallow” pages were often created in the first place with the goal being to populate those shallow pages with anchor text links to other websites, in hopes of improving the rank of those sites being linked to from that shallow content.
Think about the residual effect on links when shallow content is blown up. The links on those shallow pages get blown up as well. After all, if a page is crap, aren’t the links likely to be crap as well? Or, if not crap, then at least less likely to be sending signals of merit or trust?
To put it another way, let’s say your site does not engage in content farming. You have a legitimate site, perhaps an ecommerce site. Since links can be tough to come by for such sites, maybe you engaged in link building via link placement within shallow content sites (maybe you paid for them, maybe you swapped, maybe you sponsored it, whatever).
If the link profile for your site is populated predominantly by sites that were deemed as shallow content, then isn’t it fairly obvious that a secondary impact of Google’s Farmer / Panda update is sites with links from shallow pages are going to see their rankings drop as well.
Of course they will.
I think this is part of the reason there has been an outcry from sites who are saying they were unfairly caught up in the Farmer/Panda update.
The truth may be that you are not content farming, but if your links live on hundreds of shallow or content farm content pages, you are going to be a casualty, and that’s about as simple a way as I can put it. I’ve said forever that as far as links are concerned, you are known by the company you keep. Your inbound links tell a story. If your company and story is shallow, your are going to pay the price.
This doesn’t mean your situation is hopeless. What you need is a solid merit based strategy that does not include potential farms. If you have solid content, and if you are not a farmer yourself, then you can recover. Just get some help from someone that knows what they are doing.
It’s not by accident that I have never contributed content or links to any content farm. I know them when I see them and it’s always about intent. My antenna is just the residue of staring at millions of URLs over the years across thousands of spreadsheets. When you know the signals, farms are easy to spot. You can do it too. If you’re willing to learn.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.