3 Reasons Why Google Panda Updates Torched So Many Websites In 2011 – And How To Strike Back
It is human nature to believe that current trends, especially favorable ones that help us, will continue forever.
John Mauldin, from his book Endgame.
The above quote from the book Endgame is written in the context of the recent global financial crisis where one of the fundamental root causes of the crisis was the belief that real estate prices will increase forever.
Sure, it sounds stupid when you read that right now but when you’re “in the game” and you’re benefiting from such rising prices (by trading stocks, capitalising from increases in real estate, etc.), your smart, logical mind loses the battle with the emotional, hedonistic mind which just wants to enjoy the bliss and doesn’t want to be interrupted by negative thoughts about the future.
As I was looking at many sites affected by Google Panda algorithms in 2011, this same quote came to my mind. And not surprisingly – the graph of affected sites looks very similar to the stock market crash graph…
Here’s why so many websites were reduced to ashes:
Reason #1: Believing that the current trend will continue forever.
Some types of websites were working for a while and while it’s NOW very obvious that these websites are REALLY NOT that good, webmasters (we) actually believed that this was going to work forever.
We did not want to hear our logical mind telling us that it’s not good enough to work for the next 10 years. As long as it works today (“I can see my earnings, so it works! I have proof!”) – it will work all the time.
Reason #2: Energy conservation (survival instinct)
One part of human nature, or actually the nature of all living beings, is the survival instinct – and by that I am referring to survival by energy conservation.
All animals instinctively conserve energy their whole life.
They move only when they have to … when they have to eat, find food, find a mate, go to the bathroom 😉 and teach their cubs how to hunt. Young animals also play a lot but that´s also a natural instinct that helps them develop hunting skills.
A biologist would add a few more details but I think you get the point.
If animals are not hungry, in danger, are hunting, or mating, they DON’T MOVE. They don’t do anything – they just “are”. They stand and breathe, they lie down and simply breathe or they sleep.
We have the same system in place. Our natural tendency is to conserve energy.
Some like to call this lazyness but in fact it’s just mother nature looking for the MINIMUM investment of energy in order to get the MOST OUTPUT.
The “most output” of course differs for every individual. For some it’s just having enough food (of any kind) so as not to be hungry and to sit on a sofa and switch TV channels.
For someone else the most output is striving to provide for their kids without having to ask for help from a spouse.
Whatever the case, subconsciously we are programmed to use as little energy as possible in order to get what we want.
This subconscious programming has caused webmasters (us) to build websites that required minimum invested energy to get the most benefit.
Of course, that approach was successful – but only in the short term. In fact, we can always find shortcuts to get the best result with the least amount of effort.
Except that this approach works only until Google changes the algorithm. Then you’re back to square one.
Problem #3 – Google Panda algorithm doesn’t give us immediate feedback
If I am learning to drive a car, then I get immediate feedback on anything I do. If I turn the steering wheel slightly too much to the left, the car goes IMMEDIATELY to the left.
This causes me to CORRECT immediately and adjust. This type of immediate feedback helps me learn very fast and I learn to drive the car correctly and safely.
In tennis, your goal is to hit a certain target and with every shot you make, you can see where the ball lands and you can make adjustments – longer, shorter, more to the left, more to the right.
You get immediate feedback and you can adjust quickly and learn how to hit the ball the right way quite fast.
With Google Panda periodic updates, you DO NOT get immediate feedback about what you’re doing wrong!
One day things are working well, the next day you wake up in Google Hell.
So what happened this year to thousands of webmasters (and what will continue to happen) is the deadly combination of:
- human nature – believing that when things go well they will go well forever;
- survival instinct – our tendency to expend the least amount of work needed to be put into a website that makes money
- Google Panda algorithm not giving immediate feedback when you do something wrong – but being applied suddenly without any warning
The end result?
Tons of poor websites that were doing fine until (insert a Panda date here) – and stopped getting much Google traffic after that date.
How To Become Panda Proof
Is there a way to avoid this massacre again? Here’s what you should do:
1. Get yourself a Panda punch t-shirt and wear it often. It will keep reminding you of what you’re up against.
If you “fall asleep” and don’t do the following 3 steps, Panda will slap you again.
Promise yourself now, that if you get Panda slapped again, you’ll wear the Panda Killing t-shirt for the whole week without changing it.
And yes, you´ll have to sleep in it too.
2. Be aware of your mind’s tendency to be overly optimistic. If things are going well, that doesn’t mean that they will go on forever.
It just means that at this point in time, Google’s current algorithm ranks your website well. That’s all.
3. Be aware of your natural instinct that always wants to conserve energy.
The survival instinct is crucial for animals (except pets 😉 ) which are in a constant battle of survival – the food is scarce and they may be hunted down and eaten.
The same survival instinct was crucial for humans 50,000 years ago in the African savannas when food was scarce. (It still is for most African people.)
Now food is not scarce and we are in no danger of dying from hunger (at least us lucky ones in the western world).
Therefore the survival instinct doesn’t apply to you any more – so ignore it.
Yes, you don’t want to become a workaholic – there’s always a balance you need to find – but there’s also no real danger of dying because of loss of energy.
4. Be aware that Google’s Panda algorithm does not give you immediate feedback if you do something wrong.
Instead of waiting to be Google slapped again before making improvements on your site, know that it is possible that your website is not really the best it can be.
If you’re really aware of the above factors, a simple question lingers in your mind:
Is this website good enough to pass Google Panda’s scrutiny and succeed in the long term?
By good enough I mean the quality of content, quality of design and if the site is easy to navigate and is user friendly.
But worrying every day if your site is good enough won’t get you anywhere. You’ll just be tweaking small details all the time instead of taking on bigger projects that really make a difference in the long term.
Critically assessing your site in comparison to the top dogs in your niche every 6 months is a much better plan.
That’s when you should ask yourself these questions:
Did I do the best I could?
Is this the maximum potential of my capability?
Is this something that I can show to the experts in my field and be proud of?
With this kind of thinking awareness you’ll shift from the subconscious drive to work with shortcuts and from the blind belief that everything will be good forever – to creating something that will be successful in the long term.
The best way to assess your website is not on your own though.
You’re too much in love with your site. You treat your site the same way as a grandmother treats her granddaughter – too lenient!
Instead, do it with a group of people to whom you promise a free drink for every mistake, error or poor thing they find on your website.
The more poor stuff (poorly written content, poorly presented content, confusing navigation, confusing pages, confusing tools, …) they find, the more drinks you owe them.
If you catch them being nice when evaluating your site, they owe you a drink.
Schedule these meetings every 6 months and you’ll never hear from Panda again.
It is actually very likely that now that you’ve finished reading this blog post you’ll actually agree and see that all this makes sense, but in the long term, your mind’s tendency to be overly optimistic and your survival instinct that always looks for shortcuts will eventually take over again.
Open your calendar now and mark two dates in 2012 where you’ll critically assess your site with a group of friends (who promise not to be nice).
Do it now.