If you have a small business that is seeking to elevate its ranking on Google, I have some exciting news for you. You may remember that Google rolled out its Panda update in February of 2011, much to the detriment of many small businesses. Initially intended to weed out websites which had poor or thin content on their sites, this update also negatively impacted many websites for smaller organizations. This sent many small businesses into the hinterland of search results pages, greatly diminishing their visibility to potential customers.
This week, Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s web spam team, announced that Google was working to re-engineer Panda so that small businesses would not be so harshly penalized. Although he did not detail how Google hoped to accomplish this or when the reworking would be complete, many small business owners should be gratified to hear that Google recognizes the inequity of the situation and is attempting to rectify it.
The Panda update was introduced in 2011 as the opening salvo against content farms which produce low quality content. Google had stated that too many sites with little value to users had attained an artificially inflated ranking, and that Panda was intended to relegate these low user value sites to their rightful place much farther down the search rankings.
When first unleashed upon the digital world, the Panda update affected almost 20 percent of websites. This pushed many top ten sites into the 200s or 300s. This severely damaged revenue flow for many companies, with some reporting 75 percent reductions in income.
An unfortunate side effect of Panda, however, was that it unfairly rewarded larger companies with more established web reputations. In many cases, this shoved small businesses off of the front search results pages, even if the bigger brand names didn’t offer the services and products related to the search query.
Many small businesses were unfairly penalized by the world’s largest search engine. While some of these small business websites did sport weak content and were downgraded, others with highly valuable content that satisfied user desires also had their position on the search results page pushed down.
In many cases, the positions held by these small businesses were replaced by large corporations. The outcry from the small business community included criticism that many of these small businesses offered better products and services than their larger competitors and deserved a place at the top of the SERPs.
This was especially apparent in local search results, where Google would introduce large brands without any supporting evidence that these large companies were even operating in the community. This willful disregard for local businesses has helped damage Google’ reputation in these smaller communities.
Matt Cutts and Google has recognized that the situation has been disadvantageous for small businesses for many months. In August of 2013, he sent out a request for small businesses that can show excellent quality on their website, but were still pushed down the search rankings.