How Panda Reshapes the Ranking Factors Picture

Much attention has been paid to the recent Google algorithm change that Danny Sullivan called the Farmer Update and that Google in a Wired article referred to as Panda. A lot of focus has been paid to the types of sites impacted, and the nature of the signals that Google has available to it to use. There are plenty of articles on both of these topics (one of the best ones is this one by Vanessa Fox. In fact, in the months leading up to this I predicted the downfall of Content Farms (which is still a work in progress), and much about this change. To me, this is only part of the story.

Farmer / Panda is a Fundamental Shift in Search Ranking

That’s a strong statement. But, think about it for a moment. We now have confirmation that Google is doing what it can to evaluate content quality. The major tools it has to do this are:

  1. Uniqueness of the content
  2. User Engagement with the content

In contrast, consider the way we used to think of ranking. What follows is the summary chart from the SEOmoz SEO ranking factors survey:

SEO Ranking Factors

Note how 66% of the factors relate to linking. Now, however, we know that we have shifted more weight to social engagement and ontent quality. What does the new reality look like? Here is my guess at it:

SEO Ranking Factors 2011

It is important to emphasize – this is just my guess. But one thing we do know is that we have seen a significant ranking algorithm change. I have represented that by showing SEOmoz’s social graph metrics growing from 6% to 20%, with my renaming it social engagement metrics.

Google’s Panda change purportedly impacts 12% of search queries, keep in mind that this is their first foray in this direction. They will collect data, and they will get better at this. As they do, the impact will broaden. This is not something that they will back off on, but rather it is something that they will evolve and grow.


  1. says

    The new algo will only be new and change the ranking orders for a short while.
    I cannot say if the new Google algo is a better or a worst version of the previous alog, what is certain is the fact that once SEO consultants know what help their client’s site to rank better in SERP, they will adjust their SEO activities to take this factors in and then SERPs is back to where it was before the algo changes.

    Maybe I’m just cynical?

  2. Chad says

    “Google’s Panda change purportedly impacts 12% of search results” – This is actually misleading. What Google said was “noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries”. Queries being the important term. From the terms I’ve been impacted on – that one search query actually impacts much more than 12% of the results but in some cases 100% of the top 10 results.

  3. says

    there has definitely been a change in the algo. Some authority sites have been lowered in rankings. I am happy that i didnt rely too much on article marketing!

  4. says

    “Engagement metrics” are very easy to spam. The Google Places debacle last year illustrates this. Google starting counting “likes” on Yelp and CitySearch. That was so easy to spam that we had outfits like Musson Media offering money-back guarantees on high placement. Google had to stop weighting reputation counts.

    “Crowdsourcing” won’t work as long as someone can, and has the incentive, to fake a crowd.

  5. says


    We have seen a major change in the rankings of all of our client sites at Reputation Changer. Minisites with unique templates and compelling content are now outranking all of the previous article sites that used to outrank them, i.e. Ezinearticles and Hubpages have dropped to pages 2 and beyond.

    Content is now more important than ever. I think the update was great!

  6. says

    I agree with your theory I think that social engagement will have a higher increase. But you need the powerful unique content to back up these social based links.

    Will be interesting to see the SERP’s in 2 years but in the end I feel that strong link building and strong unique content will still be very strong as these are the fundamentals Google was built on.

  7. says

    Panda so far has no big changes for ecommerce sites in Holland, but i think in the future affliliate sites will get a slap in the face from Google with google shopping etc…

    Im following every change either way!

    Nice post btw!


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