Why Google Panda Will Blindside B2B Companies
The Google Panda update (or “Farmer” update as it was first known), which went into affect 24 February, has significantly impacted Google’s search results affecting 12% of US searches. In a nut shell, Google’s latest algorithm update, Panda, penalizes low quality web pages (or sites) pushing them further down in the search results.
While this month old update is no longer news to owners of large b2c sites (large referring to the high number of pages and traffic volumes), I predict that owners of b2b sites serving niche (high tech, industrial, manufacturing…) markets are going to get blindsided by the impact Panda will have (or is having) on leads and sales generated by their websites.
What makes b2b sites particularly vulnerable to negative consequence from Google Panda?
- B2b site owners typically don’t monitor web analytic data. Many b2b companies, particularly those serving niche markets (high tech, industrial and manufacturing) have small or non-existent marketing departments. Most of these companies don’t have the staff or resource to monitor website analytic data provided by Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics. Without this data, you can’t measure the impact of Panda and therefore can’t improve page quality and restore or improve your rankings, traffic and ultimately conversions – email and phone call leads, and orders (for ecommerce enabled sites).
- Non-organic traffic can mask fluctuations in lower volume organic traffic. Even if you are the exception and you monitor Webmaster tools and Google Analytics, detecting the impact of Panda on pages with low per page organic search traffic is difficult. When a page contains and is optimized for niche keyword phrases, with low search volumes, there’s a good chance that the majority of traffic to these pages comes from other than organic (non-paid) search engine sources. Visitors can navigate to the page from other same-site pages, they can be deep linked directly to the page from referral sites, or can arrive on the page from paid search. In this situation, non-organic traffic acts as noise or clutter masking otherwise perceivable fluctuations in organic traffic.
- Pinning minor traffic fluctuations on Panda/Farmer is tough. The some days it’s here and other it’s not nature of low volume organic traffic makes it difficult to associate decreases with Panda. For some niche phrases, organic traffic can be so low, that the page only receives a handful of visitors per day or week. Sometimes you can go multiple days without any organic traffic to these pages. If the traffic did decrease on say 22 February (as is the case in the example below) you have to ask yourself whether the decrease was due to Panda or simply due to lower search volumes.
- Total site traffic may have increased. Panda only impacted about 12% of all Google search results. For many of the sites we reviewed total traffic increased, while traffic to individual pages (the most important pages) decreased. When seeing a total traffic increase your tendency might be to think you dodged the Panda bullet. However, without digging deeper to explore page level traffic you can’t detect the impact of Panda.
Why b2b companies should care about Google Panda.
Reviewing the websites of numerous high-tech, industrial and manufacturing b2b companies, we found that pages one or two levels down from the homepage took the biggest hit. What’s unique about these pages? Most contained product technical details and specifications and made up that company’s most important content from a conversion point of view. In other words, people filling out a contact form or otherwise contacting the company (phone call, chat…) after viewing these pages were most likely to buy.
More about the what made these page targets for Google Farmer or Panda in an upcoming post.
Indicators that a b2b company’s website was impacted by Google Panda.
The following three screen shots show Google Webmaster Tools account data for a page that was impacted by Panda.
In this case it’s clear that Panda was the culprit. However, if the rank change was less, say from position 1 to position 10, then because the page still ranked on the first page of Google impressions would not have changed significantly. In this situation, picking up on the change would have been more difficult.
The point is that detecting the impact of Google Panda was much easier looking at impressions (via Google Webmaster Tools) than organic visits. However, since Webmaster tools only buffers about a months worth of data, this opportunity has now passed. This means that going forward, you will have to rely on Google Analytics organic traffic data. Further, proving that you lost rank and to what extent, means that you had to actually be monitoring rank prior to 24 February.