BrightHaus Digital Marketing Agency

Panda-monium Continues: What does Google’s Farmer Update mean for SEO Articles?

April 21, 2011

At this point it’s old news to say that article directories and content farms were slammed, spanked and slapped by the major algorithm change by Google, known internally as The Panda Update and dubbed by the media as The Farmer Update. The intended targets of the update were websites with duplicate, meaningless content smeared all over their pages, which witnessed devastating declines in their SERP rankings or were removed from the SERPs completely. Although some “experts” on the matter insist that the number of websites that had original content that still got hit by the update is very small, it only takes a few minutes online to realize that the collateral damage seems to be much greater.

Almost immediately, the Net was buzzing with webmasters posting on forums and blogs all over the place that they have spent the last 10 years doing nothing but writing their own original content on their websites (so they know it’s original), yet they’ve lost 40%, 50% or more of their traffic, along with the corresponding revenue because of the update. Since the only thing Google seems to be confirming is the fact that they do not whitelist websites (aka, make manual exceptions), weeks after Panda SEOs are still clamoring to find out what to do to recover.

How to Recover if your Site has been Penalized by Panda

As it turns out, many of the webmasters who had written their own original content for their sites saw penalties on the SERPs because their content ended up being copied and used by someone else. Interestingly enough, I saw dozens of complaints in the forums and threads from outraged owners who said that the websites that copied content from them were now ranking higher than they, even though the content that was original on the thieves’ sites was insensible garbage. Fair? Of course not. What can those owners who were copied then penalized do? Remember, Google has made it clear that they do not whitelist, so don’t ask for a manual exception. What you can do is get on the Google Panda thread and plead your case. Although Google will not make an exception for you, they state that they read the threads and comments in order to improve and tweak the updates in the future. The only recourse for webmasters is to do a complete overhaul of the content on their site, add in some ongoing blogs, and perhaps give some thought to being more careful about linking to article directories.

Article Directories all Took a Hard Hit-What does that Mean for my SEO?

I read an article last night written by a company stating that immediately after the Panda Update was released they removed all of their SEO articles they had submitted to one of the article directories (although they stated they do not recommend doing so for all SEOs). Their reason? With article directories like Articlesbase, WiseGeek and eZine Articles all plummeting in the SERPS after the update, this company didn’t want any association with the sites whatsoever. It makes sense. They didn’t want the links to sites that had been the bullseye of the Farmer Update. Did their strategy work? They claim it has, but they also add that they don’t know how long it will work for, since the article directories are working in overdrive to clean up their requirements for original articles. As the directories continue to increase their rules in an effort to ensure better quality content, Google continues to mop the floor with websites that got into a methodical “copy and paste” routine. Should you stop submitting SEO articles to these directories like this company did?

Should Websites Stop Writing SEO Articles?

This is becoming the big question among SEOs, and after hours of reading through articles, forums, threads and blogs on the Internet about the subject, it is clear that articles remain and will remain a major part of online marketing. What is up for debate, however, is what the best way to use the articles is. Unfortunately all I can say is that the jury is still out on that one- and it is one massively confused jury.

I didn’t come across any websites that had stopped writing SEO articles completely. Some of them insisted that it is still beneficial to continue doing what they have been doing with no changes. Others insist that instead of submitting articles to directories, they should be written and put in some type of reference section of their websites as Web content instead. And then there are those who feel that although submitting the articles to directories is still ok, they are going to focus more on writing blogs, press releases and blurbs that will serve as content on their sites.

Focusing on the question of what the update means for the future of SEO articles, I can only provide a few key questions for SEOs to chew on and mull over as they consider overhauling their current SEO strategies to escape the Panda’s wrath:

  1. Is it now too damaging to continue submitting SEO articles to the directories that Google cut down with the Farmer Update?
  2. Should we instead post our SEO articles on our site as part of our Web content?
  3. Do we focus more on blogs, Web page content and press releases?
  4. Should we focus on writing less SEO articles and make those we do write longer and more useful (as several “experts” suggest)?
  5. Link-building seems to be more important than ever now, but it also just got a lot tougher to get those quality links. What is our plan and strategy now?


In a nutshell (a very large nutshell), the consensus online between most SEOs is that article writing is as important as ever; many suggest that they be fewer in number and have longer lengths, at least 400-700 words and written to contain more valuable information. No one disputes that blogging, quality link building and making changes in Web content when necessary is critical to anyone wanting to survive the Panda Update. This all has awoken the proverbial sleeping giant in regards to crap content junking up the Internet, and has even given rise to an interesting new debate that I never thought I would see:

Is it better to produce static articles in light of the update or is Google now favorable towards article spinning, aka dynamic articles?

You might be as surprised as I was to find that this really is a hot topic among SEOs, even among those who always considered spun articles to be unoriginal crap. I was shocked to even see the topic up for debate at all. While one expert claims that spinning is still considered black hat SEO that will knock site owners and webmasters on their rumps, another claims that it is what Google really wants to see. But, that is a topic for another week. What is your take?