During February of 2011, Google released a major update to their search called the Panda Update. That update was meant to single out and punish high-volume content publishers who compromised content quality in order to publish more content. Google has been mostly quiet about exactly why each site is punished, and who are all the sites punished, but the sites that have been punished mostly have not recovered which means that the penalty is quite severe and long-lasting. That has served as a great scare and a deterrent for many sites who want to expand their reach and scale up. The risk of triggering what is a very harsh Google Panda penalty outweighs the reward of scaling as fast as possible.
What sites are doing now is scaling at a slower pace, and paying much more attention to the user experience. The information that Google has revealed is that it is taking site usage metrics into a much larger account. For example, because it has access to search and analytics of nearly every site, it can tell what people do before, during and after that visit a site. If the actions of the users indicate a positive experience, then Google says that this plays a part in the search rankings and whether that site would be subject to the Google Panda penalty.
If you look at the high-volume sites that have not been penalized, they tend to have one thing in common: they are liked by a large contingent of their visitors and are actually helpful. Lets take StackOverflow as an example. The site has probably a thousand new pages created every day. Most of those pages do not have a large quantity of content. You would think that a site that now surely has over a million low-content pages is a great candidate to be penalized by Panda. But if you think about the user experience, a few things stand out. First, the site is truly helpful to thousands of people that keep coming back to the site. Second, when people find their existing content on the web via search, they do not also look elsewhere, and Google takes that as a sign that the page on StackOverflow has answered the user’s question.
Those were some of the main thoughts going through my mind when I created Problemio. I tried to create a site that would foster a community, have repeat users who would care enough about the subject matter to contribute, and to make sure the pages that list the problems have enough high quality to be socially recommended and to satisfy the visitor’s interest who may be coming from search.
Alex Genadinik is a serial entrepreneur and a software developer. He also has a strong interest in search. Say hello on Twitter @genadinik