The wider impact of Google Panda update: Marketshare, consumer search habits, and start ups

Anybody with an invested interest in the search market are sure to have picked up on yesterdays announcement from Google about the international roll out of the Google Panda (also known as Farmer update) algorithm update, which aims to deliver more relevant search results for users by getting rid of some of the lesser quality content that has infiltrated Google search listings over the years. But what is the potential wider impact for us as consumers, for Google as a company, and for businesses in the UK as a result of this latest update?

We all support Google in their fight to always deliver relevant search results, as i’m sure we have all experienced spending too much time trying to filter through ‘junk’ in the search of what we are looking for. Filtering out what is deemed as lower quality content, and giving more prominence to ‘high quality’ sources should address part of the issue, but there are negative sides to it as well.

We all know that it is not likely that this will be 100% positive, and as with most changes there will be innocent casualties in the process. In a tough economy there will be businesses that will be hit hard by this overnight change by Google. Yes, one can argue that if your business model is dependent on organic search you are taking big risks and should diversify. All companies should have a risk strategy to deal with situations like these, but my guess is that most don’t.

Let’s go out on a limb and say that in 95% of cases this Panda update will deliver positive changes to search results in terms of filtering out some of the bad elements in the SERPS. At the same time there will be a percentage of search results that would perhaps provide the user with a more balanced view of a topic that will be left out. In some verticals we are already seeing a change in power towards the big retailers dominating the SERPS, which is not necessarily a good thing for either the consumer or Google themselves.

A possible shift towards organic SERPS being dominated by the market leaders in each category can have wider economic ramifications as well. For Google it could result in big advertisers possibly reducing some of their spend as they start to see more organic traffic to their sites. For the affiliate industry it could lead to an overall reduction in business as content affiliates (and there are many of them) will be hit by the Panda update and see lower traffic to their sites. My predictions is that a lot of smaller online players will have to change their strategy away from search, so it would not surprise me if we actually see more money going towards social media following these changes. Could the wider impact of this be what we have seen for the UK high street over the last years; less independent operators losing out as the big companies takes over?

Marketing theory suggest that if you can’t be a volume player you have to carve out your own niche; be different and relevant to your target consumer. Perhaps it is time for a lot of people and businesses to start consider their own position, and if there current strategy is making them relevant to their target audience.

As for Google themselves, it will be interesting to see if the Panda update will have any impact on their dominance of the UK search market and what the impact might be in terms of budgets being spent on paid search.

Personally i’m looking forward to seeing lots of analysis in the coming months of the impact of the Panda update in different verticals, especially in terms of changes in traffic sources for sites deemed by Google to be of ‘high quality’. For my own search habits, it is too early to say what the impact might have been.

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