London: A number of prominent UK technology news sites have seen their Google rankings drop substantially after the search engine rolled out its "Panda" update, intended to demote sites which scrape content from others, to the UK and other English-language Google users.
The update also demotes one of the complainants to the European Commission, Microsoft-owned Ciao, which will almost vanish from many searches as a result of the downgrading.
But some sites — Google's own YouTube and the video site Vimeo, as well as other technology sites including Techcrunch and Mashable, and newspaper sites for the Mirror and The Independent — get a boost.
Google made the change in the US at the end of February, and a number of original content sites were hit then, including the British Medical Journal. Now it has rolled it out more broadly.
The effects of the downgrading were calculated by elevatelocal.co.uk, which compared where the sites appeared in searches for particular keywords before and after the update. Search engine optimisation specialists constantly check which sites appear where on which keyword searches, and can see the effects of large-scale changes to Google's algorithm almost immediately.
For sites which rely on large amounts of Google traffic, vanishing from the first two pages of its search results — the point at which 99 per cent of searchers give up — can mean the difference between financial life and death. Search Engine Watch says that "all Google results are a zero-sum game", pointing to other sites which have benefited.
Pocket Lint, Electric Pig, Tech Radar, TechEye, The Register's hardware site RegHardware, PC Advisor, IT Pro Portal and the venerable Computer Weekly sites have all been hit by the reordering, which means that they fall down in Google's rankings on any given set of keywords — and so their traffic from search results falls dramatically.
The update also risks arousing the ire of Microsoft — and the European Commission — because it demotes Ciao, the shopping comparison site owned by Microsoft which was one of the complainants to the EC that Google was using its monopoly unfairly, and which has sparked an EC investigation. Ciao's ranking has been cut by nearly 94 per cent, meaning it will rarely figure in the first ten results of a search.