Panda 4.0: Winners, Losers, Impact On Marketing Measurement

I was bitten by the soccer bug during this year’s World Cup, so I decided to purchase an authentic jersey to show my support for my favorite team. Having seen ads from Macy’s about soccer merchandise, I chose to purchase the jersey from the Macys.com site, but first checked out the possibility of getting a discount. After performing a quick search on Google using the keyword “Macy’s soccer jersey,” I clicked on a link at the top of the results that directed me to a popular coupon site, where I found the jersey I was looking for, along with a promotional code that would save me an extra 15% at Macys.com.

I recalled this experience when I learned that Google had rolled out Panda 4.0, the latest update to its search-results-ranking algorithm for organic search. The release is designed to help boost the search engine rankings of quality brand and/or content sites while pushing down aggregator websites, like the coupon site I visited before purchasing at Macys.com.

Ultimately, Google’s goal with the Panda update is to ensure that consumers are pointed to the highest quality Web pages possible. But for all its good intentions, there have been some clear winners and losers, whose websites either gained or lost visibility in Google’s organic search results.

The clear winners are those online brands and publishers that offer original, interesting product information and/or content. Now, top-quality sites like Macys.com stand to benefit not only from better search engine rankings that increase organic traffic, but also by minimizing traffic from aggregator sites that are capitalizing on their brand equity to generate revenue and driving up the cost of sales.

The losers are those sites that provide lower-quality content for a particular search term, including aggregator websites like the coupon site I visited before purchasing the soccer jersey. With their reduced visibility in Google searches under Panda 4.0, aggregators will not only have to compensate for lost revenue in commissions from referred sales and/or other conversions, but will have to invest more advertising dollars in paid media, like online display and paid search, in order to get in front of consumers and generate the same amount of traffic to their sites.

But Panda 4.0 hasn’t just anointed the winners and losers in the race to the top of search engine rankings; it’s also put another nail in the coffin of last-click attribution. Using a last-click measurement methodology, the coupon site I visited before purchasing from Macys.com would have received full credit for the sale, even though I had already made the decision to purchase from the department store’s website. By giving more weight to upper and mid-funnel tactics that drive awareness and purchase consideration, Panda 4.0 effectively reduces one of the last-click measurement problems that biases towards lower-funnel touchpoints.

Moreover, it also increases the importance of advanced measurement techniques that look beyond the last click to identify new areas of opportunity. While Panda may have reduced one of the last-click measurement issues as it pertains to organic search, it doesn’t address the problem of last-click attribution for other marketing channels that influence the customer at different points along the purchase path, such as email, online display ads, paid search, direct site visits, and more. More advanced measurement techniques are needed to enable marketers to track and analyze the full funnel of touchpoints that contributed to conversion or other desired outcome, and in turn gain new insights to optimize their efforts and maximize performance across their entire marketing ecosystem.

Overall, the latest Panda release means higher quality organic search results, but it doesn’t solve the challenge of getting to the truth of multi-channel advertising performance. To fully understand how individual channels, and which combination of channels, influence the customer journey, marketers must look beyond the last click and move from traditional “siloed” measurement to a more holistic approach. Only then can they find unexplored areas of opportunity within their marketing mix.

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1 comment about "Panda 4.0: Winners, Losers, Impact On Marketing Measurement".
  1. William Richards from Procter & Gamble , July 28, 2014 at 1:02 a.m.
    Anto, Great article. It is quite scary if just one company (Google) can just decide to change the fate of all other publishers, whenever they want, and the way they want, while Google themselves a publisher, competing for the same media dollars. This is like fox guarding the henhouse.