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Last Wednesday, Google rolled out a new update, dubbed Panda 2.5.

As is customary when Google releases a notable update, all eyes were on which sites gained the most in the SERPs, and which ones lost the most.

According to Searchmetrics, some of the notable losers were PR Newswire, BusinessWire, Today.com, Technorati, Motor Trend and Entrepreneur.com. The winners? Perez Hilton, AOL, Zappos, FOX News and the Wall Street Journal gained saw gains of 7 to 29% as measured by Searchmetrics' SEO Visibility metric.

There was also another big winner: Google's own YouTube. Its Searchmetrics SEO Visibility rose 10%, which is raising some eyebrows given that former Google CEO Eric Schmidt was grilled on Capitol Hill about Google's search neutrality less than a week before Panda 2.5 was launched. A couple of comments left by SEO Book's Aaron Wall provide an interesting perspective on this:

Before the first Panda update happened Youtube was capturing just over 3% of downstream Google traffic. Now they are likely up to [around 9% or 10%]. That means Google is sending YouTube hundreds of millions of referrals every single day.
If content farms are bad, then why is it that virtually nobody is questioning why Google’s content farm keeps going up and up and up and up?

He goes on to suggest:

It has to be planned for Youtube to grow as a % of overall results. That sort of growth isn’t accidental or driven by an unbiased algorithm (after all, only one site has seen that sort of explosive growth in the SERPs since Panda). I wonder if Google search engineers feel just a tad bit sleazy, or if they are just ignorant of what’s in the search results?

Certainly, YouTube's rise post-Panda (along with the rise of another Google-owned domain, Android.com), are bound to lead to this sort of criticism. After all, nobody outside of Google really knows why YouTube has done so well, and nothing Google can do, short of making its algorithm completely transparent, will eliminate questions about how Google might be favoring its own properties.

Needless to say, questions like these will continue to dog the company, particularly as it comes under antitrust scrutiny. At the same time, focusing on YouTube's SERP success might mask an even more important observation: Google's recent algorithm updates appears to creating a lot of volatility for some publishers.

According to Searchmetrics' data, one of the publishers hit hardest by Panda, HubPages, has not only recovered -- its SEO Visibility is now at its highest point ever. In other words, in the span of about seven months, it has gone from the worst of times, to the best of times.

Such volatility is intriguing, and suggests that Google is having a difficult time dealing with content farms and spam. If that's indeed the case and Google can't get itself together soon, the least of Google's worries may be questions about its neutrality.

Patricio Robles

Published 3 October, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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