The Negative Impact of Google’s Panda Update

How to Recover from Google Panda EffectIt was the Panda that did it, not Google. With a grievance lodged by Microsoft for breach of competition law with the EU, a feature such as the Panda update didn’t exactly promote harmony with this case.

What is Panda?

According to Phantom SEO, The Panda update by Google is a function that was rolled out on 11 April 2011, designed to optimise search rankings. Google published a blog post explaining that the function was designed to “reduce rankings for low-quality sites”.

Google Panda Statistics

Whilst this update sounded ingenious, according to Searchmetrics who record and analyse the frequency of online search engines, once Panda was released the Microsoft owned company Ciao’s visibility in search engines fell by a staggering 94%.

Google denied that this was a deliberate act, as the results are populated by the keywords that are typed into the search engine, thus how the rankings are achieved. This being the case there must have been some scope as to how the less important websites are measured, compared to those that are deemed as important.

However, Google have also said that the algorithms used to determine the results are regularly changed – Panda itself is an algorithm update, and whilst many go unnoticed this one was significant.

Second Opinions

Searchmetrics also analysed Google keyword results prior to the Panda update as well as after, and they found that the likes of Hubpages, eHow, and other similar sites such as Demand Media fell on average 69%.

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Sistrix performed a similar analysis, and found Ciao’s exposure dropped by 81% and not 94%, but their recorded average of the other sites was a higher drop at around 78%.

The Best Intentions

The main motivation behind Panda was to minimise those sites that plagiarise others, and promote the more qualitive reputable sites rather than those that contain informally published information.

Microsoft claims that Google has used its dominant position to bind rival products. Ciao was an instigator in the initiation of the EU investigation against Google. A description of the EU claim can be found here.

In any IT environment, rolling out a new tool, feature or application can have the desired affect or it can have completely the opposite. The Panda update had mixed reviews, but more reports seemed to point towards the negative, the main reason is that it affected the promotion and search engine optimisation of a lot of companies that do rely on that kind of exposure.

According to IT Pro Portal, the Panda update likes porn sites (more than anything), but on a more serious note, this update has caused some harm, not only with the loss of revenues but in some cases it has affected reputation. Whether this was easy to predict or not is also undetermined as algorithms automatically populate the rankings, whilst this can be controlled, accusing Google of deliberately releasing an update that would severely detriment their competitors, is in itself an accusation that can cause further detriment.

It has been a rocky road as of late for Google, and it will be interesting to see if they provide any follow-ups on this, as even though they are not an ecommerce promotion service, they still hold a seat there, and it may be worth in the future Google taking a step back and concentrating on further testing to determine potential repercussions, before rolling out.

Photoshop – Turning Photos into Sketch-Drawn Paintings

Pencil Sketch Drawing Effect Photoshop Tutorial - YouTubeHere’s a tutorial to help you make a sketch-type watercolor drawing from your photograph using Photoshop’s Filter Gallery. The best part is, you don’t even have to know how to draw (which is especially handy if you can’t draw stick figures, like me.) This tutorial will focus more on just transforming the photo into a drawing-the following tutorial will handle blending it to look professional and putting the final touches on it. If the birthday of your lover is next week then you can consider creating sketch painting using this trick as a special gift for lover.

(Disclaimer: I’ve had people ask me complex questions about getting into the professional photography business. While I have friends in the profession and know that Photoshop is a necessary tool for the modern photographer, I’m not in the business, so I can’t answer related questions; I just have a knack for retouching the photos of friends and family and am familiar with the workings of the program.)

First things first. Open the picture you want to transform into a drawing. You may want to copy the file first. To do that, just click on “Image/Duplicate”. This will help ensure that your untouched photo stays safe in the event something bad happens to the file you’re working on. Click the “close” button on the original file, and focus on the copied file.

Be certain you have only a single layer to start with, or you’re going to run into a lot of trouble later. (Note: yes, Photoshop will let you pile up your filters and apply it all in one fell swoop, but since we’re going to be masking areas of each layer, that won’t work in this instance.) At the moment you’ll have only one layer labeled “background”; change the name to something else (I normally use “first”) because you’re going to be dealing with a lot of layers and you need to keep them separate. Rename a layer by double clicking the given layer to bring up the “New Layer” box, then type in the label you want in the name box. For the sake of this tutorial, let’s use the label “first”.

Bring up the Filter/Distort/Wave menu. Normally in a sketch or drawing image even straight lines will have a certain natural flow to them, so apply the Filter to curve out the straight lines of the objects in your photo. (This step might not have much effect if your photo contains no straight lines, like a nature scene or a person’s face.)

Click on “Create New Layer”above your “first” layer and name it “bg” (for “background”.) You can do this by clicking “New Layer” on the bottom of the Layer Palette. You can also hold down the Alt button and click “New Layer”.

Fill in the background layer (“bg”) layer with white color. You can easily fill a foreground color by pressing Alt + Backspace (or, if using a Macintosh, Option + Delete) and a background color by pressing Ctrl + Backspace (Command + Delete for Macs). Typing “D” will reset the foreground color to black and background color to white. To toggle between foreground and background, hit “X”.

Copy the “first” layer by dragging it to the “New Layer” on the Layer Palette box, or just right-click your mouse and click “Layer Property”. Rename the layer “base”.

Apply the Water Color Filter by clicking Filter/Artistic/Watercolor to enter the Filter Gallery. You can play with the settings a little to get the effect you’re looking for, just choose a low texture setting.

At this point you may find that part of your photo is suddenly in sharp relief. Don’t panic; you’re doing well. Just fix it by using a little Gaussian Blur (Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur).

Copy the “first” layer again and switch it over to the top layer, and change the name to “hstroke”. Decrease the opacity on the layer slightly, between 55-65. Click on Filter/Artistic/Poster Edges to adjust the thickness, posterization and intensity and set the Gaussian Blur (by going to Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur) to “1 pixel”. This will soften the rough, jagged edges and give the finished product a more natural feel.

Copy the “first” layer another time set it as the top layer, relabeling it “slight”. Use the “Angled Strokes” Filter (Filter/Brush Strokes/Angled Strokes) and adjust the Direction Balance upwards (around 30), then adjust the Stroke Length and Sharpness accordingly. Change the Layer Blending Mode at the top of the Layer palette, to “soft light” and change the Opacity between 30-40%. You’ve just made a layer that will accentuate the digitized brush strokes and adjust the contrast to make the colors more pleasing.

Copy the “first” layer yet again and relabel it “pstroke”, setting it as the top layer. Use the Find Edge Filter (Filter/Stylize/Poster Edges). From the menu, click on Image/Adjustment/Hue (or just press Ctrl+U for the Hue box. Move the Saturation bar as far left as it will go. “Layer Blending” needs to be at Multiply and Opacity at half-power. The pencil stroke (hence the layer’s name) will define the outlines of the picture’s objects.

Click “New Layer Set” on the layer palette. Put “base”, “slight” and “pstroke” in the new set in the order you created them. You can do this easily with Photoshop CS2 (or later versions); just move all the layers to the new layer set by holding down the Ctrl button and clicking the layers you want to move. This will enable you to move all of your layers at once. For those of you with Photoshop 6 or earlier versions, you’ll have to clip the layers individually instead of dragging them.

Now you have the makings for a great watercolor drawing-effect photo, but the fun is just beginning. The next tutorial will focus on blending your layers to give the photo a natural hand-painted effect.