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Wave Of Layoffs in Wake of Panda

 1:33 pm on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

Wall Street Journal: [izurl.com...]

Seeing a 40% decline in sales since Google adjusted its algorithm, online ergonomic-products retailer Ergo In Demand Inc. in Central Point, Ore., reduced its 17-person staff to five, moved to a 4,500-square-foot office space from one more than double in size and cut $4,000 in monthly software subscriptions.

Many small but growing Web retailers say they have been punished since Google, which handles nearly two-thirds of all Web searches, moved in late February to weed out "content farms," or sites that post information without attention to quality or by copying text from other sources such as government websites.

But the impact was also felt by large e-commerce sites. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp., and eBay Inc. appeared to rise in search results, according to companies that track Google rankings. One shopping site that has benefited, Buy.com, says it was "delighted" by the initial change.

Still, many small businesses that rely on Google for Web traffic are taking it hardóand looking for ways to adapt.

"We got caught in the fire," says Mitchell Lieberman, chief executive of One Way Furniture Inc., an online furniture retailer in Melville, N.Y., that had revenue of $17 million in 2010.

His company's website, onewayfurniture.com, saw its Web traffic from Google drop as much as 64% after the changes. Part of the problem, Mr. Lieberman suspects, is his company has relied on manufacturer descriptions for the 30,000 products it sells. He says many of his competitors buy from the same manufacturers and use the same write-ups.

Mr. Lieberman has started paying free-lance writers to create original, more detailed product descriptions. He recently added canonical tags to his website, which help search engines distinguish original from duplicated content. Despite his efforts, he says his site's ranking on Google has yet to improve.



 3:51 am on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Some sites that don't sell product, but instead have open discussion about it, are likely to publish exactly what the brand writes about the product as a starting point. To punish those sites for displaying the very thing to talk about is wrong and a dis-service to readers looking for open discussion everywhere.

I agree, though I wasn't hit (I don't think), Panda didn't improve the web. Sites like eBay for example got a huge leg up on "regular" sites because every single item seller just became a content creator that, Watch Out!, better not have their words repeated.


 4:07 am on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

To punish those sites for displaying the very thing to talk about is wrong and a dis-service to readers looking for open discussion everywhere.


The web doesn't need a complete product recap aka Sears and MySears, just put the discussion on the products at the source like Amazon and it won't be an issue.

Besides, the problem isn't that there's one product review sites, the problem is there is a bazillion of them all jockeying for position on the same products.

A couple are fine, the masses who needs 'em.


 6:25 am on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

There are no keywords mentioned. The most important thing of this all is

were they replaced by the sites being better, equal, or worse match the query for the keywords concerned?

Because when they dropped, someone else jumped up and replaced them. These who jumped up do not complain.


 8:21 am on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

If you think about all searches as being from buyers, you're wrong. Some percentage of searches will be from people with an intention (expressed or not) to buy the product. Some will be from people just wanting the specs, just wanting to dream, already owning the product and seeking the operators manual, .. and for all those, all the resellers that promote the same product (and for most topics that's the vast majority in the serps) are just in you way to find what you need.

So as a user of a search engine: thank you for putting the manufacturer on top. At least I get authoritative descriptions of a product and when/if I'm ready to buy, I'm sure the manufacturer will send me to a reseller they feel I should trust. If they don't, I'll search again with some added keywords that will pop the online resellers back in front, or better yet: use a price comparing website relatively local to me to reduce "oh you live to far we won't ship there during the checkout knee-jerk reaction form the resellers."

The "just put a website in front of somebodyelse's products": I'm not a fan at all, and won't mind seeing them go away.


 9:36 am on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Think as a user of a search engine, do you really want to be presented the same book over and over and over? Read the fine lines here, Google is telling everyone uniqueness matters! Copying manufacturers descriptions word for word is presenting the same book over and over and just why should Google present that?


 12:06 pm on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

A couple [review sites] are fine, the masses who needs 'em [?]

Given human diversity I think the WWW . . and Google . . could support more than "a couple" review sites.

The number of review sites isn't the problem. It's the lack of diversity and/or originality amongst review sites.

Humans aren't clones (yet) but most review sites are and therefore, to paraphrase Yoda "that is why they fail".

Mass produced products may all have the same design but how, when, why, etc. any segment of the population uses the product in a unique or special or unplanned (by mfr) way . . now that's the basis for "review diversity" of mass produced and widely available products.

"Will it blend?"

Sure it will! It's the Bass-O-Matic!

[edited by: Webwork at 12:19 pm (utc) on Apr 23, 2011]


 12:14 pm on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

For a company that makes decent sales, could they not have afforded an SEO Consultant?

I raise a RED Flag with my customers when they want to take a just few pages from there manufactures, but 30,000! (What's the German word for WoW!)


 12:27 pm on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

It's crazy how many businesses put all their eggs in the Google basket. If you're losing over 50% of your traffic due to a Google penalty, then you need to rethink your business model entirely, not just trying to please Google for the time being.


 1:00 pm on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Wave Of Layoffs in Wake of Panda

Search is a zero sum service folks. I hate it that anybody looses traffic, revenue and ultimately has to lay folks off. However the Google referral traffic that the organization in question lost was picked up by another organization.

Therefore, these organizations receiving this new Google traffic will likely have to hire folks to handle the increase in business.

Google does not change consumerís appetite for furniture, clothing, cars, widgets, or anything else.


 1:36 pm on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Part of the problem, Mr. Lieberman suspects, is his company has relied on manufacturer descriptions for the 30,000 products it sells.

Personally? I don't think that is the main problem. It may be one of many that led to their demise.

Ever browse the site in question with Firefox? The entire top nav is non functioning, the links don't work. See below, it's a cookie based nav.

Ever look at how many internal links there are per page? So far I'm finding 200+, Google typically doesn't like internal link heavy sites, it is all relative.

Do a validation. I'd say there are some "fatal errors" in the output. Tag soup.

The site is full of attribute spam/abuse.

The site presents a flat taxonomy and it appears that everything is at the root. This site's taxonomy is a mess. No structure, throw everything at the user on every page. It is a poor user experience and Google have been clear on this. If the site presents a poor user experience, it doesn't deserve to rank. It's like walking into a BIG store with no aisles, everything is thrown on tables that sit in haphazard rows and you're left to fend for yourself - like a flea market.

There's more to this than what you see on the surface. Dig deeper. The site fails on many levels.


Ever browse the site in question with Firefox? The entire top nav is non functioning, the links don't work.

Ah, it's a cookie based navigation system. I don't accept cookies which made half this site unusable for me. Now, why would they do that?


It probably isn't helping that the site in question also has other sites with the same products. They've spread themselves out a bit.


 2:40 pm on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

This all seems like an agenda of Google now, kill small businesses online while they push the brands up and up..

Everyone knows a business needs some amount of consistency to stay in business and grow... For small online businesses, that is over. Its simply become to much of a risk to start one online...


 2:45 pm on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

We would all like to be top ranked in our perspective business, that requires work, and a lot of work when you lay it out.

SEOing has show that it can be a lazy person ( or large cash outlay ) whom can top the ranks. But for those that work hard consistently and apply themselves over a decent period of time is steady upward pressure in rank moving.

Those that put there nose to the grindstone felt every hit from every update in all the big SE. Did you panic? no, you kept on trucking in the right direction. Did you recover every time and have a higher ranking after 3 months, YES YOU DID!

People are forgetting that having a web site ( or multiple ) that provides a channel of an income source, is a job. And like any job, it requires you to apply yourself. It's not like there is a real college that can teach you to be an SEO ( well we can go to community college to learn how to code in PHP or HTLM or web design ). How many PDF's have we read? how many journals of design changes, link research, keyword placement changes have we written, ( I changed over to a AMPAD computation book # 22-156, search for it, and buy it, you'll never go back ). To be successful we MUST WORK at this game every weeks.

I ( and I bet you too ) flinch every time that there are adjustments to the game, but we don't panic, we go to our forums, learn, and adjust our-selves to become better. I don't think that we take for granted, how easy of a job we have, all the extra free time we get to utilize with our loved ones, how at a moments notice we can pick up our laptop and jet to europe or south america just to take a 1 month working vacation... We have it great, but its a JOB that requires us to be on top of our work.

(personal note ): it took me 9 years to break into the top 6 of a 1 million search per day key word phrase, all under the rules of google and yahoo (working on bing ). I learned from everyone on this forum. if someone where to ask how many hours I applied to doing this, I can respond 17 hours a week for the first 3 years, then 4-8 hours a week since then.

I enjoy the results of this hard work, it's never been easy but the rewards have been great.


 5:39 pm on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Looking into the future, if Google teaches everyone to go to brand sites, or just a few top sites, I would think Google becomes less important. The web is about connecting real people with each other. Suddenly google seems to have lost sight of that. I assume they favor short term gains from advertisers, but that could backfire as people find other ways to have the user to user experience like Facebook.


 6:32 pm on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Mr. Lieberman has started paying free-lance writers to create original, more detailed product descriptions. Despite his efforts, he says his site's ranking on Google has yet to improve.

This doesn't surprise. Nor does brand "immunity". It seems that large brands are largely immune to the problems that plague the smaller / midsize companies in terms of content.

All things being equal, the biggest brand wins.


 6:34 pm on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

This is done by Google on purpose. There a Matt Cutts interview on Forbes saying that they will seek to send more traffic to sites that are larger /spend more money or something like that. Essentially Google is aiming to kill the small site and Walmartize the web.

Really? I find this hard to believe, maybe you can provide the quote?


 7:11 pm on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

I did test their customer service, which was advertised as available, but no one answered. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't do business with that particular site. I'm just being honest...

What part of 70% of his staff got sacked did you overlook?

Did you look at the site yourself or are you just part of the Google feeding frenzy? I spoke from fact, you're guessing. That's unfortunate because I know people value your opinion more than mine.

The site says they have online agents. When you click the button, they actually say agents are currently available. (Green light, look for yourself.) Guess what? No one home. That would scare me off.

I also think it's ironic that the same people on this forum that claim Bing is gaining on Google each month are the ones talking about sites losing 90% of their traffic. If Google's share of 60% is overstated, then how is someone losing 90% of their traffic due to Panda. Did Bing roll out Panda too? They might have since it looks like they are stealing results from Google.

I've yet to see a site hit by Panda that didn't seem like the treatment was fair. I know people pointed to europeforvisitor's site. He was a great contributor to this forum. Unfortunately, many of the pages on that site are what I would call thin content. It's a site that looks like it's made to attract search terms.

Google's not perfect, but Panda is the wake up call for individuals lucky enough to be passed by Florida or the Sandbox.

Maybe that's why I'm not overly sympathetic to the losers this go around. We sat in the Sandbox for over two years. There are no guarantees when you depend on free traffic. If that's the business model, then accept it for what it is and be prepared to move on when you're no longer at the top.


 7:39 pm on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

I don't think this update was just about promoting big brands. Actually my smaller, more focused sites are mostly up in rankings.

I have one site with only a handful of pages, hasn't been updated in years ranking for a shopping term with 47 million results. How weird is that? I've been getting ADD trying to fix up a couple of older sites that got hit as well as take advantage of the sudden increase in rankings of my minor league sites. The main difference is that none of the B team sites had any advertising or affiliate links. Plus, except for a few starter links, they only have natural links. So their back link profiles are very unique and well, statistically speaking, probably very diverse and natural looking.


 7:58 pm on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

If 10,000 sellers are using the exact same content as the manufacturer, in Google's eyes, why should ANY of the 10,000 sellers receive any type of "benefit" from just copying the manufacturer's content.

None of the sellers using the dup manufacturer description deserve the benefit, and EVEN LESS SO, the sellers who re-write the descriptions. If you are doing the stupid Sesyphic work of zero value, like rewording the descriptions, why should you receive any benefit for THAT?

The product description on an e-commerce site has nothing to do with the perceived quality of the store. Start caring about competitive prices, good customer support, return policy, etc. Stop using that duplicate product description argument.

OK, so Mr. Lieberman thinks that he was screwed because of the dup description. Is he right? I don't think so. Look around, tons of ecommerce sites are using dup descriptions and have not been affected.

Walmartize the Web

I like the way you put it :)


 1:23 am on Apr 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

Quality of product, prices and customer support are more important for evaluating an e-commerce store and ideally should be the criteria for ranking in SERPs, but most search engines will not be able to find enough unbiased reviews at present.


 7:45 pm on Apr 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

I don't agree with the whole argument that you shouldn't depend on one source blahblahblah, Google has a virtual monopoly in terms of internet traffic and everyone knows it.

It is astonishing that so many people cannot comprehend this simple, straightforward fact. Is it a matter of mass denial? I would elaborate by stating the obvious : a monopoly much abused in many ways. Where are the anti-trust authorities hiding, both in the US and the EU? Incompetent in a grand manner, as was the SEC in the case of the financial institutions before the crash.



 2:16 am on Apr 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've lost 60% of my traffic due to Panda and have let go of 4 employees, leaving only myself. I don't really want to get beat up over my opinion on Panda, which seems to happen to anyone weighing in on this topic. I already feel beat up enough.

Something I'd like to point out is the recent book "The Master Switch" by Prof. Tim Wu pretty much predicts what has happened with Panda and where it all leads to with Big Business on the Net. It provides incredible insight into the cycle of innovation and innovation killing from the Invention of the telegraph until the current day. Webmasters who have been hit by Panda may want to pick up a copy, if you can afford it. Glad I got mine before Feb. 23rd.


 11:35 am on Apr 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

> "The Master Switch" by Prof. Tim Wu

I started reading it last night. Thanks!


 2:24 pm on Apr 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks Dataguy, I feel your pain and I have started to plan my exit strategy. I just need a push, hopefully Google screws up and sends some traffic to smaller sites at least for a little while.

Those that are gloating and bragging about how much smarter they are will soon come here crying, Panda has only touched 12% of SERPS and there's a Walmart for every niche now. Google alone is like 10 Walmarts and puts their links on the front of everyone else.

All we can do is try to not speed our demise by promoting Google.


 2:27 pm on Apr 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

I have a health site that moved down ~60% in traffic. If we cannot get more traffic, we'll eventually need to layoff people. We can't figure out why we got hit by Panda.

Using Hitwise I've identified more than 58 of the top 200 health websites that got hit hard by Panda (20% or more of their traffic). I'm looking at the losers to see if I can identify trends/reasons. Has anyone done this sort of analysis in another industry segment?

Ergo In Demand was sloppy. I'm not sympathetic. I'm concerned about the sites that where not doing anything wrong.


 2:39 pm on Apr 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Using Hitwise I've identified more than 58 of the top 200 health websites that got hit hard by Panda (20% or more of their traffic). I'm looking at the losers to see if I can identify trends/reasons. Has anyone done this sort of analysis in another industry segment?

Ergo In Demand was sloppy. I'm not sympathetic. I'm concerned about the sites that where not doing anything wrong.

Ergo probably added custom text because Google penalizes sites for 'manufacturer descriptions.' Damned if you do, damned if you don't. On being sympathetic: a lot of people are not sympathetic to health sites unless they are from truly official sources, like hospitals, gov agencies etc. Search for a disease and Google /CDC /Mayo clinic /WebMD have it all covered. Health was one area that Google mentioned it specifically since wrong advice can hurt people.


 2:52 pm on Apr 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

LifeinAsia: im pretty sure that manufacturers WANT shops to use their descriptions. they spend a lot of money on branding their stuff. they come up with selling points and slogans to make their products stand out.

walkman: so only one store sells Nike Air XVII2015 ? What are they going to do, call them Adidas Air not to get banned by Google?

Well, how does this apply?

Do you think Italian and chinese (mostly chinese) manufacturers of furniture want their branding specifically? Do you think they CARE if you use their description or not if you sell MORE product?

You are bringing in here the extreme cases of big global brands wanting to control what ten million affiliates are going to say vs. the business that sells furniture online (not sold "identical stuff to millions", but au contraire usually in custom designs in single units).

What the guy in this example figured was that if he puts a 10000 pages of already existing catalog online (easy) he'll get enough free traffic from G to get the business going. Good idea while it lasted. 0 to 17 million in a year or two. Then 17 back to basics in one month. No sustainable business plan, just dumb luck.

I actually know several furniture stores like that ;) One guy actually owes more to banks then he's worth, he's a tough fella though and will recover (and already is, he was not hit by Panda, it was couple of years ago)


 11:23 am on Apr 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

Google was made successful by webmasters.... not the searchers... ...not "Best Buy" or big box brands... It was made by the geeky professional (weekend website builder) who also worked in corporate America and spread Google because he/she believed in it

Well said ascensions. Eight years ago I liked & respected Google; three years ago I still respected them; now, I neither like nor respect them, and in fact, in conversations with "civilians" (non-webmaster types) I go out of my way to warn people about Google, using their violation of privacy as my argument, because I have found that gets the most attention from those folks. I hope others are doing the same. There was a time when I wished Google well. Now, I wish them anything but well, not because I "expect" or think I "deserve" anything from them, but rather because of the way they dropped Panda on the webmaster world, like a neutron bomb, killing off too many innocents in the process. And then coming out and congratulating themselves at every opportunity. They likely think of the side effects as unfortunate collateral damage ~ my own opinion is not so generous.



 11:39 am on Apr 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

Using manufacture's content; has Matt Cutts directly responded to the issue?
I think it would be a great GoogleWebmasterHelp question.


 11:48 am on Apr 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

Search for a disease and Google /CDC /Mayo clinic /WebMD have it all covered

Right, WebMD is an excellent site you don't need any others (no sarcasm, I mean it). The others, though, include Google as well. WebMD has an excellent search functionality.


 1:00 pm on Apr 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

It's interesting that the WSJ article ranks about #20+ for that phrase noted by Yippee2.


 1:49 pm on Apr 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

Right, WebMD is an excellent site you don't need any others (no sarcasm, I mean it).

I agree that these sites have the bases covered for your traditional run of the mill health topics. The sites that I work with are in complementary alternative medicine (CAM). I can assure you that WebMD and the rest are in bed with Pharma and that traditional stuff. They do not adequately cover alternative and more natural approaches to health.

There is a whole other world of medicine out there that has fantastic success. I would argue that this latest update favors traditional medicine Ė big players. Too bad. I know doctors that have tremendous success killing Cancer. They were pushed way down in the organic results by the 4/11 update. Thatís too bad for the people who are going to die because they didnít find alternative or experimental integrative treatments. Really, quite sad.

The Panda update definitely has winners and losers. Google sure has a lot of power!

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