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Google, Panda: Results After Three months

 10:58 am on May 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

One of my clients, bit on the thin side, was hit back in March by a Google change (pre-Panda, Panda?) and WTF they asked. Heck I don't know. What to do? Move on. Okay...

So we did...by ignoring what SEEMED to be indicators, just tightened nav, reduced some interstitial pages, removed breadcrumbs...

Managed to maintain 80% traffic. And 70% income (which is n.nnn over 1,200 pages daily, 72 of which truly pay). Traffic is about the same as before but NOT GROWING in CONVERSIONS as one would expect (though we have noticed that real money ads are not showing up), all things being equal. Almost looks like a dollar throttle, but that would be ... duh... counterproductive for G and me, right? That said:

Not a happy report, or a down in the dumps report, merely a report that even under panda sites can survive... for a time---at any rate.



 2:46 pm on Jun 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hi MarketingMagic.

The user data argument is being pushed relentlessly by others here, but I have two problems with the case you put forward:

What about the 49% of known websites that don't use Google Analytics (which includes all of mine, some of which were impacted, some not)?

How do you explain the dross that floated up the search results (hobbyist sites, old not updated stuff and some of my MFAS!)?



 3:15 pm on Jun 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hi Suggy,

In cases where they don't have analytics data on your site, they would likely revert to serp click data.

As for the dross that floated up - as with any google update, there are anomalies that can't be explained, but for the most part what we're seeing would appear to line up with the scenario I put forward.


 3:28 pm on Jun 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

(Personally, if I wanted to clear out some dross, as you put it (love that word) I'd probably want to find a way to make it float to the top first; easier to scoop it off the surface that way. Of course, once found, then something has to be done about it - and I sure hope that it being worked on. If it is, and I believe that it is, it's not going to be on a schedule that is convenient for US, but for Google.)

Maybe one component of Panda is a form of blast fishing (fishing with dynamite)


 3:44 pm on Jun 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've noticed some strange data coming in my WMT reports for pages I have 410'd. Over the past few months WMT reports have slowly reported on my 410 pages and then slowly let them fall off the reports.

In the last 4-5 days the reports have gone through the roof. Either they are doing a full review of all my cached pages or they are just screwing around with the stats.


 3:49 pm on Jun 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

As far as pandalized: We've went from 1,200,000+ visitors a month to 500,000. We've made changes in steps:
1. Added content to thin content pages or removed thin page all together
2. We've removed ad spots, and default advertising agencies.
3. We've changed our site design to place remaining ads lower in the content, so you get more content before seeing an ad.
4. We've gone after content scapers with lawyers, DMCA's, and cease and desists... successfully getting them to remove our content.
5. Took about 2 seconds off our page load times.

We started in Feb with traffic 40% down and 50% loss in ad revenue. We see about a 10% additional drop at each "improvement" we make. We are now down 50%+ traffic and 60% in ad revenue.

Nothing is working. In fact, everything we do only seems to hurt us. Time to just give up and let google kill me off.

SIDE NOTE: Google is so f'd up: Last month we got notice that our site was suspended from adwords for "arbitrage". I called a adwords rep who pointed to a link we had on a single page (of 10,000+ pages) to a nasa.gov lesson plan for teachers. He said "this link points to another site - and that is likely your problem". I told him to talk to someone else, and come back and tell me I am banned because I have a link to nasa.gov from a page on my site with 'space lesson plans'. He did ask a manager and came back and told me that I was banned because I had non-adsense ads on the site. To which I asked him to investigate further. The next day my suspension was lifted! I called back to find out why I was 're-approved' (I didn't do anything!)- they said I had too many adsense ads on each page, but since I removed them, I was now "ok". I've only had 1 adsense ad on each page for several years. Didn't change anything dealing with ads during this entire ordeal. I figured that if I could find out WHY I was suspended from adwords, it might give insight to why I was pandalized. Seems nobody really knows anything about anything over there at the big G.


 7:11 pm on Jun 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

Scuba addict - have you tried increasing your back links?


 7:30 pm on Jun 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

@marketingmagic - most of our links have always been naturally occurring. We have never paid for any links (nor placed paid links for that matter). But according to Google webmaster tools we have over a million incoming links, according to google search (link:mysite.com -site:mysite.com) we currently have 31,500 links.

I have recently solicited on our site for people to link to us, as well as added "social networking" sharing options.

If you are asking if I have gone to related sites and asked the webmaster for a link or link exchange - no - I haven't, as I feel to get to 31,600 would take a lot of time that I don't have - for almost no benefit.

Are your thoughts that getting more links to my site is what's needed?


 12:12 pm on Jun 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Scuba addict - yes that's what I'm seeing. Site's with a certain degree of link authority appear to be escaping the pandas claws (even if they break many of the panda "rules" - thin content, scraped content from manufacturer sites, etc...)


 1:02 pm on Jun 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Nothing is working. In fact, everything we do only seems to hurt us.

@ ScubaMagic - probably nothing will happen for the moment. And if you drop pages from the index etc your results are sure to dip. The big question is, that when Google does it's next manual switch ( who know's when ) , will those remaining pages bring more traffic.

Until we get a lot of consistant reports and a message from the Plex about the switch flick - it's still a mysterious guessing game. Still i think you've done the right thing - good luck.


 1:52 pm on Jun 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thank you guys for the feedback. I guess it is good (though sad) to know that nobody is seeing any real signs of recovery.

I guess I can put some extra effort in link exchanges, but will also have to go back to my job hunt, and shelve my old job of maintaining and improving this website. I will continue to check back here looking to see if the day comes where google flips the switch or turns a dial - and hope that it has more favorable results this time.


 2:02 pm on Jun 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Scuba addict - yes that's what I'm seeing. Site's with a certain degree of link authority appear to be escaping the pandas claws (even if they break many of the panda "rules" - thin content, scraped content from manufacturer sites, etc...)

I know of some sites that this comment is correct for but some for which the opposite holds true. A number of sites I have monitored have had increased numbers of links but have fallen in the SERPs, some quite drastically.

Whether or not the increased links were relevant to this is not at all clear of course but I would be careful of creating any spike that didn't look natural.


 2:06 pm on Jun 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

It looks like Biswanath panda which google believes has given them a breakthrough is a data mining expert.


 2:26 pm on Jun 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

As I'd mentioned, sites are still doing good in the SERPs, but their referrals from other sites have dropped.

The referrals were most often long tail and were smaller blogs/news sites.

I can still find those long tail sites but they are now buried so that the average user can no longer find them. What comes up are authority sites which don't go into the long tail detail of the others. In addition, I can't see them linking to specialists.

I'm also finding some rubbish sites in the SERPs, so Panda could not have been a complete success. I would guess that google is working on that.

Links from authority sites must be even more important right now.

One other observation: I think we might see a resurgence in niche directories.

Finally, we're webmasters and will have a different take on Panda compared to the average user. The average user couldn't care a jot about Panda, and most likely don't know what it is, apart from an animal. They care about finding what they want and are unlikley to pipe up here. They will vote with their mouse by having to keep searching, or switching to an alternative.


 3:12 pm on Jun 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

My site was one hit on 2/24. My Google traffic is now 35% of what it was one year ago, while referrals from Bing and Yahoo are up from this same time last year. Yahoo is up nearly 50%.

I've noindexed about 1500 of the 3000 pages on my site where I thought the content was thin. Some of these pages must have been getting traffic from Google, as the number of visitors to individual directories has dropped after the noindexing. Problem is, I can't tell which pages were getting the Google traffic.

I've beefed up the hub pages that are a click away from the sitewide navigation menu (Acme.html, for example) by adding videos or performance charts or historical information to give the pages more weight and more user engagement. In watching visitors remotely, there doesn't seem to be much interest in what I've added, so I need to do something different.

I don't see Pandalized sites as just coming back to rank well after changes are made, at least not the ones hit by Panda 1.0. I think the sites will have to be redone, much like starting out with a fresh site.

At that, I'm looking to transition to a brand new site, and just say screw it to the old one. I was going to make the transition in a year or so, but I wanted the good traffic from my existing site. There's now no traffic to be had from the site, so I might as well do the transition now.


 3:19 pm on Jun 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

but how do you know for sure what was wrong? thats the problem with panda. you can build a new site but you cant be 100% sure that you're not repeating the same mistake that got you canned in the first place

if you got demoted because you're not a "brand", then building a new site will likely make things worse, not better


 3:31 pm on Jun 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

I agree londrum. I think taking the drastic step of starting over is not a good idea. 35% is better than nothing (what you start at when you start over).

If you have years invested, give it more time. Like Google said, it took a long time for some sites hit by Panda to get to the state they are in, it could take a long time to recover from it.


 3:59 pm on Jun 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

I shelved my best site post-Panda, and it wasn't touched.

By shelved I mean I have stopped working on it completely while I work on my "next biggest site" and by un-touched I mean it escaped any traffic/rank loss by Panda.

Why? It's not broken and not knowing what might break it is too risky, my family depends on my income and losing your best site hurts anyone.

Thanks Google.


 4:23 pm on Jun 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Sgt_Kickaxe sums things up beautifully. Sgt_Kickaxe has a successful site, luckily untouched by Panda - but is now AFRAID to do anything AT ALL to his website or he may be forsaken by google never to return.

Back in the day I used to read stories about users being banned from adsense. Me? I got a call from the optimization team, and interviewed for a 'success case study'. Then later I was sent warning emails from the Adsense police - essentially telling me that I was in trouble for following the guidelines of the optimization team. Adsense was my main income. Scared S#!tless, undid some of the ad blending, added borders to ads, etc. I was always aware that my adsense income may someday just disappear - never to return. So I prepared. I removed much of my adsense and diversified my advertising companies. I thought I was safe. NEVER had I prepared for the Google 'Search' Drive-by shooting. Now I WISH that my fate was that of being banned by adsense, rather then being killed altogether by the panda.


 4:45 pm on Jun 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

For the most part traffic to my site from Google continues to drop off daily. Binghoo now sends more traffic than G.

Between Bing, Yahoo, direct traffic and referrals from other sites my site will be a shadow of it's former self, but still viable.

I've stopped trying to figure Panda and G's apparent other algo tweaks out, and certainly stopped trying to adjust the site to accommodate them.

I've also decided not to split the site up. I'll just set up new sites to hopefully capture at least some of the traffic lost in the various sections of the site.

That means I'll set up 3 - 5 new sites that between them will more or less cover all the info on the old site. I think I can do that without sending up duplicate content flags, thanks to possessing a ton of related relevant content material.

I think I know which part of the old site is the real problem. It is still the most popular part of the site, and the most profitable, thanks to the traffic from sources other than G. Because of that, there is no way I am ripping the old site apart, or linking it to the new sites.


 5:10 pm on Jun 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Sgt_Kickaxe sums things up beautifully. Sgt_Kickaxe has a successful site, luckily untouched by Panda - but is now AFRAID to do anything AT ALL to his website or he may be forsaken by google never to return.

Those who dare win. I should have bought links and added junk. Even 6 months of ranking would have been worth it, instead now I'm in PandaLand. The timid should get out.

edit: Today Bing is sending more visitors and even Yahoo is very close to that. Bottom line is that fairy tales Matt Cutts told about coming back, are just that, fairy tales and lies.


 5:46 pm on Jun 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

I own a little over 100 sites, and I have a couple that did better or stayed the same, a couple that went down about 20% and at least one that is so penalized that we get just about ZERO traffic from Google. I have been experimenting with the most penalized site to see what life might be like without google, and I am feeling quite refreshed. :)

I've increased my friends on Facebook, and started writing articles on this site (one per day) and sharing. I'm doing a few other things too related to marketing, and the site is starting to perform. I'm really having fun again.

While I still hope to keep getting traffic from google, I believe that facebook is a big reason for traffic losses. People just aren't searching on google as much. They know what sites they like, and they get links from friends on facebook (at least a growing segment fit this profile).

There is a life outside of google, and I think people need to stop being afraid of this, and move forward. There was a time here on WebmasterWorld when people predicted Altavista would reign supreme for years to come.

Right now, google continues to provide negative reinforcement to webmasters, and webmasters keep wondering how they could look better in google's eyes. They try harder, and google punishes them again. The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. I think we are in a transition period where the sane ones will start to examine a life that does not depend on google anymore.


 6:00 pm on Jun 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Ok, I run an information site and rely on ad revenue, without anything in the way of direct sales. We have 30K plus pages. Year over year, we are up about 64% in traffic, 59% in page views. We've never gone looking at SEO shortcuts, just code our pages to the best of our capability. Now, saying all that, we have been around since 1995 with this one site. Compared to some here, probably a very small site, but we do get over 500K uniques per month. Not sure how my competitors are doing, but things are looking good for us, thank you very much.


 7:15 pm on Jun 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

@CannonFoder. Glad to hear of your good fortune. I hope reading these posts reminds you of how lucky you are...so far. Use some of that revenue to save and plan for that dark day that Google casually tosses your site in the trash bin. Could you really survive on other SE referrals, social media, and directs?


 7:39 pm on Jun 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

My site was averaging 40K visits/day had a 25% increase in traffic from Panda 1.0 in February, it was incredible, number 1 for every trophy keyword phrase 50k visits/day, then came Panda 2.0 on April 12 and we lost 30% traffic. So 30%-25% is only a loss of 5%, no big deal. but it is a big deal, every keyword phrase has moved down at least 5 spots, we don't rank number 1 for anything.

I'm not sure how we are managing to stay at 37K visits/day it's a total different set of keywords phrases and lots of long tail traffic which is impossible to analyze.

So I'm not as bad off as most of you. However, we did remove our highest paying ad unit, which was above the fold in the center of the page as well as a popup which together combined to 50% of revenue. So I'm loosing 50% of revenue as I wait for Google to run their algorithm again and reevaluate my site. I have increased avg. time on site by a close to a full minute.

Here's what I'm noticing about the sites that have taken my spots in the SERPS. They have a small percentage of their site that is Reading level Intermediate or Advanced. mine is all Basic. They have significant number of links from quality sites towards the content that is at a Reading level Intermediate or Advanced from education type websites.

There is one site that does not rely on advertising, but sells products. I didn't even know they existed prior to panda because our niches did not overlap. Now they are showing up for searches in my niche. They are a quality site, lots of members, a hobby site, sticky, they happen to have a section in my niche. They have quite a few quality links and lots of BBB type badges because they are an ecommerce site

The question that I can't figure out is why did Panda boost these sites? They all are breaking the panda rules in many ways, way too many ads above the fold or no unique content on their main pages, just list of links, and yet only after Panda are they rising to the top.

Why now? Google has declared these sites brands in my niche and therefore untouchable. What made them brands? Their quality inbound links. Why didn't these "quality inbound links" help them the same way before Panda? That's what I don't get.


 8:51 pm on Jun 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

For those suffering I have one piece of advice:

Keep on keeping.

One of my client's sites was a bit on the thin side too. Got hit. Went from top 3 for most of our 100+ targeted keywords, to 6-10 or worse. Many fell off the top 100 all together.

As you can imagine, this had a devastating effect on traffic.

However, we have managed to claw our way back up. Here is what we did:

1- Added more content on new pages related to the keywords we are trying to rank for.
2- Created more deep links to these pages
3- Used more diverse anchors

It seems to be working. Of course, there were also other little things we did, like work on higher quality links more. But, we are now getting many of our spots back. Little by little.

So keep your chin up guys! Good luck. :)


 9:49 pm on Jun 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

thanks greenleaves, was your site hit on feb 24? those sites don't seem to be coming back as much...it seems like sites hit after that are able to make improvements and see a change.

Is that mostly correct?

[edited by: proboscis at 10:05 pm (utc) on Jun 3, 2011]


 9:50 pm on Jun 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

We have a subdomain that was nailed, and it really should have been. Not crying the blues at all it was a site that did really well with really thin content. The cms we use causes duplicate urls, the content was thin thin thin, and the site had copied Gov information.
1- Had all the copied content reworked.
2- 301'd all the duplicate State urls to correct State.
3- Redid all the state pages.
4- Built new content for each company on the State page that can only be reached from 1 url.
In effect I took the site apart and rebuilt the site 600 pages. I have just completed this and will report on what effect this will have in the coming weeks or months.
Been a busy couple months and I am toast on this site anyway.

I can report some improvments in the adsense CPC already. I was about 50% off after the hit, but removing all the duplicate URL's and thin content did the trick and pushed it back to normal levels.


 8:35 am on Jun 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

From my experience:

1) For now, only site pandalyzed for duplicate content regained their traffic, once duplicated content removed.
2) Deleting thin/shallow pages reduce even more the traffic. But it is useful for the future.
3) A site will have the penalty dropped only once a lot of good page were added.

Explanation: Google want not play a cat and mouse game with webmasters. Only a high involvement in the site will produce a visible result.


 8:39 am on Jun 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

From my experience:

1) For now, only site pandalyzed for duplicate content regained their traffic, once duplicated content removed.
2) Deleting thin/shallow pages reduce even more the traffic. But it is useful for the future.
3) A site will have the penalty dropped only once a lot of good page were added.

Explanation: Google want not play a cat and mouse game with webmasters. Only a high involvement in the site will produce a visible result.

Kevina, on how many of your sites did that happen? How long did it take to get results. Share the details from your experience if you can.


 11:33 am on Jun 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

I have several websites and only one was hit on 11 April, mainly because the penalty is applied to the whole site.
The purpose of this site is to offers simple tutorials and demo scripts and that is not fairly appreciated by crawlers. Simplicity if a quality for human readers, not for robots.
Other sites not hit by Panda. This gives me a mean of comparison.

I do not have site with duplicate content. This come from experience of others, especially when the tags were indexed on Wordpress sites.
Some site that complained to be hit for duplicate content removed it and according to Alexa, their traffic is back.


 12:00 pm on Jun 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

I do not have site with duplicate content.

Neither do I.

I have several sites with absolutely unique, trademarked and exclusive products for more than 30 years yet many Chinese scraper trade directories and US blog sites now rule the SERPs with my information and images.

I can see what the Panda is doing however combatting it is another thing altogether and a route I shall not go down because all the other major search engines have got it right...G's the one with the problems, not me.

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