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|How my life has changed - one year after Panda 1.0|
A year ago this past Sunday my worst nightmares were realized. (No, not really, my family still has their health and I still have my dignity, but otherwise, yeah.)
I'm surprised no one has written about this. I had hoped to sooner, but I haven't had the time to do the topic justice. This is my feeble attempt.
I started 2011 by telling my family that I had read that Google had announced that they were working on weeding out 'content farms'. I told them that when Google announces they have a great new technology to add to their search algorithm, rarely does it end in website owners being happy, no matter how legitimate their websites are.
Sure enough, on Feb. 26th, 2011 at 6:30 pm CST the traffic on my 10 year old site started into nosedive. Within a week, I had given notice to all of my 10 employees that they were about to lose their jobs. The only ones left were me and my wife.
Within 3 months, my wife took a job working for someone else. After months of hoping that we had seen the bottom, one early October day I decided to find a regular job myself.
I'm now working full-time for the guy who hosts my website. I do love my job, and I'm learning new technologies at a rate I thought I was too old to learn at (I'm now 45 years old.)
My life has settled down from the roller coaster ride that I've been on since AdSense was introduced in 2004. I've been featured as a Google success story numerous times, been to the 'plex a half-dozen times as an honored guest, but that wasn't enough to maintain the ride of a lifetime.
After nearly 4 months, on Feb. 1st, my benefits kicked in at my new job. I now have legitimate health insurance for the first time in 9 years. I also get 3 weeks of vacation per year and a funds-matched 401k. I sure sleep better at night, now.
My two oldest kids are working to help pay for their college education. Not really a bad thing. Google has paid for a lot of toys, a house and some great vacations over the years. The party's over now.
Now that Panda has settled down, my website hobby isn't doing too poorly. I only have time to respond to customer service emails on the weekends, but hey, I'm certainly not giving the worst customer service of the sites that I know.
So how have you overcome Panda? Forget about redesigns and quality content. None of us really knows if that has anything to do with the bashful bear. Outside of SEO, what have you don't to cope with the raccoon-like carnivore in the past year?
Thanks to all who have commented. One of the problems with going to work 'for the man' is that I don't get to Webmaster World nearly as often. WW is actually how I got introduced to AdSense in the first place, so yeah, I can say 'thanks a million' to the folks here at Webmaster World and really mean it. (One of my goals has been to some day make it to the WW home page, and now I've done it. Thanks a million!)
To all those who cast aspersions on my business model, I can forgive you because you haven't seen my business model. When someone throws large amounts of money at you for doing things a certain way, you don't turn it down because earning the money is not a reliable business model. You try to maximize profit and otherwise invest the money into other things, as I have done.
Great link, @Sgt_Kickaxe. Larry Page's speech really does explain a lot.
My site is what is now called an 'article directory' but it was around long before that term became popular. I've always called it a writers' community, and it still primarily serves that purpose. It's easy to see why my website could mistakenly be considered a 'content farm'. I consider most article directories content farms myself.
@skunkr, you are so right and perhaps this is the best take-away from my story. We webmasters who have fought from the trenches of everyday website development really do have in-demand talent, and Google can't take that away from us. In my case, I was feeling pretty beat-down when I decided to start looking for a regular job, but the very first person I contacted about a job hired me, at much better pay and with much better benefits than I expected. Today they consider me a guru of all things Internet. And I guess I am.
As my wife says, geeks rule!
|Interesting read, dvduval - thanks for sharing. Do you believe your site has good SEO, or at least is search engine-friendly? |
We are regularly in the top 10,000 according to Alexa, and #2 on Bing for our main keywords. I believe somehow Google's Pandarific algorithm is just missing something. It's really hard to say since there is no way to have a true analysis from someone in the know.
Hi there, dataguy:
again, congratulations on landing on your feet, and thanks for the insight about your site. and it is good to hear that you were smart with the money that google gave you.
It is sad, because the way you describe it definitely sounds like yoiur site adds value to your readers. By the way, was it geared toward a specific market segment? For instance, I know sites that are quite popular that are geared toward aspiring women writers, or ones that are geared toward aspiring sci-fi writers, and things like that.
Or was it more broad?
I ask not so much because I want to emulate your past success. I am thinking of having another project that is partly based on crowdsourcing, and am interested in AVOIDING the pitfalls that you encountered.
just a thought - some were 'hit' by panda - lost business, etc... - and loads of posts here on WW about it. BUT someone got those 'sweet' spots on rankings and making a happy living now - but we dont hear much about 'postpanda' success stories. Anyone to shear?
|just a thought - some were 'hit' by panda - lost business, etc... - and loads of posts here on WW about it. BUT someone got those 'sweet' spots on rankings and making a happy living now - but we dont hear much about 'postpanda' success stories. Anyone to shear? |
The problem with panda is the bad traffic quality. Enjoying top positions for the wrong long tail searches does not help. So i'm not sure "sweet spots" exist like before. You get a lot of one hit wonders (often from the wrong countries), window shoppers at best and they hardly convert into sales.
In my case, most of my ecom channels enjoy major top spots for related keywords BUT they simply get very bad traffic. Large numbers but very low conversions lately.
I used to seeing great conversions on that same channels for years, but not anymore. Panda seems to have killed most of them (or continue to insist on sending them the "wrong traffic" in other words).
Panda is the last thing the web really needs in such very hard economic times.
@Planet13 It's a general-topic writers' community. People write about whatever they want to write about.
The hardest thing over the years has been to keep the link-builders at bay. We've disallowed posting articles for link-building purposes since the beginning, but one man's link to their personal blog is another man's link to their affiliate-funnel-MLM-Blogger site, so it's not so easy to police. I suspect that there is a link-graph somewhere which shows that we have articles which link to not-so-nice neighborhoods.
We've used every method we can imagine (including constant human review) to weed out the link-builders, and I'm certain that our site is cleaner than the vast majority of similar sites, but that's apparently not good enough.
|Thanks for sharing your story, actually its a lesson thought by Google to us Not to rely on them. They just cannot see how many webmaster are relying on Google. |
IMO webmasters are relying on the web, not Google. The problem though is that Google has become a monopolistic entity, tightly griping and controlling the flow of traffic on the web via their million and one arms and beckons. Webmasters are relying on free competition and a fair go for all. Unfortunately it is no longer the case. The web is well and truly controlled by this monster.
|BUT someone got those 'sweet' spots on rankings and making a happy living now - but we dont hear much about 'postpanda' success stories. Anyone to shear? |
i haven't been hit by Panda but, there's always a but, it's only because we have been posting quality content over a variety of sites.
For me, it's clear that big name sites are being given preferential treatmnet in the Google SERPS. It's an easy option for any search engine, just give the punters the same old big names and forget trying to analyse what their search might actually want.
The big names are the recipients of the lost traffic from smaller sites. The saddest thing of all is that Bing are are even worse at this compared to Google.
Okay time for me to join the party. I to have a similar story to Dataguy. Started my site about 10 years ago. It was an authority in the niche and has a pretty good branding name which people recgonize if you are interested in the subject. It is mainly affiliate driven. I admit that before panda I had many pages that were low quality to gather lesser traffic keywords. But at the time it worked so... lesson learned. However even after cleaning up the site and working in original reporting/reviewing and working with other authority sites last year, last Mondays panda 3.3 took another bite, and this was after slowing getting back up in the rankings in Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb. I thought things were looking up. PR went up, authorship being applied to search results, etc... But I still have that beast sitting on the site.
So onto phase 4 I guess which is a total nuke of the site and starting from the ground up for the most part. It sounds like others have done this with success so that's the next move.
I celebrated Feb 24 2012 by accepting a position at a mid sized marketing company about 1 1/2 drive from home. I start Monday, actually just got back from clothes shopping. I don't think they prefer cut up jeans and T-shirts which was my attire for the past decade.
I look forward to the oppt even though it's much less than I can make online, but after a year of this cr*p and trying to recover I need to do something else for sake of sanity. I'm sure the experience will replace the lost income and I'll be back to full time online income no doubt by the end of the year.
Okay, end pity party. This misery fest we are gathered in should help us all deal with what it is and to find out where the cheese has been moved to.
Good luck to all of us that has to deal with this and for those that don't, appreciate every cent you make online that you don't have to pay for other than time. This is the best way to make a living and I appreciate the past decade because of Google. But this is not the right entity that we should be relying on for happiness and I also appreciate them for helping me realize that too. Talk to you all from the other side, the side where the 'man' lives.
|In my case, most of my ecom channels enjoy major top spots for related keywords BUT they simply get very bad traffic. Large numbers but very low conversions lately. |
I have to echo that. My traffic has doubled since other sites were hit by Panda. (Fortunately, I haven't been hit - knock on wood.)
But year over year sales are the same as last year. So, twice the traffic, half the conversion rate.
Thanks for sharing the info about your site.
|The hardest thing over the years has been to keep the link-builders at bay. |
Ahh... thanks so much for the heads up. I did not think of that.
|We've used every method we can imagine (including constant human review) to weed out the link-builders, and I'm certain that our site is cleaner than the vast majority of similar sites, but that's apparently not good enough. |
Well, that is a scary thought; that you had one of the cleanest sites around and the Panda still ate you. I am sorry to hear that.
Again, thanks for the help.
the "company" you'd never guess....U.S. Marines. Join the civil service....air force....army...usda....fws...nps...faa...etc...they all need the talent you all have.
thanks for sharing your story,
to come to your question...
|So how have you overcome Panda? |
I treated Google since the Florida Update as if they do not exist. I deinstalled on that day the Google Toolbar. Stopped optimizing beyond the "obvious on text", stopped link building and started to treat my visitors as once in a life time opportunity. My goal from that day on was to make sure that a new visitor to my page has lots of reasons to "remember" me. I teamed up with well known experts in my niches and gave them a platform to do stuff there with us, which than created new visitors.
All in all i havent felt Panda, the more i treat Google like a cheap who**e the more she begs for attention (more traffic via serps)
... my only quest since Florida was how i can make a free google visitor a visitor that remembers me without needing Google again... I still have a long way to go, but if Google shuts down tomorrow, i wouldnt feel it much...
Bingo! That is also my strategy.
|the more i treat Google like a cheap . . . |
Haha viggen, most entertaining summary I've read in a long time.
Thanks for the very candid story.
Part of being a small business, unfortunately, often means having our businesses rely far too much on one source for our livelihood. I'm guilty of it (although not so much on Google). To be fair, if an outside company like Google can destroy one's businesses, it's probably just as much to do with business plan with holes in it than anything else.
This is all just a reminder to always strive to diversify our businesses as much as possible and never to rely to heavily on one source.
Dataguy your story looks sad but what you expect from article directory?
its not just story of dataguy, we have so many more stories like this even worse than this. This thing show us that never depand on anything that never in your control. my best wishes are with you dataguys. bless you :)
|Within a week, I had given notice to all of my 10 employees that they were about to lose their jobs |
Talk about a house made of cards - you were hardly in it for the long haul were you, where were your cash reserves, backup plans ect.
Turn off the google tap and you had not built up any customer loyalty, none of your visitors deemed a second visit worthwhile - I find it hard to believe really.
Sounds like you are doing ok but I cant help but think that your business sounds like it was a juicy panda target.
|Talk about a house made of cards - you were hardly in it for the long haul were you, where were your cash reserves, backup plans ect. |
Why don't you try kicking a bit harder and tell dataguy that he should never have tried establishing his own business...better still all those who criticise for having all their eggs in one basket, well, I can only assume ALL of you were born with a silver spoon in your mouths since you have never created a business from scratch or you wouldn't make such stupid and naive statements.
Quite simply, no one can diversify from day one into "other streams of income" with a new business when, usually, many are being grabbed hard by the balls by greedy bankers or backers.
The guy tried, I'd like to go out with him for a beer, he'd have a far more interesting story to tell than many of you multi-successful, deprecating know-it-alls!
What exactly was he supposed to pay his staff with when revenue goes down 90% overnight? A 10 year old site doesn't seem like churn and burn to me. He had a model that worked for a while and it was great. Unfortunately it stopped working. Blaming him is hilarious. He did what google wanted for 10 years then they flipped the switch and he did what he needed to do. It's a great story and something to learn from.
my hat's off too data guy it's hard to judge his biz model from the post but I give him credit for starting his own business. he'll be back with a newer plan. Google traffic from 2002 it's inception till feb 2011 was actually the most consistent thing around till panda so it's hard to blame the guy for working that plan.
All business is subject to levels of dependancy, even working for someone is a dependency. Heck, living is a dependency.
Aarrrgghh. We would all prefer a diverse business model. But to make money we MUST optimize our business.
These two things are nearly polar opposites. Our real-world operation has to be a reasonable compromise. Which means that we very likely are going to not be as diverse as we would like, because it cost profit to be diverse!
Where we make that compromise is a personal choice that's easy to pick apart with 20/20 hindsight.
My 2 cents.
But dataguy's been around here a while; I'm sure he knew that he would get diverse response to this post, and is taking it in stride.
What always makes me shake my head is when I see some of the same people who say "I don't wanna do social, there's nothing in it for me, I'm not interested" blah blah blah then turn around and they can't diversify, they *must* depend on Google for traffic. Not pointing to dataguy, or anyone specifically (except you know who you are)
There ARE ways to diversify, it's very few businesses can't come up with something, and you don't always have to spend a lot of money to do it. But you do have to spend time, and you have to kind of train yourself to look for what's there, as opposed to what isn't. Took me *decades* to learn how to do that. If this old dog can learn it, anyone can.
Panda was the slap in the face I needed. I still have a great income from our websites and SEO and we've seen some recovery. Since Panda I've pushed out a couple of new websites in very different verticals that deliver us much higher margins, we can easily afford to buy clicks and make a healthy profit. Last week we got $20,000 worth of new business in one day - This is all because Panda forced us into action. Thanks Panda.
|...your business sounds like it was a juicy panda target. |
For goodness sake, the man was held up by Google as a shining example of what publishers should have been aspiring to. His was a 'Google Success Story'; a publisher honoured to the extent of having been invited to the Plex. Surely if his SEO practices went so much against the grain the Adsense team would excluded him as a Adsense success story, regardless of how disjointed the Adsense and Search teams are.
It was Google that shifted the goal posts.
I appeared to completely avoid any negative effects from Panda, with my 4+ year old website, until February of this year. It coincided with 2 events; 1. A message inside GWT, claiming my Wordpress was out of date and vulnerable, but I don't use Wordpress. 2. The above the fold update. My website is similar to DeviantArt and thin in textual content, it would be unfair if I've bit hit by this, but I'm guessing I have.
It's resulted in a daily loss of 8,000 visitors, which is quite significant. Not only has it had a massive impact on my revenue but it's also impacted all of the people who work for me. All of their hours have been dramatically cut and thus the website development has slowed significantly.
We're now worrying about making ends meet and I'm having to take on clients to make up for the loss, meaning even less time developing the website I have dedicated the past 4 years of my life to.
I want out. I'm tired, tired of Google, their updates, the instability, the worry.
I want to sell up and work on some projects away from the web, where I have more control over my business and my families security.
I have a potential buyer from a venture capitalist who contacted me last week. If we strike a deal, I'll be out for good.
well, all good things come to end eventually (as well as a bad things). i believe it is important to know when to start as well as when to stop and move on in life.
despite some loss of trafic (30%) and loss in conversions, i decided to continue to work on my site as i love to work on web and it also brings some side income to my budget.
as far as google is concerned - my personal experience with it (as well as all negative press it is getting)- i am generally dissapointed in that company as it treats us, small publishers, as totally unimportant partners which is apsolutely wrong and unacceptable.
|So how have you overcome Panda? Forget about redesigns and quality content. None of us really knows if that has anything to do with the bashful bear. Outside of SEO, what have you don't to cope with the raccoon-like carnivore in the past year? |
I have a variety of sites. Some took a hit and some went up with Panda and the various updates. Overall I can't complain. The sites that went down were older and needed rewriting. There were no mysteries with any of my sites why they went up or down.
Glad to hear things are going well for you these days Dataguy.
Like hockey, you have to move to the spaces to score goals.
Marketing is a moving target.
Diversification in both channel marketing AND your business approach is definitely critical.
Developing a truly unique business proposition you are passionate about is priceless.
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