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How my life has changed - one year after Panda 1.0
dataguy




msg:4423445
 4:01 am on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 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?

 

CainIV




msg:4425391
 4:55 am on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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.

dataguy




msg:4425556
 1:16 pm on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

I had actually forgotten about all the naysayers that come out when something like this is posted. I think it's a by-product of people assuming that everyone else's website is just like their own. And we all know what happens when we assume.

As for diversifying, I've built over 200 websites in the past 10 years, probably closer to 300. And these aren't cookie-cutter templates, they are pretty much all unique.

I agree with Netmeg when she refers to the website owners who refuse to try to leverage the latest trends like social media. A website owner who won't adjust to new technologies is an oxymoron in my book. I've got Facebook apps, twitter apps, iPhone apps and Android apps. I don't want to use Facebook, I want to own the next Facebook.

I doubt that there are very many here who are more diversified than I am.

Another clarifying note: I've had a few private conversations with a few people who have participated in this thread. Of those willing to compare notes, my Panda-hobbled site is earning more than anyone else's site is earning. Some have expressed shock at how well my site is doing. If I didn't have 2 kids in college and a house remodel underway, I wouldn't need my day job.

Some have said that they believe Panda is just a 'normalizing' of the results. This may be true and I can't help but wonder if my site will continue to earn at the current levels for years and years to come. If so, after the kids are out of school, I'm sure I'll go back to working full-time on my own projects.

rajivatre




msg:4425560
 1:30 pm on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)


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.

Very well said CainIV.

I will just add few things.
Try to work on a Real World model. If you have a information website think whether you can get readers to subscribe it for very nominal amount?
Try to hire some marketing company or marketing or sales professional on commission basis who will sell your site to real clients in offline world.
Diversification is not at all easy to say the least.
Most of us we rely 100% on our Adsense or Affiliate income.
But many times we forget the real world principles of business.
For any business you have to have your own Clients. Its not good idea to work to get clients to somebody else.

Diversify in all ways.
The way you run the site, the way you market your site, the way you earn from your site, the way how you utilize your profit from the site.

And last but not least any business online or offline carries a risk.
I know one example, many small businesses (who were dependant on a big manufacturing company) closed down when that company moved to some other place.

So again its very true Never Put all Your eggs in one basket Online or Offline.

Quick Note: Dataguy posted a nice post when i was writing this and I really admire how much he must be earning with pandalized site. So my post is not pointing to anyone specific just a general thought.

Thanks
Rajiv

hairycoo




msg:4425565
 1:35 pm on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'm as guilty as many other webmasters of getting complacent and reliant on free Google traffic. I got hit in October last year and income dropped by 75%. I still earn enough to sustain my lifestyle but I don't expect this to last for more than a few more months. I'm fortunate as I don't have employees and have some good savings to see me through.

Before Panda though, I was stuck in complacency and routine. I was bored, I wanted to move on but the free traffic and free money kept me trapped, working on my sites. I knew the business model was flawed, I knew I should acquire new skills, broaden my knowledge but all my time was taken up by ticking along by these damn sites, doing the same old boring stuff that a million other websites are doing (and some other personal stuff).

Panda was the kick in the behind I needed. I immediately started to acquire new skills and knowledge, moved offices to be around tech startups for inspiration, started to learn about different business models. I learned more in the last 5 months than in the previous 3 years combined!

I have just now finished the Panda revival plan for one of my sites (I'm abandoning the others, business model just too flawed and outdated), to extract a bit more juice out of Google whilst I plan to move onto something else. The Plan is designed for me to put into practice all this new knowledge and skills, whatever its outcome it will serve me well. I'll give it 6 months during which I'll explore other avenues as well.

The uncertainty of the future is scary, I've never had a "real" job, never did work for clients. I might end up doing that. I don't know where I'll end up but I think Panda will prove to be the best thing that's happened to me.

rajivatre




msg:4425571
 1:44 pm on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

On a second thought.
Is drop in adsense income and affiliate income has to do anything with increase in mobile users as well?
People using mobile to surf internet have increased many folds but they may not use mobile to make purchases online. (I really dont know just a guess)

Thanks
Rajiv

Jane_Doe




msg:4425627
 5:02 pm on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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.


That is a great quote about moving to the spaces to score goals. That is my plan for the next few years. In some areas my sites are up against corporations with full time SEOs so competing long term may not be an option. My future plan is to focus on well paying, niche topics not on the radar of most current SEO types and big corporations.

atladsenser




msg:4425632
 5:13 pm on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

Dataguy, I just wanted to thank you for a really refreshing, honest account of what it's like to run a website or collection of websites on your own while relying on programs like Google AdSense for your revenue, and for pointing out both the good and the bad, the ups and the downs of all of this.

I run a site of my own and while I haven't experienced the kinds of issues you describe (yet!), it's been slowly dawning on me over the past few months that there are new realities about this online space that have come about over the past year that weren't in place just a few years ago when I started building my site. The changes in Google's algorithms, the importance of social networks and the (still to be determined) impact of Google+ has made what was once a fairly straightforward thing to do suddenly much more complex.

It's very easy to read the AdSense success stories, and news stories about publishers who've achieved success with online advertising, and forget that there are risks and downsides to this -- Panda updates sometimes come along, server outages can occur. There are a host of things that are beyond your control that can impact your earnings, and perhaps it's a good thing after all that we're getting the chance now to wake up to that and take stock. I know I am.

netmeg




msg:4425635
 5:24 pm on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

My future plan is to focus on well paying, niche topics not on the radar of most current SEO types and big corporations.


Exactly!

There are a host of things that are beyond your control that can impact your earnings, and perhaps it's a good thing after all that we're getting the chance now to wake up to that and take stock.


Also exactly! I got 99 problems and they ain't Google. One of my sites has been under attack by some kind of Terminator bot that can't be killed, for several weeks now. Nothing I can do about it, and I can't run ads (or trust analytics) while it's going on. Completely out of my control. That's why it pays to have a lot of baskets.

shallow




msg:4425651
 6:17 pm on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

dataguy, thanks for sharing your story. It is very similar to mine soI feel your pain.

Panda hit my site hard, cutting traffic in half and income remains down 50-60% from the previous year. I have no expectations that it will get any better, I just hope it doesn't get worse.

I made a nice income before Panda for years, not a killing, but enough to help pay my bills and afford some extras. The AdSense team had kind of puffed me up: suggesting optimal placement of ads, getting my site featured (along with a few others) on a major national (U.S) TV show, and in articles in some respected national publications.

Since I am neither a web developer nor web designer, I spent A LOT of money having my site updated and redesigned.

Those days are over.

I'm not convinced that the cost to tweak my site would guarantee an increase in traffic. Neither am I convinced anyone really knows what to do to help my site recover, at least not without spending more money than I make.

Fortunately, I'm making just enough money to keep my site going, but the enthusiasm is gone. I've cut back expenses and my time working on the site, just writing enough articles so it doesn't die altogether.

My husband and I have run several small businesses during our lifetime. I know enough about small businesses to realize that some just don't make it. But other than a fire or act of nature, you can usually see that a business is in a dying mode and plan accordingly.

But to be cut off at the knees unexpectedly in one day, well....I'll just hold my comments.

scooterdude




msg:4425693
 7:32 pm on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Dataguy

If I maybe so bold as to ask, is the site in question somewhat similar to 2 rather well known sites , Hub,,, & Squi..

I am not sure its okay to mention the names in full

dataguy




msg:4427576
 6:21 pm on Mar 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Yes, @scooterdude. Very similar.

Planet13




msg:4427593
 7:59 pm on Mar 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Yes, @scooterdude. Very similar.


well, I could see the predicament about the quality of outbound links being a problem. I am assuming that the majority of people who provided content to the site were doing so for self promotion (i.e., link building). Is that a fair assessment?

Again, while I am encouraged to hear you re doing well in your new job, it is disheartening to hear that your site was not salvageable. I am sure it provided value to many people who read its articles. And since it appears that google still has much love for eh0w and some other "answer" sites that provide ultra-slim content, well, I don't really understand why some article sites get the heave-ho out of the index.

On the other hand, it would seem that sites that follow more traditional publishing patterns might benefit from the latest algo changes.

Dinkar




msg:4427838
 12:49 pm on Mar 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

dataguy, thank you for sharing your story. Didn't you have savings and investment to hold the castle?

Anyway, I am happy that you have found alternate way to make the living and stay happy :)

BillyS




msg:4427846
 1:07 pm on Mar 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

Didn't you have savings and investment to hold the castle?

Dataguy - thanks for sharing your story. In case you have any doubt, the above type comments unfortunately come from the fact some people are happy to witness the downfall of others. Hindsight clarity is one of their many talents.

Let me assure you, not everyone feels that way. Tough break, but you were likely successful for a reason and will likely be successful once again.

dataguy




msg:4427864
 3:21 pm on Mar 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Planet13 Yes, that is always something that is at the forefront of our minds. There are really not many options around this except to be very strict on outbound links. Currently we only allow writers to post articles if they only link to their personal blogs, and then only when their personal blogs are not shills for affiliate marketing. We have thousands of older articles with more questionable outbound links, but as long as I look at this as a hobby I'm happy to be very restrictive on who can publish articles on my site. It makes it a lot more fun for me and my wife to manage in our spare time.

@Dinkar Lots of other investments, almost all of them internet or app related, and they haven't begun to pay off yet.

Thanks @BillyS. You're right. Most of those comments come from 'junior members' so I'm not offended.

I actually feel pretty successful now. My website income may be cut by 60%, but that's far more than most people will ever accomplish. When I get my kids through college I'll reconsider if I need to keep working for 'the man'.

Dinkar




msg:4427914
 8:54 pm on Mar 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks @BillyS. You're right.

He is NOT right.

I am NOT happy to witness your downfall. But I am happy to see you overcome from the downfall. Here I am not talking about your site but about your life.


@Dinkar Lots of other investments, almost all of them internet or app related, and they haven't begun to pay off yet


Thank you for the answer.

The question was not to offend you or anyone else. It was to know more about your financial situation, so it may help me while taking financial decisions.

It was discuss here in past that we webmaster should keep some money backup to pay 6 months to 1 year expenses; just in case we may face similar situation like you. So I wanted to know, if you had such backup or not.

I am also facing financial trouble since last 6 months. Luckily, I had savings for these days. I also have investment that I am going to liquidate in the next financial year.


It's unfortunate that both of you have completely misunderstood my post. I really feel sorry for that :(

techrealm




msg:4429441
 10:40 am on Mar 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

the more i treat Google like a cheap . . .viggen

Haha viggen, most entertaining summary I've read in a long time. lawman

I second lawman!

tedster




msg:4429494
 1:56 pm on Mar 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

my only quest since Florida was how i can make a free google visitor a visitor that remembers me without needing Google again

BEAUTY!

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