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This 193 message thread spans 7 pages: < < 193 ( 1 2 3 4 5 [6] 7 > >     
Is Panda all about Exit Rate?

 7:30 am on Jun 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

Commercially, what I am about to do may not be the most sensible thing, but I feel itís right and I want to share what I have discovered about Panda. It may help you understand more about quality and how to escape Panda.

Please note, I have not escaped from Panda yet Ė I came to these conclusions on June 22nd 2012 and began addressing my issues based on a new understanding of how Panda works. This theory could develop and I could end up with egg on my face massively, but it makes more sense than anything Iíve ever read anywhere before. Here goes............(apologies for the long post in advance).

Since Panda hit my ecommerce site in April 2011 Iíve been trying to improve the quality of my site using Amit Singhalís guidelines as a basis but completely without success.

I always imagined that Panda was a magical formula Google concocted using their human guinea pigs when they sat them down and asked all those questions relating to quality, and that ĎPandaí is Google crawling your site looking for the signs of low quality. Itís not.

Last week my attention was drawn to a statistic in Google Analytics that for some reason Iíd never noticed before Ė Exit Rate. Thatís when it dawned on me Ė Panda is all about user metrics, they canít Ďseeí your site, they donít crawl it using a magical formula, they collect signals given off by humans as they use your site to tell them where the bad quality is. If you have too much of it, they demote the rankings of the pages with bad content and any pages that link closely to those pages to protect Googlers from hitting your bad content (what we know as Panda).

I compared pages on my site with very high exit rates to those with very low exit rates and immediately it struck me how much better the pages with low exit rates were. It also struck me how many different reasons there were for the high exit rate pages being worse (in many cases it was just a bad product that rarely or never sold, or the price was too high, the description was poor, the image as poor, etc.). The low exit rate pages were our top sellers, good products, good descriptions, nothing bad to say about the product or the content or presentation of the page.

Then I realised this is where Google started. They wondered about Exit Rate, sat people down, asked them to compare web pages, asked them why they liked or didnít like a page, and found that Exit Rate correlated with human feedback. Itís obvious really Ė people leave your site because theyíve either done what they came there to do or something put them off. This is the ultimate test of quality.

Google doesnít need to Ďseeí your pages, it just looks at where people leave your site, maybe what they did before leaving your site (how long they were there, how many pages visited, etc.) and if your site has a high proportion of pages with a high exit rate, your users probably donít like the quality of those pages.

Of course, people have to leave your site at some point, and that may be because theyíve found what they want, so there has to be an allowance for that. And there may be a different model for different types of sites. But I found, when I looked at my high exit rate pages, in most cases it was obvious why people didnít like them. In the case of our product pages, the high exit rate pages were generally non-sellers, cluttering up the site and, as I now realise, turning off customers.
To try to disprove my theory I started reading back through Amit Singhals guidelines and it all made sense (as I knew it would one day!). I also looked back at various discussions about Panda, things that people did to recover from Panda, and it explained everything.

Itís beautifully simple and it deals with a huge range of Googleís problems in one hit. Users naturally react differently to webspam, duplicate content, scraped content (or original content if itís been scraped), brands. Sites with a high proportion of high exit rate pages tell Google all they need to know about the quality of your site, from a web userís perspective (which takes into account an unfathomable range of considerations that even Google have struggled to document - what Google needed to say is what Iím saying now, look at your exit rates!).
This theory explains so many of the things weíve all noticed about Panda, how it works, itsí effects on Googleís results and our sites. Hereís a few......

Why canít they run Panda more regularly?
They need a monthís worth of user metrics to be able to make a judgement about your site.

How did I recover from Panda without changing anything?
Scrapers can hurt your exit rate. So can competitors. If you have content people have seen elsewhere it affects their perception of your site. If Google got rid of your scrapers, your user metrics would improve without doing anything. The user metrics of your site are affected by whatís happening on other sites so even a new competitor doing something similar to you can affect your user metrics.

Why are brands dominating the results?
Itís not brands that are dominating the results, itís websites people like and trust that are dominating. Not every brand will always be loved and trusted, and their user metrics will reflect those changes. But generally people trust what they know so sites people like (letís create a new term to replace brands Ė SPL, sites people like) can have bad pages but people wonít leave their site just because of it, so their user metrics are better. You could set up an identical site with your name at the top, the Ďqualityí of the content would be identical, but the user metrics would be much worse.

Why did Google suggest merging pages?
Iím guessing user metrics show that users donít like seeing several similar pages on your site, in the same way they donít like seeing similar content on numerous sites.

Do images or photos help improve quality?
Not necessarily. Every page on the web can produce a different response from users. The only way to know is to experiment, check your exit rates, repeat until exit rate is low.

Should I add more content to my site?
See ďDo images or photos help improve qualityĒ.

Can I escape Panda by improving my brand signals?
If you mean getting backlinks with your website name in them, no. That does not make you a brand. Google doesnít actually care if youíre a brand or not, it just knows that people react better to SPLís (sites people like). User metrics prove it.

Can I escape Panda by getting better quality links?
No. Users canít see your links, links make no difference to how users perceive your site alongside the rest of the web. In my experience, while demoted by Panda, links wonít get you anywhere. Once you get out of Panda though......well, hold onto your hat.

Why does moving content to subdomains work for some people?
If you correctly identify, fix or remove bad content from your site (using Exit Rate as a guide) you will be left with only good content. It doesnít matter how you do it, what matters is that you get your exit rates down.

Will no-indexing or blocking robots from pages of bad content help?
No. If a user can see it, Google has user metrics on it. This is not about googlebot, itís about your users.

I could go on, but you get the point. User metrics tell Google everything they need to know about how real human beings perceive your site in context with other sites they may have come across. It really is as simple and as complex as that.

What I donít know is where the threshold is and Iím guessing it may be different for different types of sites (information versus ecommerce for example) and there will be other factors combined with it but, put simply, I think Exit Rate is the place to start looking if you want to find and fix your bad content issues. It really opened my eyes. (Note: I think bounce rate impacts exit rate, I might be wrong on that Ė removing bounce rate from the Exit Rate calculation may give you a truer reflection on how people react with your content as they move around it).

I suspect that some sites may not able to get below it if they are basically set up with spammy intent (you see how effective this simple method is) but for many of us, understanding that exit rate tells you where you bad content may be, could be the answer to your prayers.

I hope Iím right, or at least on the right tracks. If I am, itís time to end the Panda woe and improve our website KNOWING what quality content really is. Maybe a discussion here will help test the theory and perhaps help us gain an even greater understanding.

I hope this helps you and me escape Panda, I truly do.



 11:50 am on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

A quick note for anyone wanting to understand, well, anything.

Ignore anyone telling you to ignore dissenting opinion


 1:25 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Whatever else this thread may or may not prove, what it should do is cause everyone to take a closer look at the analytics data that is available and see if there is any wisdom therein to be gleaned.

I spent a while today exporting the type of data being discussed here and mixed it up a bit on a spreadsheet. I used 12 months of data from immediately before my site's traffic started to decline.

One useful element that you have to calculate (as it is not isolated in analytics) is the number of "internal arrivals" (that being Unique Page Views minus Entrances). This tells you whether the page is more of a landing-pad for searchers or a link-in-the-chain for people progressing across your site. The actual character of the page should match your expectations for the page.

I then went for the simple stuff and looked at the pages with the lowest page view numbers. This isolated a group of pages that obviously were not working well, they were not landing-pages, they were not links-in-the-chain and they were not destinations at the end of a chain. These will be deleted, but the decision to do this is made based on page views rather than exit rates.

Staying with the simple factors I next looked for lowest time spent on page. I was gratified to see that these were mostly category "link-in-the-chain" pages with a high percentage of internal arrivals and a low exit rate. (I concede that a high exit rate here combined with high internal arrivals would have been a red flag warning.)

Finally I looked at my highest exit rates. These turned out to be mostly articles and directory pages. Typically these have a 70-80% exit rate, but the time on page is around 2-3 minutes. They have an internal arrivals rate of about 16%. So these pages are landing pads that serve the searchers' purpose well.

So I've used my data in a less complex way than claaaarkey, but that may be because my site is less complex than his.

If there's a rule-of-thumb to be coined here I think it would be this: As long as your higher exit rate pages also have a high time on page and low internal arrival rate, you're probably doing things right.


 1:47 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

if they use any data, its from the chrom browser


 2:02 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Zeus - see my earlier query, Matt Cutts tends to suggest that they do not collect data from Chrome.

Also where exactly does this data come from, not analytics, perhaps they buy ISP click data, chrome is the obvious answer but reading Cutt's description of what they actually collect [mattcutts.com ] I doubt it.


 2:25 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Whether or not you agree with claaarky's conclusions, don't be too quick to dismiss his process. I am serving an ever increasing mobile crowd, and once I sat down and really studied it from that point of view (which is not my own) a whole ton of weird things started making sense.


 3:09 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

A quick note for anyone wanting to understand, well, anything.

Ignore anyone telling you to ignore dissenting opinion


Here's how I'm reading this thread:

--Claarky has discovered the importance of various user metrics, which many of us have been studying for years, but perhaps not in quite the same way he's looking at them.
--Claarky is claiming these metrics are key to Panda, and others are offering both support and dissent on the details of this theory.
--Claarky is advising people to ignore others in the thread who offer dissenting (or even dissimilar) opinions, and to rely entirely on Google for traffic, because Google wants to save us time and money.

The metrics discussion is awesome. There's no question UMs can help you determine user satisfaction, and that's the key to long-term success with or without Google. I love UM discussions because someone may be getting more info out of their stats than I am, and by learning what they know, I can sharpen my ability to please visitors.

The theory that these metrics=Panda is interesting, but it has some flaws. People have been very fair and positive in pointing out these flaws. The way to make a theory iron clad is to refine it until it accounts for all recognized flaws. Then, even if it's completely morphed from where it started, you have a valuable theory that will serve you well in business. I think that's what the majority of us want from the discussion of whether these metrics are the key to Panda. (And again, even if they're not key to Panda, it's certainly helpful to study them the way Claarky is doing.)

Telling people to ignore dissenting opinion is not good business. People often wonder why huge, successful companies suddenly crash and burn, and sometimes the answer is "They stopped listening to dissenting opinion."


 3:27 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Apologies for the comment earlier. It's been really good to discuss this idea and other people's views certainly made me think deeply about whether I am on the right tracks and look more deeply at my data. My comment was that of a very, very tired man.


 3:27 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Just a quick note for anyone genuinely reading this thread and wanting solve their Panda problems.......please just read my posts and Tedster's and ignore everything else.


[edit]See the apology. Timely. Miserable comment. [/edit]


 3:36 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

What's the purpose of distinguishing between exit and bounce rate in this discussion? Though not the same, both metrics are highly correlated. Anything special about the exit rate?


 5:42 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Here's how I see it. Exit Rate captures people who saw one more than one page, but then left the site from a particular page. It might also be that they finally found what they were looking for there, that's also true. But Bounce Rate tends to be quite noisy for many, many reasons. I've seen healthy sites with bounce rates from 20% all the way up to 70% - and these were all VERY healthy sites.

Using internal Exit Rate (especially if you filter out the bounce pages) can often offer insights beyond all that Bounce Rate noise - clues about where a site is weak, shallow, thin - whatever you want to call it. And that's what you want to fix to address a Panda problem.


 7:25 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Just a quick note for anyone genuinely reading this thread and wanting solve their Panda problems.......please just read my posts and Tedster's and ignore everything else.

I've not read Tedsters earlier posts on this matter, but I am 99.9% certain, that Tedsters advice will differ greatly from your own. If Tedster has claimed exit rate is the key to Panda, I will eat my laptop.

@Tedster, in the grand scheme of things, how important do you feel this is? I have a website who's content is deemed "thin" due to the low level of textual content, but the bounce and exit rates are low.


 8:19 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

I feel that Exit Rate can be extremely useful in identifying area to "fix" for Panda, especially if you haven't been looking at it and responding to it all along. I don't feel it's something that is directly in the Panda algorithm. So I'm not surprised that some websites impacted by Panda might not show very high Exit Rates on most pages.

I think the key is that Google is trying to measure user dissatisfaction, weak content created just to get the keywords out there, or content that is essentially superficial, not distinctive or uniquely strong. Looking at your own user data should be a goad in may cases - something to bounce you out of just loving everything you've already got online.

We've got to get beyond looking at merely technical fixes and consider that it's all about engaging our visitors for real. If Exit Rate data doesn't focus you on those kind of website issues, then that's the way it is for your site - and you really do have a challenge to understand why Panda hurt you.


 8:31 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

I think the key is that Google is trying to measure user dissatisfaction, weak content created just to get the keywords out there, or content that is essentially superficial, not distinctive or uniquely strong.

And since google serps drive most of my traffic, if the users they send are dissatisfied, how is it that the content is weak, superficial, etc?

Example: I have some long articles because they deserve long treatment. If google sends me people who want one word answers to complex problems, and/or don't read well, or aren't interested in whatever, does that mean there's a problem with the content?

Should I perhaps, write another article with a similar topic made for idiots? Er...I mean, people wanting a one word answer that's worthless?

Is there a problem here?

Seems like a downward spiral toward more junk on the web, not less, in this case?

Or am I missing something?


 9:09 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

There could be such a downward spiral, it seems to me. When Google offers their users more and more of "what they want", then the risk of some kind of dumbing down is definitely with us. However, if that is happening, then the message from the market seems to be that the market doesn't want what's being offered - no matter how high the quality.

In a case like that, a site may need to find other avenues to cultivate their readership. And the paradox would be that if they're successful, then Google might notice that success and improve their rankings or change the kind of traffic it sends - by re-classifying the site into some different category.

However, I'm not convinced that long format articles would necessarily bang into a Panda problem just because of the length. I'm pretty sure there's a lot more to Panda than just user data on its own.


 9:18 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

I think you can not just say high exit or bounce rate is bad, as many sites, you get the info on the first page the user visit and then the user leaves, thats also a nice user experience. I see more bad experience, when a user stays longer on a site and going through many pages. I would say 50/50 to both sides if a user stays longer visits more pages or get what he needs on first page.


 9:58 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

I don't object to dissenting opinion. What I object to is people who say the theory is wrong because of something that is not part of my theory.

For example "I was hit by Penguin, that proves your theory is completely baseless".

It's a nonsense objection. Reasonable objections I can handle.

The user metric discussion is the heart of the idea and I agree it's the really interesting part for various reasons.

I conducted an experiment earlier this week which may be of interest. I removed two high exit rate products from a category page NOT affected by Panda because I recall the rankings of this page drop when we added them a couple of months ago. The page has been ranking 8th for the past month, no fluctuation. Today it is 7th. No SEO activity going on for that page. Could be due to some other ranking factor improving as a result but I wonder if it's because I just improved the user experience by removing those two high exit rate pages.


 10:41 pm on Jun 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

For example "I was hit by Penguin, that proves your theory is completely baseless".

And interestingly, no one ever said it. That's the second time you've twisted my words. If my arguments are so poor, why can't you defeat what I actually said? Why resort to creating a straw man you think you can beat?

What I said was that fixing my exit rate situation was met with a Penguin slap, so if your theory was correct, then it would be important to figure out of there are ways of improving the exit rate that might cause Penguin to conclude you're spamming, since it's pretty clear (particularly for the many sites who have "no manual penalty" emails from Google but still suffered from Penguin) that Penguin is not just about backlinks. It's looking at something on-page, and I'm still not sure what.

That doesn't disprove your theory, and I never said it did. It just suggests that merely improving your exit rate numbers may not be the solution to good standing with Google overall. And that's what we're after, isn't it?


 4:26 am on Jun 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have to say this is one of the more interesting threads I've recently read. I appreciate claaarky opening the discussion.

One item that I don't believe I've seen discussed is the significance of the user in relation to exit/bounce rates.

Various analytic programs record a user's entrance/time spent/exit along with other metrics.

I'd propose that all users are not the same, apologies to Orwell.

If Google is looking at systems for the future, more credit/juice/significance could be applied to a user from a metro area rather than a 1 to 1 correlation with a dialup user in a rural area.

I'm not saying one is more important than the other, but I'd suppose future growth is something they consider.


 5:51 am on Jun 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

I don't object to dissenting opinion. What I object to is people who say the theory is wrong because of something that is not part of my theory

claaarky, your theory suffers from the same flaws as any other Panda theory that has been brought so far does. They are all unfounded. All are pure speculation.

It just seems that induction logic is not the proper tool to understand Panda. Generalization of a single website analysis won't lead us anywhere. Any conclusion you will draw from your analytics - an innumerable number of counter-examples will be found. There too many factors in play.


 6:17 am on Jun 30, 2012 (gmt 0)


A freely offered theory invites people to dissect what might be correct or incorrect.
I find claaarky's concepts interesting, perhaps right, perhaps not so right, but still something to explore.
It's expanded my information gathering, can that be a "bad" thing? Probably not.


 6:27 am on Jun 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

When you believe there are too many factors in play, you accept there are too many factors for you to absorb.


 10:02 am on Jun 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

I dont get this discussion, if I build a site, I want the user to have a good experience, so I want them to find what they are looking for in no time and then they will automatically leave the site quickly again. Google search engine also want the user to find what they are looking for as quickly as possible, you see that in there rankings. The best sites are build so example a search engine find that page a user wants and not a page that link to another, then to another....then they find what they looking for, that would be a bad user experience.

So the conclusion for the best user experience is, they have to find what they are looking for in no time and leave with a smile, thats a TOP site.

I think panda is just about unique content, means you need to have text/layout that no other has and dont copy other sites with those tools, which changes some words, of cause this is a little hard for image sites, which is mostly my category, but I think when you add a little text / a few words thats maybe a good thing, but dont stuff it with all kind of bla bla no user wants to read that, they are just interested in the images, google would like bla bla, but not the visitor.


 6:17 am on Jul 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have a question about pages that people don't visit, or don't visit much from my category pages and whether they are a problem. Would appreciate views on that.

As we go through this process of weeding out low quality pages (improving or removing) we're noticing that Google seems to like pages that most people navigate to from within our site, and those pages seem to receive more traffic from Google.

But our stats only show the pages people have visited. I'm not sure what role the pages people DON'T visit play in the whole quality picture.

Any thoughts anyone?


 11:35 am on Jul 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Claaarky - your (one of many) realisations was regarding page load speed. This is absolutely something I've become obsessed with in the last two years and it shouldn't be underestimated.


 12:39 pm on Jul 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

@ claaarky
Any thoughts anyone?

I don't see real difference between these 4 metrics:
1. High BR + low time on page
2. High exit rate + low time on page
3. High BR + High exit rate + low time on page
4. Zero traffic pages

These are the poorest pages.
Zero traffic pages are pages that are poorly written OR their titles have no SEO value OR the kw competition is too high etc etc.


 1:06 pm on Jul 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Zero traffic pages are pages that are poorly written OR their titles have no SEO value OR the kw competition is too high etc etc.

Low or zero traffic pages can also be of very high quality for a subject of very limited interest. We have a whole section of pages written by an expert in an obscure aspect of European history that get very few visits but are high quality and in their way unique.


 1:12 pm on Jul 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Zivush, thanks for that. I was meaning pages that are not visited by people already on the site. Is that how you were thinking?

I'm not sure if your point 4 refers to internal visitors or Entrances.

I think we may have too many products on some of our category pages and perhaps that's why people aren't finding their way to them. We're removing the ones that people don't like which will help reduce the numbers on one page. Just not sure whether to keep the pages people haven't been visiting to see if the smaller number of products help them get found, or just remove them for now and perhaps reintroduce once we can see the other products are going down well with customers.

Many thanks.


 3:37 pm on Jul 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hmm, high BR/Exit + low time on page is certainly better than low BR/Exit + low time on page. The former means a user quickly found what he was looking for and left, the latter means - that was just a doorway page!


 4:13 pm on Jul 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Zero traffic pages are pages that are poorly written OR their titles have no SEO value OR the kw competition is too high etc etc.

This is true in terms of a lack of search traffic. But if your pages are getting no traffic at all - no one's linking them or sharing them socially or anything - it could also be people find the page not relevant to the rest of what your site's about.

Example: your site is about growing tomatoes, and it includes articles about growing them as well as sales pages with products that help. You include an article about donating excess tomatoes to local charities, but apparently your readers either aren't growing excess tomatoes, or they already have people to give them away to, or they already know about the charities, or they don't care about the charities. So no one visits this page.

This will overlap some with what Rasputin is talking about: your page on donating tomatoes to charity may be fantastic, but if people visiting your site feel it's out of place or not of interest, then it won't get much traffic.


 6:02 pm on Jul 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

I was meaning pages that are not visited by people already on the site. Is that how you were thinking?
I'm not sure if your point 4 refers to internal visitors or Entrances.

Yes. I meant entrances.
As said by Rasputin, sometimes good articles don't get much exposure because of no real interest on the topic, but also could be missing targeted SEO titles.
Writing articles for the sake of writing while not having any good search volume basis isn't my business.
Many bloggers do that and it might be good when having some readership.
Some readers these days are looking for a community experience.. This is not my cap of tea to make the daily bla bla bla.

As for Internal visitors,
If pages are buried and they hardly get internal traffic, this is one thing, which relates to poor site navigation.
If pages aren't buried and still don't get visits, this is another thing and as indicated by diberry, they may suffer lack of interest by readers.

All in all, Let's suppose that the 'total exit rate' and the 'total bounce rate' is part of the equation - Total amounts are factors.

What's better? 1000 not so good or 100 super duper valuable.
p.s. my English is not 100%. Sorry.


 6:23 pm on Jul 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

I've dipped in and out of this thread a few times and would like to sum up my thoughts:

1. I think Claarky might be on to something here but I don't think it's the whole picture

2. When some of my sites were pandalised in 2.1 I was outraged. My sites all have unique, decent quality content. Content farm? No way! However if we start looking for a metric that is suggesting to Google, low quality, even though to a real person it may be decent quality, then that makes sense.

3. What we're looking at is "how is Google measuring sites to be panadalized". The fact that a site can be good even with a high exit rate is not actually relevant to this discussion

4. I think Panda is FAR more complex than mere bouncerate or exit rate. It could include + or - weightings for number of words, uniqueness of content, whether the user goes to a checkout page, where the person goes next, how long the page takes to load etc etc etc. This means that for SOME people the exit rate is only one factor.

5. It may be that Panda doesn't use exit rate per se, but that for some sites the results of measuring exit rate coincides quite accurately with the metrics that Google does use and that therefore the raw exit rate data is a useful indicator in these cases.

5. I always think of Google as a blunt instrument. There always seems to be collateral damage - websites that get hit that shouldn't. I have sites that were affected by Panda that did have a high exit rate and so would fit the theory here. However others didn't have an unduly high exit or bounce rate and I'm still puzzled as to what was wrong with them.

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