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PANDA International - Data on Winners & Losers

     
2:10 am on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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This afternoon the SearchMetrics blog released their data on the international wave of the Panda Update - affecting English Language search. The article includes data for 100 losers and 20 winners, along with some dramatic graphs.

The data was collated between the 5th & 12th of April 2011 and we can definitely confirm that the update has hit the UK – in a big way.

Surprising is that ehow.co.uk and ehow.com has lost more than 50% in visibility and the alarm bells are probably going off at Qype.co.uk who’ve lost a whopping 96%! A lot of price comparison sites like ciao.co.uk (in a lawsuite with Google) and dooyoo.co.uk also lost nearly 90% of visibility. [blog.searchmetrics.com...]

This thread is for discussing the data - if you wish to share editorial opinion, positive or critical, please post in our other thread: Google PANDA rolls out WorldWide [webmasterworld.com]
2:50 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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@indyank So you did recover and the only thing you did was remove adsense?
5:49 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Interesting to see eHow getting hit in the UK - when it wasn't hit in the US version.

I wonder if the new version of the algorithm will roll out in the States and hit eHow - or if they've been "whitelisted" (for now at least):

Big investors who bought into the billion dollar IPO might be unhappy if the company suddenly becomes worthless - and might start asking if Google has a little too much power...
6:10 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I'm not buying any of the conspiracy theories. Not a one. Here's what I see.

For several years people were getting more and more of a handle on how the Google algo worked. This gave rise to the algorithmic creation of content - made for Google, not for users. This became embarrassing and counter-productive - Google was in a feedback loop with content farming. The web was getting crappier and crappier because of it.

This picture seemed clear to me and several people I confer with regularly. Google absolutely HAD to do something about it, and last year they started in on a mega project to add an entirely new kind of element into the algorithm - one that could disrupt the destructive feedback loop.

The first Panda Update and Layer Two are just the earliest baby steps of this new algorithm piece. It will be with us from now on, and it will evolve. Getting this right will be an intensive focus at Google for the rest of this year and beyond. Because the business model that content farming uses is essentially "Made For Adsense", Panda lost Google both ad revenue and market share. And they are willing to take that hit in the short term, in order to counter the long term threat to their core competence.

No, they don't have it "right" yet - they just have a start that is a little bit right with a good bit of crazy still in the mix. Creating an algorithm that can blend a new "quality" module with the existing "relevance" and "popularity" pieces is a massive innovation.

This Layer Two that just rolled out came with some interesting comments from Google that I'm still digesting. Most intriguing to me was Amit Singhal's comment:

In addition, this change also goes deeper into the "long tail" of low-quality websites to return higher-quality results where the algorithm might not have been able to make an assessment before. The impact of these new signals is smaller in scope than the original change: about 2% of U.S. queries are affected by a reasonable amount, compared with almost 12% of U.S. queries for the original change.

[googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com...]
What is this kind of "long tail"? Is there a query specific component to Panda? Or is he speaking about some other kind of long tail - maybe the changes in user data signals that made further machine learning possible?
6:14 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Sistrix has now released their data. In the big picture, it lines up with the SearchMetrics data:

Google Panda on its way to Europe [sistrix.com]
6:17 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Am I the only person in the world never to have heard of ehow before Panda?

I lead a sheltered life at times:-)
6:20 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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This list confirms that ehow was whitelisted in US.
6:28 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Tedster - yes, I picked up on that quote too - and thought it was very interesting.

I read it that the new version was going to be looking at sites it had previously decided were "Low Quality" - and trying to create a more nuanced evaluation based on deeper analysis of more of their pages.

Which might indicate that Panda is quite expensive in CPU cycles, and it might take a while to re-process and re-evaluate sites. (Which is what we're seeing, with nobody coming out yet).
6:43 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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This list confirms that ehow was whitelisted in US

I still hold by our previous discussion about "no whitelist" [webmasterworld.com] and I don't see anything in this new data to counter it.
8:32 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Dan01, well it can only hurt you or be neutral, can it? There is no "This site is awesome button".


I think that is a good point. They (the SEs) used to look for ways to see a site or page in a positive light (like Page Rank). Now it is the opposite. Perhaps that is a response to SEO companies gaming the system. Google was pretty upset at JCPenny and others who took advantage of them (although Panda was in the works long before JCPenny got caught).
8:56 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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To hit all price comparison sites as hard is just bullying many of us put up as much original unique content as we can to give the visitor as much help and choice as possible its in our own interest to give the visitor as much info as possible and yes we get paid but the visitor has an informed choice of who gives them value for money and where to buy.
Google see an affiliate link and thinks we are all just sharks.
Just like Google we are here to make a living, offer people a service and they can stay or leave our site with informed information, unlike goggle that just let them see who they want to, you have to ask yourself who really is the biggest beneficiary of this update.
10:00 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I still hold by our previous discussion about "no whitelist" [webmasterworld.com] and I don't see anything in this new data to counter it.

So if there are no "whitelist" exceptions to what you believe, it probably says that Google saw no reason to apply that. It's a very confident move on their part.

But i can't believe there isn't some collateral damage, and I am seeing some sites with little original content still holding traffic - so there must be a thin line.
10:14 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Just like Google we are here to make a living


Google's job is not to provide people a living, it's to offer good search results for users. If a price comparison site (or an ecommerce site) isn't any better than the rest or doesn't offer something clearly unique, Google has no reason to give it a better position in its index than all the other countless similar sites.
11:39 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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If a price comparison site (or an ecommerce site) isn't any better than the rest

Generally, Google is not able to discern a good deal from a bad deal in e-commerce. So the issue is not about "value" - indeed comparison engines are important where Google cannot yet do this.

It's more about the quality of the content, how the user interacts with a site, and this is what Google's algorithmn is better able to determin.
11:53 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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how the user interacts with a site, and this is what Google's algorithmn is better able to determin.
really ? we get loads of emails and phone calls a day - still been hit
12:48 am on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I am saying adsense is one among several other factors. If your site with no adsense had been hit, it could be the other reasons. But a site with adsense ads at inappropriate positions do get hit. Since I wasn't sure of where to position them, I removed them completely and it worked.


@indyank:

How long after you removed all the ads did your rankings fully recover?

I'm surprised some sites like suite101.com, which Matt Cutts referenced after it got hit, still haven't moved or removed any of their ads. They have three Adsense units/page and the first one is in a top left column where you expect to see navigation links.

[edited by: potentialgeek at 12:51 am (utc) on Apr 14, 2011]

12:50 am on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Generally, Google is not able to discern a good deal from a bad deal in e-commerce. So the issue is not about "value" - indeed comparison engines are important where Google cannot yet do this.

In addition to where its cheaper, they also have original reviews on stores and products. In fact those reviews are so good that Google takes them from the sites it sends to no mans's land.

Looks like Google can't stand others making 'easy' money.


Adsense is a factor, Google engineers have mentioned them already ('does this site have too many ads?'). If you make a little bit from them, don't risk it it, remove them or try other networks. In my hit site I had two of them but disabled <!-- --> . With my luck that didn't matter, depending how Google searched for the adsense string. On two naturally thin sites that I got 30% more traffic I have no adsense.
12:58 am on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I found it interesting that back in mid-March, JohnMu said that ads are not a big part of the algorithm. It seems to contradict some earlier advice we were given about working on our ad/content ratio, particularly ads above the fold. John's comment really seems to point toward the "beauty factor" and likability.

For our algorithms, ads generally don't play a big role. However, they can play a role with your visitors. If your visitors are pulled in to your site, feel welcome, and love browsing around in it, then they're much more likely to recommend your site to their friends...


[google.com...]
1:19 am on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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From all my observations it seems the new algo is part based on the way Watson came up with answers on Jeopardy which is a very story based way of thinking.

Look at all the clues G has given - the old "did you mean this" that came out last year was a good clue. Consider all the contextual word association meaning patents G has and is heavily using.

On a very simple level - look at the keyword results the keyword tool returns for a query. If you have lists of relevant words for a keyword from last year and compare it to this year, they are most likely not the same. This shows the "learning" level of the algorithm and how the associations of one word to the next have changed.

If you get your hands on a document analyzer, you put the doc into it and it tells you all the relevant themes and the strength and relationship of those themes and the story signature of the content. You don't even have to read the doc to be able to talk about it intelligently. My belief that is that is what G is doing and relating that to Watson's mind's working as this sniffs out the "story" the user is looking for.

This way of thinking is beyond the technical feed back loop of using keywords and creating content around those but engaging in the story around the keywords both on the site and off the site. Social media is telling the story around relevance of the keywords to the story the user wants to explore and which G wants to give. It is my view that is how the algo now works around incoming links and social media relevance. This is why real sites based around relevant topics with user engagement on and off the site were not hit. It also shows why the so called content farms and others that fall under the old technical thinking of keywords were hit.

I have been studying this for 11 months now since hit by mayday which I believe was the first implementation of this way of working and started dialoging with people in the "story" end of seo thinking and now I agree and that is my conclusion. Needless to say, I am approaching SEO in a different way now. I am not dropping the old but putting my mind into the new for here on in.
1:34 am on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Victor1,

I have been testing the waters with regard to keyword, phrase-based scoring/relevance. I am finding enormous differences, for example, in my ranking for singular vs. plural forms and I can't figure out why, just from reading the page. It flows naturally (based on what I know to be natural), because it was written to be truly informative for my users (not just written for keyword rankings). For some reason, Google is evaluating it differently, and in some cases throwing me -500 for a big two-word phrase, but top 10 for some singular nouns (3+ word phrases). Page 3 or higher for plural variants.
1:46 am on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Isn't his going to hurt google earnings, if sites start to pull their adsense ads? That would be a big wakeup call if webmasters started to use bing/yahoo ads instead. After all adsense generates more revenue than google's search engine revenue. Thats because adsense is on millions of web pages.
1:53 am on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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That would be a big wakeup call if webmasters started to use bing/yahoo ads instead.

They can only do that in the USA ..and the UK alone accounts for over 10% of Google's total ad revenue..

I've been saying it for years here ..if Bing /MS and Yahoo want to be serious about search and engaging webmaster goodwill ..they must open to non USA publishers fast ..and stop just making vague promises to do so ..'til they do..why should we switch to using them for our searches ..or promote them to anyone ?

@Victor1 ..very well thought out post ..if it were on a site you owned somewhere I would link straight to it as highly relevant and try to add to the "story" ..there are even many ways to describe this shift in emphasis from Google, whereas under a pure keyword linking system we could just let anchor text do the work ..now "discussion" the more the merrier and the greater the depth the more useful, this way is more relevant both to us and to our ends and eventually to our users.

I just wish the vectors did not involve facebook, the ethos and the approach of which, I loathe.
2:10 am on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Isn't his going to hurt google earnings, if sites start to pull their adsense ads?

I'm pretty sure it already has. It's a short term loss to preserve their core business long term. I don't even think the Adsense team knew it was coming.

There are several reasons I'm pretty sure about this, but just looking through the lists for some of the big losers makes it clear how common Adsense has been for a monetization method.
2:33 am on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I'm pretty sure it already has. It's a short term loss to preserve their core business long term. I don't even think the Adsense team knew it was coming.


Agreed ..it really does appear on many occasions , especially this one that the adsense people are not included in some "loops" at Google .that would make sense as at least one incarnation of ASA here over the years has said that they ( the particular ASA ) had an adsense account themselves ..

The only way that this would be possible without a conflicts of interest would be if the adsense team were kept very much apart from many decisions and policy areas and particularly Matt's team.

Lot of people here rial ( sp? ) at them ( in the abstract ) as in "but adsense said I could" or "they have been pushing" etc ..I think with regards to adsense that Google is caught between a rock and a hard place as are their reps and the ASA's here..

They don't want to be accused of never ever responding or explaining ..even if it is never to particular request for aid on particular sites ..but ..if they give any detail it will be abused..and that may be a risk even within their own personnel ..any hint of it would cause a scandal that could destroy the company's credibility..

I wonder sometimes if adsense , even if viewed buy Google at the highest level ie; Larry and Sergey and maybe even Eric may not be a Pandora's box that they wish they had not opened..it may well not last ..even with what appear to be their draconian policies to many with regards to termination of accounts ..it is IMO their one major point of vulnerability ..

Inspite of the revenue it generates for them ..I wonder if they would rather not just shut it down and bring it all back under their inhouse control one day ..maybe this is in fact why MS and Y have not expanded ..maybe the head ache is greater than the rewards and risk to all of them and one day MS and Y along with Google will just remove publisher ad programs except from their own properties or highly trusted corps.

I think one day they may just switch it off and say ..back to ads on the serps only..

In their position ..I would ..
2:38 am on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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That said, it is clear from these four lists that Panda did not directly target Adsense sites - or any particular ad program.
2:45 am on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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This is to all those who asked whether removing adsense helped.

This is a small site and the content had no issues AFAIK. But it did have three adsense blocks above fold. I decided to remove them, as adsense was not important for this site.It did recover after the removal.

But there is no way I can conclude that the direct reason was adsense.I also don't believe that adsense is the only part of this algo.It could have worked for this site as it might be in line with "Google quality" otherwise.

crobb305, this one is an extremely useful share.

For our algorithms, ads generally don't play a big role. However, they can play a role with your visitors. If your visitors are pulled in to your site, feel welcome, and love browsing around in it, then they're much more likely to recommend your site to their friends...


I believe that if it can play a role with visitors then it can definitely influence Google too, as they had been all along claiming to pick user signals.The above quote do indicate something on bounce rate, no. of pages per unique visit, time spent per visit and so on.

crobb305, where did you pick this?
3:19 am on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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The above quote do indicate something on bounce rate, no. of pages per unique visit, time spent per visit and so on.


All these metrics have only gone worse since Panda, which means the traffic I get from their new algorithm is actually lower quality than before. Now I'm getting punished in Panda 2 because of Panda 1? Great.
3:38 am on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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koan, are you saying your site wasn't affected in panda 1 but you got pulled down in the worldwide update?
3:44 am on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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My site was affected in Panda 1, and then some more in Panda 2. After Panda 1, bounce rates went up, page views went down, time on page went down, etc. If user metrics are being used, I'm being penalized for being penalized.
3:47 am on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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crobb305, where did you pick this?

Indyank,

I think you're asking where I found that quote? It was a statement made by JohnMu from Google on the Google Webmaster Central forum back on March 13, in direct reply to a webmaster's question. You can find it here (4th paragraph of his response) [google.com...]

I also found a brief write up on seroundtable [seroundtable.com...] that compared John's comments with those from Matt Cutts (although not entirely contradictory, they both keep saying to focus on the user experience, but Matt was more specific about ad placements). I still don't know exactly what to take from it with regard to ad frequency, but my gut is telling me to follow the trails of beautification, likability, and credibility (i.e., the website credibility studies and possible quality/trust signals that can be algorithmically determined -- see thread linked below).

I am not focusing on my ads as much as I am the layout, look, certifications (SSL certification, Privacy, Hackersafe, ANYTHING that can be deemed a signal of quality/trust). I am also improving my link structure of my articles to hyperlink a bit more frequently within my articles to keep visitors on my site, going to additional relevant content (rather than my old format of just presenting the article with external reference links at the end).

I did delete about 30% of my affiliate links (there weren't many to begin with -- only a couple of affiliate links existed on 5 out of 110 pages), but some were flat out useless, making $0 epc, so why even risk having them?

Some interesting ideas I am studying: [webmasterworld.com...]

Still no ranking improvement, but I didn't drop any further on the second update Monday. Traffic is about the same.
4:18 am on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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How many content farms have you seen which don't have Adsense? The content farms only exist because they make their money off Adsense and/or other ad networks/affiliates.

I don't see how it can't be a clue in the algo to low-quality sites.

Google may lose some money from the Panda update or the wealth could be redistributed from one publisher with Adsense to another with Adsense.

But Google still makes most of its money off SE ads, so they have to take the risk of losing Adsense Network ad revenue. Last time I looked Google made about 80% from SE ads and 20% from Network ads.
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