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Analyze Panda Losers That Don't Fit The Mold



5:55 pm on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

So we've had two iterations of Panda now, and with each iteration has come a publish list of the biggest losers. We all know, if we're honest, that a lot of the losers on those lists deserved to lose and lost for obvious reasons.

The point of this thread is to pick out the sites from those lists which DO NOT fit that mold, sites which it's not obvious why they lost, and figure out why they were hit.

In doing so, maybe we'll understand why Panda has hit so many here who don't seem to deserve it either. Here's the list of sites to discuss, I suggest we take them one at a time and simply go down the list one at a time and each list reasons we think each site might have been Pandalized. Once we think we've come up for an explanation for that site, we check it off and move on to the next one:



3:12 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member whitey is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

There may be some offsite factors as well analysed here:

I'm just reporting a phenonomen that might provide a clue on the quality signals.[webmasterworld.com ]


6:26 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

...i asked that in a different thread already but it fits here too, according to searchmetrics and sistrix, ehow.com has gained, and ehow.co.uk has dropped,they have as far as i can see the same layout, content etc..., so whats going on, has it nothing to do with onpage at all?


7:00 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

Anyone up for analyzing another site off the list?

What about:


Any thing obvious there that we think might have caused them to be Pandalized?


7:03 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

RE: Popcrunch

While Blogcritics was obviously kind of a messy, haphazard site, sites like Popcrunch and cinemablend seem like they're actually a pretty clean sites to me.

Has the standard banner ads that other sites in their area (already highlighted here) which were not hit have.

The big difference between them and the ones we've analyzed is maybe that their content is VERY image heavy. They use a lot of very large images in their content.

One thing they definitely have in common with cinemablend and blogcritics and technorati is that they have a LOT of internal links on their pages.

Actually, this seems to be a very common theme on ALL the loser sites. They all have TONS of internal links.


7:50 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

ok, I just spent the last 6 hours reviewing all the published losers of this panda update. I looked at them all looking for that one common denominator. I then also looked at sites that weren't hit. For example many times people say "why was this site hit by panda, but this site was not, and this site is pretty much the same as that site"

Well I did comparisons and the main thing that sticks out is that all the sites that were hit by panda have ads usually blended in the content but they are not labeled as ads or there is a lack of attempt by the website to help distinguish the ads from the content. Google wants to be rid of MFA sites, when you think of a MFA site you think of a site with content and ads blended in so well that the ads look like links / recommendations from the actual site.

Sites that were not effected have there ads clearly labeled as "advertisement" and many even have a background or a separator to help identify it as an ad.

Go down the list, how many of the affected site have there advertisements labeled as such?

If ads do play a role in this update, labeling your ads is a great way to not confuse your readers especially when they are embedded in your articles.

So to all of those that were hit by panda, are your ads labeled as advertisements?


8:45 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)


>>Go down the list, how many of the affected site have there advertisements labeled as such?

Most ad providers don't allow you to do that. I believe Adsense in particular prohibits it. It's a violation. So basically almost NO site will do that, at least not for all their ads. Not just the ones that were hit by Panda.

Regarding blending, it's the same thing. Adsense basically tells you that you have to blend their ads into the content. So almost all Adsense sites do that.

In fact many of the winners do the things you listed.


Both of those are near the top of the winners list and do both of the things you mentioned.


9:03 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Ad companies dont allow you to mark the advertisements as advertisements? I have dealt with many advertising agencies and that was NEVER the case. In fact my current one requires me to label the ads as such.

you are proving my point shatner. mirror.co.uk clearly labels there ads:

"Advertisement - article continues below "

thisismoney.co.uk is a far cry from most of the other hit sites, only 3 ads on an article page, and there adsense ad appears below the comments and has a border, unlike most of the others who have an ad at the start and bottom of the article.

I have been doing SEO for over 14 years and full time for about 6. I have owned literally over 500 websites. I have recovered over 60 websites successfully from google penalties. I have had a ton of MFA websites most notably myspace type websites (I bought my first house at the ripe age of 22 from my myspace layout website). I used to deceive visitors to click on the adsense and yahoo ads. I was the inventor of many creative methods to trick clicks. Do you remember when people used to place icons next to adsense ads? I was the one who came up with that.

Needless to say I dont want to toot my own horn but I have more than paid my dues, I know what a MFA website looks and feels like.

Is this the only factor? heck no! there are many factors that go into it..its never cut and dry. I can look at a site and say "wow, I really respect them for doing that" because I know how much it drives leads down when you label an ad an ad.

I can explain most of the pandalized sites. Doesnt mean I will always be right, but I bet you I am pretty close.


9:22 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)




9:27 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

i think people are clutching at straws when they try and work out what the problem is.
how can you judge the quality of a site on whether the ads are on the left, right or above the fold? or whether its got a banner at the top? its nuts. the ads have got absolutely zero to do with the actual content.

would you judge the quality of two newspapers based on which one had the more ads? would amazon suddenly be a worse shop than Jon's Junk Store if they put a few more ads on it.

the idea that google would demote hundreds and thousands of sites simply because they had a few more ads on them is crazy. google knows full well that less ads does not equate to more quality. in fact, i would say that the complete opposite is more likely to be true.

rubbish sites cant attract the same kinds of ads that a big player can. and bigger sites need more ads to pay for all their staff.


9:27 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

@nano +2?

welcome to the forums. Its not usually a smart idea to come out and say "I know the exact reason" anything happened because nobody really does, even when I recover a site, I dont know the exact reasoning, but I know enough and follow trends and apply trial and error until I get a better understanding or until google sees I have done enough to warrant a get out of jail free card.

Panda is still new, its not a simple algo change, theres likely a lot to it that only google engineers themselves only know.


9:37 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

londrum, googles algo update targets content farms or made for adsense sites. Why do people create these kinds of sites? For the fun of it? No, so they can profit off of them, how do they profit off them? the ads. The more clicks they get the more money they earn. This is why placement of the ads is so critical. The typical MFA site will try to blend the ads in so well with their content it will be almost seamless. Many times these content farms do have unique content, but it is so bad that users are so desperate for the information they click on the adsense ads thats embedded in the article.

Imagine you're looking for a cure for smelly feet. You land on a MFA site that has an article about smelly feet. The article is so useless and boring, but then you see a line of text that says "Have smelly feet? try our all natural cure" you will probably click on it.

you're telling me that if you read an article and theres ads above, to the sides, and in the article, that doesnt take away from the quality? Thats a big factor for me. I personally will avoid sites that run too many ads. It slows the site down, it draws my attention away from the actual content and just reduces my experience on that site. Most of these sites have 4 or more ads listed on content pages, there is no need for that many ads on a given page.

ads and content farms go hand and hand. If anyone believes ads do not factor in to this then find me a legit website that got hit that has no ads on there articles. You will not find one.

[edited by: brinked at 9:46 am (utc) on Apr 16, 2011]


9:44 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)


Weird, I am looking at mirror.uk right now and I don't see any "this is an ad" label on most of their ads. or do you just mean the ones inside the articles? Because the 728x90 and the 160x600 ads for instance aren't labeled at all.

If you just mean ads mixed inside content then that's different.

However here are examples of sites which were NOT hit which don't follow your rule:

They have ads inside their content on their posts and do not label them at all.

But they weren't on the winners list, just no on the no effect list.

I can find lots of "no effect" sites that break your rule, but you're right... on the winners list all of them either do not have ads in their content, or they have in there but clearly label them as "ads".

On the other hand many on the losers list have ads inside their content, and do not label them as ads.

Genius brinked. I think we may have stumbled upon the very first, confirmed Google Panda factor. It's obviously NOT the only one (which is probably why some sites have no effect even with this) but it definitely seems like this could be one of the factors.


9:48 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

@nano Panda is more than one thing, so even if you have discovered one of the Panda algo factors, telling webmasters to fix that one thing probably won't help them. Plus right now the Panda penalty seems to be ignoring changes/improvements so even if you do have the right thing and webmasters fix it, they probably won't see any improvement at all so you can't prove it.


9:49 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

but if you're targeting content farms then there is a far better way of doing it: by looking at the content.

if the content is the same as stuff on other sites, or just consists of reprinted RSS feeds, then google KNOWS that its a content farm.

but google CANT tell that by looking at the ads. its a red herring.

the site might have a hundred ads on each page, but until google looks at the actual content on it, they dont know whether its original good stuff or just scrapped junk.

the fact that content farms and MFA sites frequently have lots of ads on them is leading people to believe that its the ads themselves that are the problem. but im guessing that they are just a red herring -- its the content thats the problem.

think about it... if the MFA sites removed all the ads tomorrow, would that make them a better site? of course not. the content is still junk. but people are suggesting that as a cure to their woes.

[edited by: londrum at 9:55 am (utc) on Apr 16, 2011]

Robert Charlton

9:52 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

In agreement with brinked, and forgive me if I'm departing from the list of losers posted at the beginning of this thread, but I've looked at many of them and they fit this mold. This is from a post I made on Feb 25... [webmasterworld.com...] ...in reaction to the early changes I saw, and it discusses why excessive and deceptively placed ads may be one of the factors involved.

IMO, there are other factors. I'll try to get in step with Shatner's agenda for discussing those.

...AdSense links trying to draw clicks were interspersed among the the questions and non-answers. On the results I'm now seeing returned, most of that junk, at any rate, is at least 30 spots lower.

I'm sure these AdSense links got a large share of clicks which pulled people off the sites fairly quickly. While these probably resulted in more immediate AdSense income to the site owners, they perhaps also provided a not good satisfaction signal to Google in the long run.

For the queries I've run, I'm seeing the pages now at the top providing much more useful information. Many of the newly surfaced pages still run AdSense, but, on many of these higher quality pages, the styling of the ads is different. The pages which are designed to keep users around have the ads in clearly delineated boxes with tinted backgrounds. Some of the best have the ads physically separated from the discussion.

There are multiple reasons that I'm assuming that user behavior was a factor in this update, but this is one of them. I don't think that Google is directly looking at AdSense styling or placement... but it's likely that the intention of design and of the overall site, to the degree that page design may have affected user involvement, was measured and factored into the new algorithm....


9:52 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

@londrum Then how do you explain every single site in the winners having ads clearly labeled as "ads" (or they have no ads in their content at all) and nearly every single site in the losers does not have "ads" labeled as ads?

Hard to believe that's a coincidence.

Obviously it's not the ONLY thing Google is considering but it seems kind of likely that it's one of those things. Even though you're right, they SHOULD have better ways but apparently not.

Look at the sites listed here as anomoly sites. Most of them have good content, so obviously there are other things in play. Don't just assume it's always content. For some sites is, but others not.


9:58 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

shatner, of course there are exceptions. Google probably sees slashfilm as being high enough quality to not be effected. there are so many factors we will never see. slashfilm doesnt have ads at the start and end of the articles. It has it in the middle of the articles but theres enough content to offset the ad.

There are certain patterns that many (not all) the effected sites have. I know exactly why my site was hit, and hopefully in a few weeks I can come back to brag about how I recovered. I just have a feel for any given site, I am a very good judge of character when it comes to websites.

Again, there are so many factors that go into this, I am not saying this is the only factor, but I think its a strong one. We are not fully examining these sites, so who knows what other underlying issues that have.

@londrum so you're saying that google has a system to detect what articles are quality and which are not? I hire a writer who is extremely talented, I pay him $150 per 500 word article, I only use him when I want something done right as he is the best writer I know. He writes for many websites and he has showed me at least half a dozen sites he writes for that were hit by panda. If google thinks his content is poor then google needs to re evaluate themselves.

If you think google can detect which content is truly useful for a reader then you are giving google way too much credit. They my be able to spot obvious poorly written articles, but there are severe limitations on anything like that they can produce.

[edited by: brinked at 10:01 am (utc) on Apr 16, 2011]


10:00 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Then how do you explain every single site in the winners having ads clearly labeled as "ads" (or they have no ads in their content at all) and nearly every single site in the losers does not have "ads" labeled as ads?

but how can you use that as a pointer to the quality of a site? if google are ranking sites based on whether the word "ads" appears above the ads then their algo is completely screwed.

that is a good example of how i think people are clutching at straws

If you think google can detect which content is truly useful for a reader then you are giving google way too much credit.

of course they can. that is old school search engine stuff. they work it out by a variety of methods including the amount of backlinks it gets, how much time a user spends reading it, what the bounce out rate is, how many return visits it gets...
but whether an ad appears above it is not one of them


10:07 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

londrum. no no no, that is completely not the point. Its about deception. Is the website trying to draw attention to the ads? here are the potential factors:

1. ad placement. Are the ads placed in areas that diminish the readability of the article?

2. Number of ads. are the number of ads on a content page overwhelming? Do they ruin the user experience by drawing attention off the content and on the ads?

3. transparency. Are these ads marked or presented in a way that it is known to the reader that they are not ads? I may click on an ad believing its part of the site and then taken to a non trust worthy 3rd party site where they will bill me for something.

I was banned numerous times by adsense and YPN for wrongfully disguising the ads. They lead to unwanted clicks and dimish the quality of a given page.


10:12 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

londrum I do not read too many websites on the web. I am very picky and do not tolerate poorly written articles.

technorati, cinemablend and computerweekly are sites I occasionally read and enjoy. There content is unique and high quality. If these sites didnt have quality unique content, they would not be as reputable as they are today.

I have sites written by people who do not speak english as a native language, that do not even come close to the quality of copy on these listed site, and my sites were not hit...are you saying that my sites are better written than these listed sites?

google does not use bounce rate, I have stated many times I wish they did! All of these sites thrive at having a loyal user base and return visitors, you cant deny that. The quality of the content itself is not the issue. If it was, 90% of the web would be pandalized.


10:30 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

popcrunch has 9 banner ads on there content pages. i would say that alone is reason enough.


11:57 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

The Ad question is a good one. That is another question that should be asked to Matt Cutts. Unless we were in on the design of Panda, we are all just speculating. Nothing seems to fit the mold perfectly.

Does the Google algorithm look for the word "Advertisement" above or below an ad? That is an important question and there shouldn't be a problem answering it.

I feel like we are a bunch of blind men standing around an elephant. We all "see" it differently.


11:59 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

but if you're targeting content farms then there is a far better way of doing it: by looking at the content.

I think there is an easy way for Google to determine a low-quality content farm. Look at the outbound links. If there are a lot of low quality out-bound links, it is a low-quality content farm.

But I am just speculating here. I doubt Google would demote sites that have Adsense on them.

Also, is there a formula for ads above the fold? What percentage of space? Computers don't just "look" at a website and say, this is quality. There are quantitative factors involved. I bet Matt would answer that question - why keep it a secret? The goal is to improve the content out there.


1:38 pm on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

> Does the Google algorithm look for the word "Advertisement" above or below an ad? That is an important question and there shouldn't be a problem answering it.

It is an important question; I've complained for ages that Google itself doesn't put the Google Ads tag above all its own Adsense blocks.

There are so many sneaky webmasters who have tried every book in the trick to get clicks on ads. Engineers could construct some decent algos after only one day or researching sites with Adsense.

The top three tricks are probably:

1) Ads on the left side where you expect the navigation menu.

2) Ads filling up the screen before the content (two or three consecutive blocks).

3) Ads with the same font and size as the site's text links.

> I think there is an easy way for Google to determine a low-quality content farm. Look at the outbound links. If there are a lot of low quality out-bound links, it is a low-quality content farm.

You're probably onto something there. Be careful who you link to.

> Also, is there a formula for ads above the fold? What percentage of space?

I'm pretty sure the math isn't very complicated. You just need to know a little css; the average user's screen size; and then you can start writing the code.

Google of course is already using code to get webpage screenshots. Imagine what a PhD could do with that to parse it and guess user experience.

My own guess on the algo is that it evaluates the landing page experience primarily for text and navigation. If the user can't see the text above the fold because of ads or images, they may leave instantly; and Google assumes some responsibility for that. If she can't see how to navigate, then it's another bad user experience via Google.

I work on a 1600x1200 screen so I need to adjust it to see how most visitors see pages.


5:38 pm on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I am someone with a site which got Pandalized.

Here are the quality issues that I can see on my own site objectively (as a visitor, not a webmaster / SEO)

1. I have ads on the left (Google ad reps told me its great)
2. Above the fold, 65 % of the area is Adsense and adlinks. The headline and the content are large enough, and people like the typography enough to let me know that.
3. I don't distract them - I need the ad revenue, and therefore, the related stories - which could improve my bounce rate - are at the end of the stories, not in the right sidebar where they would distract the user from the ads on the left.
4. Ads are not labeled as advertisements. Google in fact tells us to blend the ads well. Well, google Adsense tells us. Thats not probably what search quality team wants.

Overall, this has worked for me. Till now. Regular readers ignored the ads and liked the clean font and content, and SE visitors clicked on ads a lot more than comparable websites. I thought all was good and everyone was happy.

But if revenue was not so important to me, I would have added related posts to improve engagement, added facebook widget to drive people to become fans, and removed adlinks. I hate adsense from a design point of view absolutely. But I have reasonably high quality, unique content and I made money and regular readers were happy.

If I could run a site and survive with quality, I would do it and get rid of all Adsense right this moment.


6:45 pm on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

>>>I think there is an easy way for Google to determine a low-quality content farm. Look at the outbound links. If there are a lot of low quality out-bound links, it is a low-quality content farm.

None of the sites we've examined so far have that. So that's wrong.

EVERYONE: Let's keep the discussion in context of applying these theories to the sites being specifically discussed in this thread. This is not a place for general, wild, theories.

If you have a Panda theory, take a look at the sites listed in the first post of this thread, and see if they support your theory.


6:49 pm on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

A quick recap of the things we've confirmed so far about most of these "don't fit the mold" sites:

1. Most of them contain high quality content... in the sense that they are well written, not mass produced content farms, and are well respected within their industry. If Google is trying to target content farms, they probably should not have been hit (but were).

2. Most of them contain a high volume of internal links.

3. Most if not all of them use ads mixed in with their content, and do not specifically label the ads as "sponsor messages"... on the other hand ALL of the sites on the winners list do clearly label such ads as "ads".

4. Most of them have a bad content to non-content ratio. In other words only a small portion of their page is actually dedicated to content, the rest is taken up with interior links, ads, widgets, etc. (however it's worth noting that many on the "winners" list seem to have the same issue).

5. Most use tags and have tag index pages which Google may or may not have mistaken for "thin content". (note many sites which weren't hit have these, however none in the winners list do).

Sites examined so far: technorati, cinemablend, blogcritics, popcrunch


7:45 pm on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Maybe it's time to go down the list one more to the next website - daniweb.com

Daniweb is an IT discussion forum that took a 40% hit on the first round of Panda. The home page shows almost no content about the fold for a 1240 width screen. Not so when you reach the actual forum threads.

However, many individual posts tend to be rather short and there is a lot of mangled English from ESL members.

In addition, each thread has two graphic ads, but that doesn't seem excessive to me. When I visit, I find the content easy to read, but so spread out that I need to scroll a LOT.


8:06 pm on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

tedster, I went to daniweb just now, I have been to them before but never went to their homepage and browsed as I always landed on a post through google.

I went to the vb.net section and clicked the first topic I saw. To my surprise, I was taken off the site to some autodesk software.

I look back at daniweb and its a very cleverly disguised ad. It looks exactly like the other topics. It does say AD, but it was very easily overlooked.

There is also a small ad located above the category description. It is labeled, but blended nicely.

I think panda is meant to tackle this exact type of thing.


8:11 pm on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)


I believe we are only talking about high-quality sites that were affected by the Panda Update.. Not actual low-quality content farms. The low-quality sites were the target here, and they should've been. They are a waste of time for people using search engines.

Most low quality content farms/MFA sites that were affected, (any that weren't affected that should've been?) go far beyond just deceptive ads. They employ several deceptive SEO and monetization strategies. And they approve crappy articles. The only article directories i've found that weren't affected have strict policies about accepting articles.

And, low-quality sites are the sites that people are blocking via the new chrome website block extension. Google blog confirms that in some cases people blocking sites is a factor. I believe they say 84% of sites that are being blocked are affected by the new algo update(s).
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