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Panda's Take on Message Boards and Forums

     
8:00 pm on May 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I was just wondering as to whether anyone formed an opinion on how Panda quality assessment views forums (message boards)?

Obviously this forum is the exception to your standard 3-4 posts per thread in a forum. But I can name many forums where each thread maybe totals 300 words, but the information is great.

Has anyone been hit due to the quality of their forum?

What are your thoughts on this?
9:07 pm on May 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Most of what I have heard is that forums in general are performing worse since Panda. That might be simply because the forum owners who lost traffic are more vocal about it and people who improved with Panda are not as vocal.
10:23 pm on May 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Forum here: Was/Is a disaster.

Of course users love the "quote" button. Wonder how that plays into it.
1:10 am on May 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

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My forum is showing no change since panda,if anything traffic is slightly up.
4:43 am on May 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Absolutely no scientific data here, but from a lot of the people who have been on this forum or the google webmaster help forum lamenting the implementation of Panda, it seems a disproportionate number of them have sites that rely primarily on user generated content.

Just thinking out loud here: Are UGC sites scraped more frequently than non-UGC sites?
5:31 am on May 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

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The traffic on my 7-year-old forum is up about 30% on the corresponding period for 2010. Being a seasonal forum I cannot determine any relationship between traffic patterns and Panda.

The increase in traffic has contributed to an 80% increase in Adsense revenue compared to last year.
10:29 am on May 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I did a little digging last night to try to answer this. Looking at about 50 different post-Panda threads on this all over the forum-sphere. Pandas admire forums and not many people saw a dip in traffic what so ever. Most increased.

Not scientific, but it makes me breath a little easier.

It seems blogs with poor comment sections were hit hard though.
3:03 pm on May 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the research, Pjman.
11:27 pm on May 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Forum here: Was/Is a disaster.

Of course users love the "quote" button. Wonder how that plays into it.


If it concerns you, then just disable the quote button. WebmasterWorld.com doesn't use quote buttons, and it actually motivated me to remove quote buttons from my forum a few months ago.
12:51 am on May 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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How did Webmasterworld fare ?
5:25 am on May 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Also "no scientific data"... but when I saw the first Panda winners and losers lists, it appeared to me that the losers included a noticeably higher percentage of sites with user-generated content than the winners did. I didn't look to see whether these were specifically forums.

I continue to be surprised that Yahoo Answers does well. This is organized like a forum, though without the intelligent discussion that the word "forum" suggests. Forums have a built in social aspect as well as a content aspect, though, so I suspect they'll do well to the extent that they're active and popular, even if their material isn't of the highest level.
5:58 am on May 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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My forums have seen a slight drop and the drop is all from web search. Image search referrals have risen, oddly.
7:00 am on May 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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How did Webmasterworld fare ?
+1. I'll be launching a new forum within a couple of weeks (in a country that has not yet been affected), and have been wondering how WebmasterWorld has been treated by the Pandas.
12:20 pm on May 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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No noticeable change with my forum.
12:52 pm on May 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I noticed Google mentioned spelling in its Panda suggestions. If that's the case you would tend to expect some forums to suffer a little compared with edited content, assuming edited content is a little more likely to get a spellcheck. But that really depends on the forum demographic, moderation level, and how picky the community is about grammar.

Then you look at YouTube's recent increases in traffic, and it's clear this can't be at all significant.
1:46 pm on May 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Then you look at YouTube's recent increases in traffic, and it's clear this can't be at all significant.



Google engineers might have just forgot to add that filter to their properties. I'm sure they do a little tweaking on their own properties. I know if I was their CEO, I would sit down the engineers and say, "Push our sites, but make it very subtle and completely unmeasurable!"

Guess the engineers followed my orders...
4:22 pm on May 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I saw no negative impact on forums I watch.

Ascension, I disable the "quote" button on forums I'm responsible for. That's not because it's bad for SEO (it surely doesn't help), but because heavy use makes a thread much harder to read. It's all too common to see someone include five paragraphs of redundant text in a two-word post.

It's an interesting thought that on-page redundancy could be a factor in Panda results.
4:40 pm on May 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Our site got hit by Panda, pretty much sitewide. However, we've got a forum hosted within the same domain. The forum URLs were the only URLs NOT to be effected. Go figure!
4:42 pm on May 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I am seeing forums on top in most of my niche.From whatever that I have seen so far, Panda loves forums.

It would be wrong to group all UGC sites into one bucket.Article sites are treated differently from forums.

The following seem to be the positives for forums from a panda perspective.

1) unlike article sites, forums are places where people engage more than on other sites.They take time to post their questions, answers and thoughts.It is natural for user engagement to be high in forums.

2) My research also says that forums are not evaluated for things like spelling mistakes or even for duplicate content.The content from many of my pages have been copied to forums (Yahoo answers is one big scraper of my content) and they all are doing fine. Forums could have been exempt from these checks because they are UGC.

3) Since the copied content is only one reply of a thread where many others contribute, the forum thread will act more like an aggregator of content sourced from other sites mixed with user opinion and this will naturally make the forum pages to be lengthy and more detailed.Matt and Amit are on record saying that Panda likes detailed pages and pages with different viewpoints.

In fact, ever since panda happened, I saw google looking for links to forums on two of my pandalized sites.

It is great time to start a forum.

[edited by: indyank at 5:26 pm (utc) on May 16, 2011]

4:48 pm on May 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Our site got hit by Panda, pretty much sitewide. However, we've got a forum hosted within the same domain. The forum URLs were the only URLs NOT to be effected. Go figure!

Uber_SEO, that is very true. I know for sure that the panda bot was explicitly looking for forums on my site.Immediately after being pandalized I saw my GWT reporting 404s for [site.com...] from several of my navigational pages.

Probably, they didn't want to touch them.

It is not just the forums but I also believe that Google platforms including Blogger were untouched by panda.
6:11 pm on May 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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My traffic is up on my largest forum since Panda.
6:12 pm on May 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Have a site that previously was getting around 120,000 visitors a month. The site split down to around 300 pages (static HTML) and 24,000 (VB forum content).

Static pages all historically (almost 9 years) ranked very well and post Panda dropped hard (80% loss).

Forum pages saw some reasonable traffic (small percentage of the whole) - post Panda, zero change in traffic levels.

Some notes;

1) HTML site was a poor design. In terms of SEO, I'd rate it as mid to high optimisation (it could be better optimised, but I don't like pushing the boat out too far). I'm certain the design issues are the reason for the loss on traffic post Panda.

2) The HTML site didn't particularly push forum registrations - a few links here and there. Could have been better promoted internally.

3) Forum registrations saw no drop post Panda which suggests the bulk come from forum referrals and not HTML site referrals.

I'd conclude that Panda hit a selective portion of the site based on certain criteria which has left the forum unaffected. That's not to say forums aren't Panda proof - just in this case there wasn't a site wide filter applied.

Scott

(Oh and my forums have a strict spam filter and anti link drop policy. Not saying that this is definitely a factor, but just throwing it in there as something Google might look at when determining quality signals in forums).
6:51 pm on May 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Not seeing this either.
7:00 pm on May 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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On the other side, one of the sites in the Sistrix list of the biggest losers was daniweb.com - a forum through and through. I've heard that traffic is back for them since Panda 2.1.
7:22 pm on May 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Several forums, the largest of which does about 800k visits a month, no change at all. Lots of UGC, lots of quotes, tons of photos and reposted content. Just being a forum didn't mean being hit by Panda.
9:26 pm on May 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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there are forums that were hit by panda. One is pretty big player, dont want to post the URL, but they are on the GWF's asking for help.
9:42 pm on May 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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>>he forum URLs were the only URLs NOT to be affected

Well, if you assume that Panda was all about engagement metrics, the forum was likely the best-performing part of the site.

In general, I'd expect forums to score well - high repeat visits, lots of direct navigation, long time on site, high pageviews per visit, etc. I wonder what the problem was with the forums that DID suffer under Panda.
10:30 pm on May 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Hey,

I tend to think this is a moot question and that panda is not targeted at a specific type of site.

If you have a forum, and it is full of crappy, thin articles with weak responses, then I hope the Panda bitch slapped you down the rankings.

On the other hand, if your forum is absolute dripping with awesome and the community is alive and kicking then it deserves to rank well.

All this classification is wrong and the content farms did not get punished because they are content farms, they got punished because they allowed people to post barely literate heavily spun articles as they greedily wanted the adwords revenue.

If Forest Gump was online he would say something like, Content is as Content does, and I think that just about covers it. :)
12:02 am on May 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Some of my forum threads are really flying high since Panda. My forum has a relatively small active membership, but the quality of posting is outstanding. My core active membership is solid gold.
12:06 am on May 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Great post, marcusmiller, well said! Now please don't go back to lurk mode. :)
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