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A subdomains fix for Panda - Matt Cutts suggestion to HubPages

7:24 pm on Jul 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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In May, Edmondson wrote an email to Google engineers...and asked whether he should break up his site into “subdomains,”...In June, a top Google search engineer, Matt Cutts, wrote to Edmondson that he might want to try subdomains, among other things.

The HubPages subdomain testing began in late June and already has shown positive results. Edmondson’s own articles on HubPages, which saw a 50% drop in page views after Google’s Panda updates, have returned to pre-Panda levels in the first three weeks since he activated subdomains for himself and several other authors.

2:34 pm on Jul 23, 2011 (gmt 0)


I am going to do a similar test. However, I want to ask you... do you have an index on your site? Did you change that too? Or just do a 301 redirect for those specific pages?

I have a people search site and we have an index/directory/sitemap of names/pages that is linked from our home page similar to how linkedin and facebook have it. We also have an xml sitemap. I assume you have something like this as well? Did you change all these indexes/sitemaps to have the pages at the new subdomain or did you just build a 301 redirect for these pages?
5:37 pm on Jul 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Thanks dataguy. I assume you have a member name for all your authors. Or did you 301 redirect to something like accountid.yourdomain.com? This approach can work well if you have a unique membername for your authors. Otherwise a redirect like: 1338779.yourdomain.com might look quite silly...

What I've done so far is use a few characters from the first and last names of each member, then I check for dupes and hand-edit to make them unique. I plan to let the users choose their own subdomains themselves and eventually the ones who never choose will have the decision made for them in a similar fashion as the ones I've already set up.

I've allowed users to pick their folder names in the past, for their 'custom URL' and then kept a table of name history so that if they changed their folder name, the old folder would be redirected to the new folder.

I am going to do a similar test. However, I want to ask you... do you have an index on your site? Did you change that too? Or just do a 301 redirect for those specific pages?

I haven't addressed this yet, but I will have to soon. I believe the best way to do this is to give each subdomain their own robots.txt file and specify the sitemap.xml in each of those files. With a 50,000 URL limit I've always had a problem dividing up the URL's into multiple sitemaps.

The only problem I see with this is that I won't be able to submit or view the sitemaps in webmaster tools. The benefit is that I'll probably have less of a problem with scrapers since each sitemap will contain only a small number of URLs.
8:17 pm on Jul 26, 2011 (gmt 0)


panda 2.3 rolled out late last week. Have you noticed any demotion in your subdomains that you added?
8:41 pm on Jul 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Well, the increase in traffic hasn't been linear, but traffic has continued to increase. I have about 10% of the accounts switched over.

I have some concern about what happens when a substantial percentage of the accounts are switched over to using subdomains. There are a lot of links from the old design pointing to the new subdomains. Once everything is switched over those links will no longer exist.

I have another site with the same design which is much smaller. I'm hoping that by the end of the week I can switch the entire site over to subdomains to see what happens.
7:11 pm on Aug 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Hey dataguy,

Looks like it has been a few weeks since you last posted. Any updates?

I'm testing out some sub-domain stuff following your same advice of moving some content I know is good content to its' own subdomain.

Figure we gotta give it a few weeks to re-calculate all the PR and be comfortable that it is not going to change.
9:21 pm on Aug 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I haven't had access to my development computer this week, so I can't get exact statistics. So far, I've converted about 90% of user accounts to subdomains. Traffic has gone from a low of about 30% of pre-Panda, to about 50% of pre-Panda.

This doesn't sound that good, but to me, it's great! It means the difference between me being able to afford to continue working on the site, and me having to get a regular job.

A few interesting points:

I've seen some of my strongest content, now on subdomains, competing with similar hub pages content, also now on subdomains.

Since the new design using subdomains 'silos' each writers articles so that they don't interlink with articles from other writers, the strong writers are doing better, and the weak writers are doing worse (in general). One of my writers received a link from Huffpo a while back. Everything he writes now goes #1.

Incidentally, the site has gone through Panda 2.4 which occurred 2 days ago without any trouble. I have another site where I was sending my lower-quality articles, and it has now been real eased from Panda. Go figure.
10:28 pm on Aug 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks dataguy: I am confused though. How much did you originally drop from Panda? And where are you now?
10:41 pm on Aug 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

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When you 'quarantine' low quality stuff in its own subdomain, should you nofollow all links to those low quality pages? Is this what people are doing? Or does it matter?
2:16 am on Aug 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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We dropped 65% to 70% since Panda 1. Now we're down 45% to 50%.

We've always done nofollow outbound, and we continue to do so.
11:32 am on Aug 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

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It seemed to me that Hubpages was recovering from Panda since they did the sub domain thing.

I have been monitoring some keywords in my field and discovered that Hubpages returned to its previous positions with the new sub domain, and there seems to be no change in content at all.

One of my most hitted keyword (page 2 -> page 60) by Panda also recovered since I moved the content to a new domain with a 301 redirect.

I am not sure if Panda has much to do with quality since I have seen quite a few website regained their rankings with content unchanged, only slightly change in place of adsense, yeah, that guy has quite a few ads and affiliate links.

[edited by: tedster at 2:48 pm (utc) on Aug 23, 2011]
[edit reason] moved rom another location [/edit]

4:34 pm on Oct 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

DataGuy: I got a question for you. Did you notice a drop in traffic to your regular www domain after switching some of the pages to other subdomains? I am seeing that, but I am not sure if it has to do with something else.
11:53 pm on Oct 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Seodudez, no I didn't. The only loss of traffic on the main domain was what was transferred to the new subdomains.
3:11 am on Oct 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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< The next two posts were moved here from another location >

A while back there was a discussion here on using subdomains to help regain Google rankings. Also the main discussion was about hubpages doing it and getting a upper hand on panda.

Now if you look at Alexa for their website at [alexa.com...] its not looking too promising. I was wondering if anyone tried the same thing they did and had better results.

I believe its been about three months since they did it.

[edited by: tedster at 3:38 am (utc) on Oct 14, 2011]

3:36 am on Oct 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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

I'm not so sure about using Alexa data for this kind of analysis. Check out the two HubPages graphs on this Searechmetrics article (scroll down below the party pictures).

I appreciate that Searchmetrics data is based on how many search terms have good rankings for the domain... and that does not necessarily translate into traffic. But it is a pretty decent approach to viewing whether Pandalization is being lifted or not.
4:44 am on Oct 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Im starting to wonder if they just did a marketing scheme to get more backlinks. That would have been a good way to raise traffic up fast.
6:06 am on Oct 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I think Dataguy followed their lead and did the same for his pandalised UGM/UGC site. He's been posting recently that all gains were wiped out in latest iteration. The gist seems to be that the subdomain strategy messes up your site enough (not least because of all those new urls) for Panda score not to have any effect....but only until it's been substantially crawled and panda data rerun!

[Edit]There seems to be no shortcut to escaping Panda. Only root and branch changes appear to suffice [/Edit]
6:30 am on Oct 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Thats the problem with Panda is that its not ran in real time and only once in a while. Changes that seem to work within a week of making them are short lived and is very depressing.

I honestly think that panda puts a value on your site and that is the traffic you are getting on a particular niche if they think you are too big and are taking in more than your fair share of traffic for a certain subject. Last month we rewrote one of our high traffic pages that took a hit when panda first started and it retook rankings, for a week then back down. We also added 10 percent more content that was good quality that took some keywords and then we lost other keywords the next week. Its almost a no win situation.

Im very frustrated and ready to give up because no matter what I do traffic has not increased or decreased since Panda rolled out worldwide.

[edited by: snickles121 at 6:37 am (utc) on Oct 14, 2011]

1:56 pm on Oct 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

I think it is actually working for HubPages. Look at their quantcast chart.

I have been doing the subdomain thing on a smaller level and it has worked for the most part, but I don't know if it would work if I rolled out my entire site with subdomains. The reason why I did the subdomain change is because I knew the reason why I was pandalized so I made the alterations to my pages months ago. I was waiting forever to get a new valuation out of Panda and it wasn't happening. As we know, it is not immediately updated. I had no choice, but to start rolling out some subdomains.

Again, this has worked on a smaller level for me, but I haven't rolled it out sitewide.

Has anyone else tried this? What happened with you?
7:34 pm on Oct 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Yes, but how can you be positive that hubpages actually got more traffic because of subdomains. If you search for hubpages and panda in Google you will find over 500,000 pages with them two referenced together. Thats alot of publicity and a lot of links added.
12:31 am on Oct 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Last month I moved about 5 of my categories over to subdomains and 2 of them recovered to pre panda levels 3 days after implementing the changes. However as of early this morning all the of changes are back to post panda levels. And these were my best categories. Last week was my best week since Feb and it seemed like I was back on track after 8 months because I noticed that my google profile pic was showing for about 15 of my pages in the results which had me thinking that I was doing it right because my profile was being associated with the pages. However this minor tweak sent me to the back of the room again.
9:40 pm on Oct 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Need any advice on my potential problem with Panda. My site deals with 8 different countries on a specific niche. Each country has it own set of rules for the niche. My site also contains about 550 pages. I am wondering if I should move each country to its own subdomain. Google might be seeing this as really close related content, even though it deals with a different country and so on and they might be Panadalyzing me for it.

I lost a ton of traffic, but at this point I need to try something. But at the same time I dont want to hurt myself even more.

Any thoughts?
10:36 pm on Oct 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Does Google still recognize "Subdirectories with gTLDs" and I am wondering if I do this to my other countries pages if this would help with any duplicate content issues. This would be much easier than creating subdomains and I wouldnt have to worry about loosing link juice.
11:49 pm on Oct 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

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"Subdirectories with gTLDs"

I'm not 100% clear on what that means. Do you mean that each country's content gets it's own domain name, such as example.es. example.co.uk and so on? If so, then they are no longer subdirectories. And yes, that's still one of the best ways to serve "near duplicate" content to different geographies.

Please let me know if I misunderstood your question.
12:18 am on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Yes thats what I meant, Google guidelines say that I can use for my australia content either www.widgets.com/au/ or au.widgets.com for each country. They say they will be able to tell by using either format. Heres a link to it for a better understanding [google.com...]

Hope it works because its gonna take me a few days to get it done.
12:31 am on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

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

Good. If you own (or can own) the ccTLDs, I think that's the best way to go.

If you have a presence in many countries, then there is an administration overhead involved keeping track of the various separate domains, but from what I've seen this solution does generation the best chance for a presence in the Google ccTLDs.
12:39 am on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

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

widgets.au and widgets.nz and widgets.co.uk etc would be even better than what you are suggesting trying..

and hosting each GTLD in the country it is aimed at is better still.
1:34 am on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

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That might be a good idea to host the subdomain in the country im targeting. But what is the min number of pages to have in a subdomain. One country only has 10 pages and I dont know if that would be OK.
2:00 am on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

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

That might be a good idea to host the subdomain in the country im targeting

You seem confused about what is a meant by a subdomain ..a subdomain is books.example.com..the "books" part is the subdomain..in the same way in www.example.com the www part is actually the subdomain of example.com..
example.com can have many subdomains..


Each part before the first dot is a subdomain..

And hosting each subdomain in a separate country isn't on..

are each completely separate domains..

And hosting each of them in a separate country is ..and works very well..better than hosting them all in the same place..

and so hosting
in separate countries is on ..and is very good :)

When you see www before the name of a domain like www.example.com..it is pointing you to the subdomain ..the domain is actually example.com..OK :)

And 10 pages is fine for a domain ..there is no minimum size that works..even one page is enough..I have some domains that are only one page and that are at number 1 or in the top 1-5 in serps of nearly a billion results for short "money" keywords ..in very competitive "niches"..and they have ridden out all Googles updates ..including all "pandas"..they just "bob" a little like fishing floats when a wave or a ripple goes by..( and that is just because the others near them are moving ..like happens with fishing floats and ripples in real life ).and then within a day or two they are back at or near the top..

And they don't have huge numbers of backlinks..

you could also have

Each part before the first dot would be a subdomain of example.com ..and you could host them all in the same place..that will work ..but you wont rank as well in each separate country doing it that way as if you did a separate domain for each country and hosted it in the respective country..IME

plus ..if they are completely separate domains ..hosted in separate countries ..anything happens..server down ..fire in a DC..panda ..whatever ..you might lose the one temporarily ..or maybe drop some places with one or two ..but a problem won't take all of them down at once .."eggs and baskets" :))

9:56 am on Oct 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Well here is what I did for anyone interested:

1) Put each country in its own directory and geotargeted it in Google webmaster tools. I felt the information was good at this level so Ill let it ride off the main domain.

2) Created 4 subdomains for pages that is geotargeted for individual U.S. states. I have 4 sets of clusters of pages that contain all the states and contains information on different laws. I think Google might think im spamming but im not. Each state has its own laws on each subject and it is close but not the same. This removes 1/4 of my content from my main domain. I have one subdomain done right now and will work thru the weekend to complete the rest.

3) Lastly I redirected all pages moved with a 301 that had traffic left or was linked heavily. Im not gonnna sit there and do every page for files that had a few spammy links.

I will post back here and let you guys know if this works at all. I usually read the posts everyday and have been doing so for the last year.

I figure im gonna go all out on this one. Its all or nothing at this point.
10:15 am on Oct 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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

And hosting each subdomain in a separate country isn't on..

Just a small point - I believe you can host subdomains in different countries.
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