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Wrong page returned for queries on entire site - Over optimisation?

5:05 pm on Aug 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I'm really confused.

I have a site than was doing relatively well, and getting traffic on 10 - 15 decent keywords which have buying intent each day, plus several related keywords.

All of a sudden, around July 21st (panda 2.3 ish?) the site started ranking strangely. If i search for the title of page A, i get no page A anywhere in the results, but page B on page 3 ish. If I seach for the title of Page B, I get no page B anywhere, but page C on page 5. This repeates throughout the site, including the homepage. The 'wrong' pages which appear vary between pages 3 and 8.

All I can think is I've triggered some over optimisation penalty and any page now wont rank for it's own exact match title, so the next best page appears 2 - 7 pages later in the SERPS.

It seems very odd to me that Google would prefer the wrong page to rank than to stop any pages from my site ranking for those specific phrases.

I'm still getting some traffic on the related keywords I referred to earlier, as well as a bit of traffic landing on the wrong page as the result of this odd situation.

Has anyone else had any experience of this behaviour?
10:30 pm on Aug 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Yes, it is an effect of Panda/ Pandalisation. Have had the same situation since April Panda.

It's not that Google is ranking the wrong pages, but (as you correctly diagnosed) that it doesn't want to rank the 'right' pages for certain keywords it has marked you down on. You have diminished authority (or seems like your name is mud) for those words.

Add extra qualifiers or, more often, remove the offending term from your search and those pages rank fine. Google's basically telling you what it doesn't like about the pages (the specific keywords) and what might be hurting you whole site!

Sniff out the terms and look at where you are either optimised or have low quality content related to them. I can't say which is the real problem (over op or low quality) because I was getting bored of being pandalised and changed both at same time. Since then pages have started rising.
7:13 am on Aug 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks Suggy,

My gut feeling is over optimisation as (in my probably biased opinion) the pages are all of equal ish quality (high or low - i've no idea what google marks against). We've just in the last couple of days beefed the site up with some more informative content related to the items we sell, so i'll give it a week or two to index/recalculate Panda.

I suppose in a sense over optimisation could well be viewed as a subset of low quality, or certainly an indicator. I think my next step once the last changes have taken effect will be to slightly de-optimise the pages to see if they tip back across the threshold.

I don't really fully understand the decision tree's/AI stuff that Tedster has so patiently tried to explain to us all, but I would imagine that the latest incarnation of Panda has now found a subtle indicator (relative to those introduced back in February) to throw into the mix which has pushed us over the edge. My hope is that we should be able to spend some time on improving things to pull us back! (Or maybe I'm kidding myself!)
10:05 am on Aug 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

I had some success with deoptimization of for certain keywords on my pandalized website in the following way:

Before Panda, I used to make separate pages for each product I write about, and I ended up with a lot of similar pages (since the products are similar) with different main keywords (product name) in the title tag, h1, alt, etc.

Then, I merged some similar products in a single post, with title tag, h1, alt, etc containing something like "widgets X1, X2, and X3 by manufacturer A".

After that, I'm ranking very well (1st SERP page) with these merge pages for queries such as "widget X1 by manufacturer A" or "widget x2 by manufacturer A".

For a page with only "widget X1 by manufacturer A" in the title, h1, alt etc I'm pretty sure I can not rank anywhere in the first 1-3 SERP pages, although these pages are optimized for a single product, which was better I think in terms of optimization before Panda.

Also checked some Google support docs and found that my changes were completely in line with the following advice:

"Minimize similar content: If you have many pages that are similar, consider expanding each page or consolidating the pages into one. For instance, if you have a travel site with separate pages for two cities, but the same information on both pages, you could either merge the pages into one page about both cities or you could expand each page to contain unique content about each city."

10:47 am on Aug 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks, thats interesting.

I have 2 pages on the site which would fall into that category, which would very much fit into the concept of bad pages bringing good down.

I think in the first instance I'm going to remove a couple of mentions of the main keyword from each page to see if that pulls me back across the threshold. It seems a little odd from a user perspective to make visitors read about a similar product as well as the one they want on the same page. (If I'm understanding you correctly!). Not doubting you are correct in the slightest, just Google's logic!

Thanks for the insight and thoughts!
12:47 pm on Aug 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

I also find their new merge advice very odd. Why would a user prefer to read about a product in an article with mixed similar products in it? I haven't done any research about do users like to read about multiple products instead of one they are looking for, but I think that it isn't logical.

For a user searching for a Product X1, I think its better to serve a page about that product, and on the end of the page you can say "you can also check out the similar X2, X3, and X4 products" with links to them. That's the way I did it before Panda, but obviously I can't do it anymore, because my pages won't rank and nobody would read 'em.

However, I hope Google did a research and found that users like to read about a product in a mix with other similar stuff.

Their alternative "you could expand each page to contain unique content about each..." is very hard in cases where you have very similar products, like I have on my site.
8:12 pm on Aug 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

However, I hope Google did a research and found that users like to read about a product in a mix with other similar stuff.

I don't think it's that sophisticated. It's most likely that writing about more than one product on a page increases the content's diversity (ie, not so one track). That either gives the impression of a more balanced/ useful piece, or reduces the likelihood that your page is fundamentally the same as several dozen other (no offence) or appears spammy (because it's too narrow/tight).

Don't forget: it's all just maths; there's no actual comprehension of what's written, just the mathematical analysis of patterns.
9:00 pm on Aug 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Certainly no offence taken :) I'm all for more opinions!

I think the point that it's all about maths is bang on the money, I find myself spending far too much time worrying about such things rather than just posting the content as I write it. Maybe it's time to change that habit.
2:55 am on Aug 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I also find their new merge advice very odd.

Google knows what is devaluing a site so they're dumping the weaknesses of Panda off on you to fix. What you mentioned does work. The tricky thing becomes when you know it is best for the user to split the pages but Google knows it will draw a penalty with Panda. It seems to me theyíre hiding some flaws or the algo is too simplistic in judging a similarity or something as over-optimized. In fact they probably donít even use those terms to analyze why you were penalized.

What Iím reading with the OP is the page may be of excellent advertising quality and driven good traffic in the past but it no longer meets the criteria of being specific enough for those keywords. In effect more specific pages from the site replace it in the results but they are of a lesser quality than one wants presented. Voila it passes through the filter unscathed where the higher quality page is crippled. You canít help but think the OPís scenario could reverse itself just as easily but changes might wreck the ranking for both.

In each case Bing seems to do this properly but with Google you donít know what will pop up. Seemingly Panda shows you canít judge but so many signals before you start hurting quite a few businesses.
7:36 am on Aug 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Interesting observation outland88, thanks for the thoughts.

I have to admit my first feeling was to leave it and see if it comes back with the next iteration of Panda, but I can't help coming back to all the other reports of people here trying to wait it out, and it seems for many that simply hasn't made any difference.

I've identified a few changes that would also be good for the user, so I'm going to make those changes, as well as removing a reference or two to the target keyword(s) on each page to cover the possibility that this may simply be over optimisation thresholds being nudged down a touch.

Can anybody direct me to a quote from someone at google suggesting Panda is related to on page factors only? I'm sure I read something somewhere but can't find it now, and I'm starting to wonder if I've read someone's opinion and taken it as gospel! Wouldn't be the first time I've made that mistake :)
8:17 pm on Aug 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Whatís so interesting about what you bring up is Google seems to be rewarding the polar opposites with pages in Panda and crushing a lot of whatís in between. As an example the NY Times deals with every subject under the Sun so thereís probably not a lot of rewriting of stories or repetition. Voila they go untouched by Panda. A lot of garbage sites could be grouped into the Times category by virtue of weak but different content but it is rewarded also by Panda. In other words the author of those pages has so little interest in the subject or writing content they wonít write enough to be repetitive before moving on to the next subject. The polar opposite is small keyword stuffed sites or doorways dealing narrowly with one subject are likely rewarded in many instances.

The conclusion I would draw from this is most sites kicked by Panda would only find marginal relief at best even if they made dramatic changes. I emphasize ďmostĒ not all. Plus logically many sites are being given a ďpassĒ even if Google denies it. Thereís no possible way they canít be doing it.
3:39 pm on Aug 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

As if by magic 2 pages have returned for exact match queries to the page titles. Fingers crossed time!
4:21 pm on Aug 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member planet13 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month

I had this happen to me a while back. It had nothing to do with Panda.

Unfortunately, it was a coding mistake. I meta noindexed my home page my mistake.

But it was a different page (widget photos) that was linked to directly by the home page that I saw the problem. When I did a search in google for widget photos, it listed a different page (widget-images.html) higher than the widget-photos.html page (much higher - like 300 positions higher).

After I figured out my mistake and removed the metta noindex tag from the home page, the widget-photos.html page then started to rank. It's around #9 right now. But I will have to get in to the top 3 to get any decent sales.