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How my life has changed - one year after Panda 1.0

4:01 am on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

A year ago this past Sunday my worst nightmares were realized. (No, not really, my family still has their health and I still have my dignity, but otherwise, yeah.)

I'm surprised no one has written about this. I had hoped to sooner, but I haven't had the time to do the topic justice. This is my feeble attempt.

I started 2011 by telling my family that I had read that Google had announced that they were working on weeding out 'content farms'. I told them that when Google announces they have a great new technology to add to their search algorithm, rarely does it end in website owners being happy, no matter how legitimate their websites are.

Sure enough, on Feb. 26th, 2011 at 6:30 pm CST the traffic on my 10 year old site started into nosedive. Within a week, I had given notice to all of my 10 employees that they were about to lose their jobs. The only ones left were me and my wife.

Within 3 months, my wife took a job working for someone else. After months of hoping that we had seen the bottom, one early October day I decided to find a regular job myself.

I'm now working full-time for the guy who hosts my website. I do love my job, and I'm learning new technologies at a rate I thought I was too old to learn at (I'm now 45 years old.)

My life has settled down from the roller coaster ride that I've been on since AdSense was introduced in 2004. I've been featured as a Google success story numerous times, been to the 'plex a half-dozen times as an honored guest, but that wasn't enough to maintain the ride of a lifetime.

After nearly 4 months, on Feb. 1st, my benefits kicked in at my new job. I now have legitimate health insurance for the first time in 9 years. I also get 3 weeks of vacation per year and a funds-matched 401k. I sure sleep better at night, now.

My two oldest kids are working to help pay for their college education. Not really a bad thing. Google has paid for a lot of toys, a house and some great vacations over the years. The party's over now.

Now that Panda has settled down, my website hobby isn't doing too poorly. I only have time to respond to customer service emails on the weekends, but hey, I'm certainly not giving the worst customer service of the sites that I know.

So how have you overcome Panda? Forget about redesigns and quality content. None of us really knows if that has anything to do with the bashful bear. Outside of SEO, what have you don't to cope with the raccoon-like carnivore in the past year?
5:32 am on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

A great story, one i've been thinking about myself. Time to get back out into the real world... it's been 4 years of online ups and down's. But hey, did well in that time, and now it's time to move onto bigger and better things. I'm tired of chasing google's chaotic and illogical tail. They've lost touch, their search engine sucks big time lately, and it's way to stressful for anyone who actually relies on traffic. Let it be a hobby, some holiday money, and all will be well... Thanks for sharing.
5:51 am on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Thanks dataguy for laying out your one year journey since PandaVirus attacked so many of us. I have always worked on my own so my decline affected only me ~ laying off those people had to be one of the hardest things you've ever done. I learned a LONG time ago to never put all my eggs in one basket (be it the web, Google, or anything else), so there were other income streams to help ease the pain. I gave up on Google many months ago ~ rarely use their search service any more. I cultivate my sites for my own criteria, not what they want. When I made that decision and actually followed through on it, I lost the Google-migraine. I am grateful for the moderate income that their traffic provided over the years and am sorry to see it gone, however on the other hand, I have also come to understand that the control & pain they inflict on so many of us is simply not worth it any longer. The page is turned, I've moved on.

6:37 am on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tangor is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

This is a sterling reminder to all: don't place all your eggs in one basket. (Interesting how all those old fairy tale/anecdotes hold true, even to this day)

Old time B&M feller, and rock roller, too (previous) that there's more than one way to skin a cat. :)
7:15 am on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Thanks for dropping by to share your story, dataguy.
7:47 am on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member

Thanks for sharing that dataguy
I sure sleep better at night, now

I don't, unfortunately I spend extra hours after everyone in my family has gone to bed(check my post times) just to keep up with recent events and run a/b testing since Panda rolled out.

Google just announced 40 new changes in February, that will translate into at least 40 hours less sleep for me.

I had given notice to all of my 10 employees that they were about to lose their jobs.

I had 2 full time employees in a mentoring program and 2 part time writers whom I had to let go in order to write the articles myself. Letting go of the 2 full time employees wasn't just a loss for them, I lost faith a little myself. Note that the timing was HORRIBLE too with teaching layoffs and a housing collapse.

At least the Google bottom line improved though, that's what they are all about now. How many billion per month?

I haven't pulled the plug, yet, though we are hurting now.

edit: If you're looking for reason: In a speech by Larry Page last fall he announced that Google is no longer just a search company. Google's own about page had, for the longest time, stated that Google believed in doing just one thing really, really well and that was search. Google has strayed from their core principles and so now must we from our Google love affair. It's killing some of us. - [ca.finance.yahoo.com...]
9:57 am on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

10 employees depending only on Google Adsense money? Doesn't sound like a well thought business concept, sorry.
9:30 pm on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

@ dataguy:

Thanks for posting your story. I am sorry to hear about the collapse of your business, but I am very glad to hear that you landed on your feet.

for the sake of education, could you share more details about what kind of site you ran? Was it ecommerce? Was it informational? Was it social? How was it monetized?

In your opinion, why did it become a victim of Panda? was it duplicate content? thin content? Scraped content? None of the above?

And when you were hit, what did you try to do to do to remove the Panda penalty / filter?

Not trying to make moral judgements here. I am just hoping that we can get a better idea of what it is that Panda really likes to punish so that others don't become victims.

Thanks in advance and glad to hear that you are doing well.
10:22 pm on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month

What a really positive outlook you have dataguy , thanks for sharing your story.

I also been doing contract work in last year and now have a job I really enjoy.

I was one of the few who actually deserved to get hit by that big ole bear panda
10:33 pm on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

I wasn't hit by Panda but rather by the annoying -50 penalty on September. I fired all my outsource writers and now I only order once every ten weeks.

Luckily, I don't depend on the website for a living (for now) and I can sustain myself through the next four years of the university.

And lastly, I turned to paid advertising. It's not easy, but now I'm not afraid of Pandas and I actually like algorithm changes.

dataguy - it's good to see you haven't let desperation catch on you. Maybe you'll be able to find a better financial model for your website that will allow you to profit even with Panda updates.

8:30 am on Mar 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I'm starting to look for a job now. The website itself is 7 years old and I've lived off the income from it for about six of those years.

Panda 1.0 hurt the site, but I was able to continue on. It wasn't until this past January that my income took another huge nose dive. And honestly, I can't figure out why. There doesn't seem to be a problem with the ads since my competitors are doing the same thing. There's some weird penalty on a couple of pages which were big money pages, but I can't seem to figure out why or how to get rid of it. So I have to find another job.

Sadly, I'm not exactly sure what I'll do. The money I have saved was mostly going towards my wedding, but I'll probably have to use that over the coming months if I can't find a job.

I have no real experience doing anything else, and I'm in a foreign country now, so telecommuting is really my only option and that seems pretty hard to come by. Freelance seems impossible since many people seem to want to do a job for about 1/4th the money it should actually cost.

Plus, I don't have a Bachelor's of any kind.
1:59 pm on Mar 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Do not stop looking for ways to "repair" the site though. Do not give up. It is possible to recover from Panda, you just need to be prepared to make some big changes.

How many pages does the site have? What topic is it on?
5:10 pm on Mar 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

(we don't do specifics here, jonners)
6:56 pm on Mar 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

Im also in Panda Hell and it surely has nothing to do with great content, when I look at the serps. Google can not be pleased with how it looks now. Yes Im also in big trouble financial, I now only have 50-100$ over when everything is payed, it also is a big burden on the family, I always get asked "but what have they changed, they must have told you, so you can fix your site" I tell them time and time again they dont tell us, what Panda is about, they just say content which is no hint at all. When Google makes such a big change they HAVE to tell more then usual.
8:13 pm on Mar 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I've been fortunate in that I built a business that does not depend on Google. That said I have taken quite a blow since the beginning of Panda. Probably what is most perplexing is there really is no clear explanation why the search results changed.

We have been the leader of our niche for about 6 years now with no competitor even half as big yet we rank about 15th for our main keywords. So often now people try the other products first and then switch over to our product.

We've got something like 10 million links pointing to our site from 1000s of domains. We purchased VERY little advertising over the years, and never sold links on our site. We just did something that was viral and still is today.

I don't completely understand what happened, but I just view Google now as a corporation that solely based on profit, with the possibility of manipulation to increase profits, but not increase benefit to users. There are now more links to ads than organic search results for all major searches.

For me, I am "ruled" by my employees and my customers, not shareholders. There are people I care about, and this gives me a lot of motivation to keep going.

Increasingly, I don't even look at google search results any more. I have found the places on the web that are important to me, and google is becoming more of an occasional tool I use, and less a staple.

The main product I still use is Gmail.
9:22 pm on Mar 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

It's funny how many of us must have had the same conversations with friends and family... It's interesting to read about it from other's perspectives. Counter culturally too. Just goes to show what a small world it actually is. I bet there is a forum in Japanese discussing the same exact concepts and people having the same exact conversations with their families.
9:54 pm on Mar 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

but not increase benefit to users

Here I'd say Google still has their eye on the ball a bit more than many other corporations do. that is, as long as you remember that their user is definitely NOT the website owner but rather the person looking for online information.
10:11 pm on Mar 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

My take, best to move on with strategies that serve you best, in or out.

Use the experience well and to your advantage.

Legislation to make Google more transparant and fair in the eyes of the digital economy and legislators that support the social cohesion is a long time coming. Just ask the tobacco / asbestos industry - and the conundrum surrounding control of "search" and "information" has many more twists and turns in it.

Meanwhile the social disruption associated with the digital economy insofar as Google search is concerned will continue with all of it's consequences at grass roots level. I don't think big business deals with this very well without legislative protection.

Anyone caught in financial hardship, can seek relief under various advanced countries provisions for hardship in taxation related matters [ e.g .S53 in the US ... same in UK / AU / and probably others ]. Google's severe algorthimn changes may be captured under this in the same manner as a farmer losing his livelihood due to severe storm damage. It's worth investigating.

Having said that , the landscape is what it is , so folks have to decide whether the reward is going to exceed the risk and deal with the situation as they see fit.

Google's plan seems to be that every listing will ultimately fall under their ownership, and payment for it in some shape or form will come through their doorway. If you can work with that fine, if not , make hay while the sun shines and use the experience to move on like the OP suggests.

Hats off to Dataguy for signalling that in his life at least, he's converted his many talents to something better and life can go on without enslavement to Google dependence. That's a great example.

[edited by: Whitey at 10:20 pm (utc) on Mar 2, 2012]

10:14 pm on Mar 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thanks for the real life and positive attitude post. I'm sure Google has taken a hit in the pocket and stock price because of these updates so I'm not entirely sure it was worth it. If I could see a difference, I might say "okay, I understand." Search results are terrible being filled with big brands showing up for specific searches they have nothing to do with. I have to go several pages in to even start to find an answer. They only hurt the economy since more people with money are better than a few brands with more sitting in a bank.

G still bugs me every few days wanting me to put more ads on my website while they pay me 20% of what they did last year on the same traffic. If they want more money, just put me back where I was and people were happy, saying positive things. For me, it seemed like the traffic shifted overall. Some sections up in traffic while others, the money areas, are down. It getting closer to the point where I want to say screw it and pull them from everything, Adsense, analytics, email, maps, apps and all associated stuff down. Either replacing it with something else or just being happy to be free of it.

So the priority is to take control of everything that I can...which goes back to basic fundamentals...building customer word of mouth and direct interest. That effort has brought Google down to impacting about 60% of my revenue, instead of 85% like it was.
11:03 pm on Mar 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

Dataguy; Thanks for the post. Tough story, I'd guess kinda hard to tell, let alone live through.

Glad to hear you have found a new path and are moving ahead.
1:20 am on Mar 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

seek relief under various advanced countries provisions for hardship in taxation related matters [ e.g .... same in UK
Really ! they hold me to get lost ....
2:31 am on Mar 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Being around here, reading my daily WebmasterWorld fix, over the years made me realize that everything that is heaped(as in u'd think that your cowgirl is the best out there) at some point is replaced by something that looks better to the general public, none like us though, but in essence will have a FEE at some point.

It is called "Bait and Switch", ahaaaa Capitalism...

Sometimes a mentioned FEE could cause a burden on other peoples lives that might be in it due to an opportunity that calls for them just being there at the time, making a living, and then it's Gone...

I am a seasonal developer that still has a few ecom sites that generated enough income to live nice before Panda came. The income shrank 80%+, 3 of those sites have 50 visitors a day(embarrassing, compared to $$$-$$$$ of income - clean profit dally, yep that was nice, back in a day)...

I'd hope some one else is making that sale/profit just about now, but do they pay the FEE and who do they pay it to?

To Pay or NOT to Pay, that is the question.... G lost me as a customer in 2005.

DATAGUY, it's good to hear that You are on the right track!

5:46 am on Mar 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Interesting read, dvduval - thanks for sharing. Do you believe your site has good SEO, or at least is search engine-friendly?
12:04 pm on Mar 3, 2012 (gmt 0)


Thanks for sharing your story, actually its a lesson thought by Google to us Not to rely on them. They just cannot see how many webmaster are relying on Google.
12:40 pm on Mar 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Dataguy, thanks for sharing your story. I kinda experienced the opposite.

I quit my day job in the Aerospace field about 2 years ago to try to make a living online. (I wasn't making a lot but was simply passionate to give it a try)
Unfortunately, after 3 months I realized that I couldn't rely on the earnings and before it was too late, I went back to the company and found a different job.
I worked there for about less than a year and realized that I just couldn't do the 9-5 thing again. 5 years was more than enough. So I quit again, left the US and started my own company in the food industry. I decided to continue the web business as a hobby regardless of its earnings.
12:42 pm on Mar 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member play_bach is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member

> For me, it seemed like the traffic shifted overall.
> Some sections up in traffic while others, the money areas, are down.

Bingo. That is inline with what I'm seeing. Rather than it being specific to my site, I suspect it's more through a reordering of an entire niche, most notably those monetized. Sure, lots of sites running AdSense like mine have been cut down to a fraction of what they used to make now, but maybe all that means is those dollars are going to Google's search ads or eBay or Amazon instead.
2:07 pm on Mar 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I, too, had to find a "real" job recently. However, let me say that the real job beats the "online" job in everything from money, benefits, quality of life, etc! Although it's a 9-5 job, we are allowed to telework and have generous amounts of leave/sick time. We are often sent to training (Photoshopworld, wordpress camp, etc) and there is absolutely very little stress at the office.

I never knew that jobs like this existed out there outside the "home business" realm. As you can guess, I was able to keep doing what I was doing before (build websites, graphic design, etc) but for a billion dollar company. Owning my own "adsense site" over the years has prepared me for the real world like no other schooling could. If you are thinking of getting into the "real world", give it a shot..it's not as bad as you may think. I am also able to cultivate a side business with my time off.
4:09 pm on Mar 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

I'm a 15 year affiliate webmaster and whilst Panda has hit me I thankfully don't keep all my income eggs on one website - In the last 12 mths I've seen my income slowly increase, but on the downside to archive that I've gone back to working 6 days a week rather than the 4 I was 1 year ago ... although one thing we all need to take into account is whilst Panda has hit most so has the economy...I think it will be a good few years before I'm back to my 3 day weekends.

The annoying factor for me is my target market is the UK and as far as the UK goes Google IS the internet ...idiots
5:01 pm on Mar 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

@skunker Where do you work? Would love to jump onboard with a company like that!
5:45 pm on Mar 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

"real world", for me, the real world is the Internet.
I made the opposite way - from a very rewarding job in a high tech company as senior IT program manager to a home business.
After ~ 3 years the home business became a company running on my laptop..No employees, only part time writers and freelancers here and there.
3 years ago I didn't know how to build a website, php, html, SEO etc. I learned on the go.
I guess my rich background helped me learn these.
I wouldn't replace my current business with any other job.
Most of my sites were hit by Panda. So what?
I will survive. Why should I give up? I believe that those who survive will benefit from the Panda.
It is just like any industry with its ups and downs.
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