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Directory site - 50% Traffic & Earnings drop since Nov 2012

12:20 pm on May 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Hi There.

We have a high quality (10 year old) User Generated Business Directory site which has seen a 50% drop in traffic / Adsense earnings since November 2012. We were getting 60,000 uniques a day before we got hit. Almost all content on our site has been manually reviewed.

To say we are upset would be an understatement. We have over 1/2 million small businesses customers who rely on our service.

We have had 3 "Major Traffic Change" messages from Webmaster tools, and in each case the next day we saw a step drop in traffic.

We made a load of changes, submitted a re-inclusion request, but we got a message back saying we had no manual penalty.

For many local business searches we honestly have the best information available in the UK, and yet we are not featuring in the top 10, where we used to be in the top 3.

We always thought that if we built a good website, we would do well in Google Search. That no longer appears to be true.
Our business is based on providing free advertising to businesses, where as Google is trying to sell Adwords. Hmm I can see why they would want to kill us!

We notice that many of our competitors are also not listed as high as they used to be. So it appears Google is removing business directories from the SERPS good or otherwise.

Possible Issues
We noticed that someone (Not us) has submitted a few of the pages on our site to spammy networks. Webmaster tools showed us that we had 2,000+ domains linking to just 16 pages on our site. We disavowed those links last month, but that seems to of had no effect.

We give widgets to our members to put on their website, which shows their review / rating score. In the past we have included a follow link in the widgets back to our site. We are now asking all members to add Nofollow to their calling code.

We have removed 20,000 business descriptions which were of lower quality (but not spam).

Any ideas of what we should do next would be much appreciated. We are fresh out of ideas and enthusiasm.
2:58 pm on May 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

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A lot of directories got hit with various updates, most notably the Pandas. It's a tough business model to try to maintain in 2013. I would probably do some usability tests to make sure your site architecture and navigation are the best they could be, and then start adding value for the users as best you can.

But as a general rule, Google doesn't seem to want to rank sites that just link to other sites like it used to. Almost everyone I know with a directory had to diversify.
4:49 am on May 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

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Here are some quick thoughts/questions about factors that might affect directories on Google....

Do you populate any of the basic data yourself, or rely entirely on submissions to get your listings?

To what degree are your submissions screened for quality?

To what degree are the submitted listings edited and rewritten at your end to assure uniqueness? Chances are that many businesses are going to submit either boilerplate listings, or optimized boilerplate listings... and, if you've used many of these, it's possible that Google will consider this content dupe.

Does the user-generated content get into reviews, or simply self-submitted listings? What kinds of things do you do to keep your listings, which in bare-bones terms are "data", unique and different from such data elsewhere on the web?

Is the directory geo-organized, or is the organization topical? I assume that it's likely that you are ranking below geo-localized sites for some queries, whatever your directory's organization.
5:03 am on May 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Also an owner of a 10 year old UGC site here. We have forums, blogs, photo uploads, mapping tools and accommodation listings. We've seen a similar drop since around that time.

Also a steady drop before that since roughly around Panda v2. But since November it's REALLY been hurting. A similar number I would say -- about a 50% drop in traffic.

We are very tough on spammers (drop a link and your account is flagged / blocked for manual review for example). I don't think this is the problem. I think it's more likely they have assigned our site a UGC label and this is second priority to author content and e-commerce. Depending on the term of course.

Meanwhile, the other UGC -- User Generated Curation (or stealing) as I would call it seems to rank better than ever - see Pinterest.
9:03 am on May 31, 2013 (gmt 0)

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