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Old content and Panda 3.4

     
9:05 am on Sep 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I was hit by Panda 3.4 on 23 March 2012. We saw our traffic halve and it has remained around those levels ever since.

I recently did a landing page report in Google Analytics to see which pages were punished the hardest (>50%) and most of the pages are for older content that isn't really relevant to the site any more.

We've been in business for nearly 12 years now and obviously in that time we've done quite a lot of different things. We've tended to retain the older content on the assumption that it doesn't do any harm and there are old, established links to the content.

Is the assumption that older content doesn't do any harm still valid? Should I delete it?

The content that is still relevant I am about to undertake a program of sprucing up to increase its value, but I don't wish to spend time improving content I no longer need.

Your advice would be appreciate.
11:21 am on Sept 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

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A couple of questions:
- Are you seeing any improvements at all with Panda 4.1?
- The old content pages - are they thin or in-depth articles?
- The old content pages - have they been scraped / copied by other sites extensively?
11:56 am on Sept 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

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There has been no improvement that I can detect with Panda 4.1.

The old content pages vary quite a lot. Some are pretty thin but others are in-depth articles. Some took 3 months to research. Some of the articles seemed to be Google's go to article if it didn't have any where else. So searches were pretty obviously not really related to the article. Consequently the bounce rates were >80% and in some cases >95%.

Content has certainly been scraped and copied. People answer questions on forums frequently take the whole article and dump it on their answer.
8:56 pm on Oct 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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unished the hardest (>50%) and most of the pages are for older content that isn't really relevant to the site any more.

We've tended to retain the older content on the assumption that it doesn't do any harm

Maybe the problem is with the focus of the site if the old pages are not relevant any more?

You can start to prune old content and see if this helps. If a page has really been punished hard AND the content is not relevant any more (i.e. not for visitors either) then you would not lose a lot by removing such page. Perhaps not much to lose to try.
9:19 pm on Oct 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Maybe the problem is with the focus of the site if the old pages are not relevant any more?


That would be my guess. (FWIW, some of our highest-traffic articles have been around for many years, and if anything, their Google rankings have improved since Panda 4.0. Mind you, those evergreen articles continue to be highly relevant to our site and its main topics, and most are updated from time to time.)
7:49 am on Oct 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Thanks guys. I think a good plan of action would be to prune the outdated content and concentrate on improving the still relevant content.
3:31 pm on Oct 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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You state:
Some of the penalized pages are "old content."
(Google likes freshness, whether it is new or revised content.)

Some of the content is "not relevant" -
(Worst case would be that "not relevant" = off target for your website's topic. If it's on target but out of date information, it only makes sense that most visitors would bounce.)

Some of the pages are "thin."

Much of it's been "scraped and copied."
(I can appreciated the fact that you authored this content, but I think you can rest assured that Google has long ago lost track of that fact. - Been there, had that happen to me.)

At this point, stop and ask yourself, of the pages described above, what about them adds significant value to your website that having them is worth penalizing the search visibility of your site as a whole?
When it comes to getting out from under Panda, that's the question. The weak penalize the whole.

I would start at the very bottom of the landing page data. The pages that get the very least traffic.
I would assume this is an exponential curve, and this low-end is a fairly long tail.

I would expect that within this group of pages various patterns will become obvious to you. Such as:
All the pages of certain topics are found there.
In the case of having split long articles into pages, the pages 2,3, and on are in this group.
Pages that lie deep in your site (are several clicks away from your strongest pages).
Pages with poor internal website linking (if you don't value the pages, Google won't either).
Pages that are your "second tier" pages about topics you really cover in better detail elsewhere.

Look at each page's metrics.
If they made this list and they have terrible metrics (time on page, bounce) as compared to the rest of your site they'll need to be dealt with.

Also, look at WebmasterTools and get an idea if any of these pages have incoming links to them.

Now it's your choice: 404, noindex, prev/next, or combine and 301 redirect.

For me, if these pages bring in essentially no traffic (and thus no ad revenue or sales, or whatever), I'd noindex them. You won't miss them. Your website will look stronger to Google, stat.

I'd then take the pages in your list that do have incoming links and consider them my new topic hubs for their respective topics.
I"d rewrite their content entirely (to get rid of your scraper/duplicate content issues), combine into them, as is appropriate, your other same-topic pages that are "thin" and "outdated" (and 301 their URL's to the hub page).
I'd let these new/revised hub pages be indexed again once their new form has been created.

From this process:
You'll end up with stronger content (Google does like longer pages nowadays).
Fresh content.
Unique content.
And creating these superpages hopefully will require less work on your part since you are revising existing work, not starting from scratch.
7:40 am on Oct 3, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Thanks Broadway. There's much analysis I need to do.
9:25 am on Oct 3, 2014 (gmt 0)

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There is one thing I am not clear about Panda. I have a number of pages that were very clearly "punished" when the update hit. Does the hit from Panda spread to the whole domain or does it just hit the penalised pages?

So, if I create a new page today, are its chances of ranking reduced by the "punished" pages?
1:30 pm on Oct 3, 2014 (gmt 0)

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From a couple of years ago (possibly after a hit by an algo update), we started updating our content at least once a year. We stopped aiming to produce x number of new articles a year, instead, we audit the exiting pages in full and either delete useless ones or update them to add more value. In our opinion nothing more than a couple of years old will still be super relevant, probably in most subject matters. Pages that accumulated links are valuable and we certainly don't want to delete them, but they did need revamping in order to remain useful for users. I think that has really paid off.
2:03 pm on Oct 3, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Panda is usually a site-wide penalty - so yes, your new pages are being damaged by the old "punished" pages.

(I've seen some reports that Panda can be restricted to a subdomain or even sub-directory but for us it's always been the whole site).

That's the biggest problem with Panda for us - it doesn't matter how awesome your new content is - it still won't rank until you can get that Panda off your back!
11:32 am on Oct 15, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I've found a page that still gets a modest amount of traffic. It was first written in 2005, has had 180,000 uniques since then but got hit by Panda 3.4 reducing traffic by > 50%. According to GA the page bounce rate since 2009 has been 88.75% and average session duration 59 seconds. Pages / session is 1.22. Not particularly good stats I don't think. But, on the other hand in the same time period, the page is getting an average rating of 4.1 (out of 5) with a total of 410 votes.

So on the one hand you've got the google stats being pretty poor and on the other hand the sample of people who can be bothered to rate the page saying it is reasonably good. There are also hundreds of comments for the page too.

As the page has no real use for us now, I've noindexed it. I feel absolutely no desire to update it. I can't help feel that Panda is rather kak handed by Google. We were quite happy for the page to be there, it is still providing value for some people but now it is not going to be indexed anymore.
2:47 pm on Oct 28, 2014 (gmt 0)

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The page in question has now been noindexed and has now been removed from Google results. It used to be in 2nd spot. We've a customer who copied the page (without permission) in full and placed it onto their website, they are now in 2nd place. :)