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Post Panda Era (Is this what killed it?) And Future Strategies?

     
5:41 am on Nov 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I have two distinct periods in my feeble webmastering life. There is the pre Panda and post Panda era. This is how I see it. I can further say that from what I see, Panda has essentially weeded out and snuffed out most of the enthusiasm that once existed in being a webmaster and running websites. I base this on what I see and the level of interest and participation in this here forum. I don't want to say Panda killed the web, as that's awfully dramatic, but I think it's safe to say that the recovery from post Panda is a fallacy. It's why I'm saying it's an era. I can't SEO my way out of this era. There is little to discuss in the way of organic traffic or so it seems. If anyone can suggest the forums are not a litmus test on the overall optimism or current state of affairs, then tell me a better source of analysis. I'm not dead, but the post Panda era has gone nowhere and I would think it's only traffic source outside of Google that will remedy the Panda era. I know vets have seen bad algo changes, but I can draw a line where all this went south and simply has never and feels like it will never be the same. The partnership is dead pretty much from that day onwards imo. I'm willing to discuss the post Panda effects because to me what we see here now is clear evidence that the impact is still felt today and will continue to chip away at the webmastering community.
10:46 pm on Nov 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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From a long-term perspective, we're stiil in the early days of the web. In my opinion we're very lucky to be particpating in this early period. The cost of domain registration and hosting are amazingly cheap, and this provides a huge opportunity for individuals and small groups to reach large audiences at little cost.

But this early period is also a time of flux and upheaval, as things get sorted out, and this creates challenges and sometimes a need to adapt. Panda is just a minor event in the evolution of the web in this early period. It may have "killed" a small percntage of the websites, but the web overall has hardly been affected, and may actually be improved if anything. I suspect that Panda will be mostly forgotten ten years from now.
1:55 am on Nov 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I see the evolution of the web as being fairly equivalent to the development of flight. When people first started flying it was mostly a learn as you go experience. When the planes got faster, bigger and more complicated, being a pilot required training and knowledge of what your instruments were telling you.

It's true we are past the point where sharing the secrets and experimenting with bold and italic text were the focal points. Now, large entities have trained in-house SEO people with significant budgets and the ability to use hired guns when they need additional assistance.
The competition is more skilled at this point.
3:21 am on Nov 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I can't SEO my way out of this era.

From a Web searcher's perspective, is that a bad thing? People aren't looking for sites with great SEO, they're looking for sites with useful content.
12:14 pm on Nov 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Walt Hartwell wrote:
Now, large entities have trained in-house SEO people with significant budgets and the ability to use hired guns when they need additional assistance.

Walt Hartwell -- Forget large entities and big budgets. There is still plenty of opportunity for individuals with small budgets to accomplish a lot on the web. That's what's so great about it.
4:02 pm on Nov 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Panda basically weeded out many sites with tons of content that it deems "mediocre". Usually pages that are rarely visited, and have no links on them. Usually these are pages that were created for the sake of creating them. Once Panda hits, you can publish 1000 pages, and it goes to naught. Not even long tail traffic.

I know, because I have a bunch of sites and some got hit by Panda, some by Penguin, some by both, and some never got hit. The ones that never got hit have some things in common - I never artificially built links to them, I built them from the ground up, I never created pages and more pages for the sake of it, and whatever page I put out, I made sure I did it with commitment (yes, it sounds cliche), checking and rechecking and making sure it's the "best" that I could possibly publish. I may even come back to edit them in future again and again. It's like watching over all your pages like a hawk watches its eggs. And that's one reason why you should aim for a "manageable" number of pages. Too many to manage, and the risk of Panda does increase, if ever so slightly. Panda is about quality, not quantity.

If you produce quality, people do link, but damn, it's slow as hell. And it's rare. People do link back to me, and I do get organic links. Although they will be far less then when you artificially "build" them, but that's still better than getting hit by Penguin.

But that's not your focus. Your focus is on your content. And Google's algo seems more and more capable of sniffing out what's good and quality and what's not, in the past few years. This is what I've noticed. It's still poor, but getting better --> slowly. The pages or sites with more links or more powerful links will still win out. Until the day Google does away with links or relegates them to a minor factor......

I believe Panda is recoverable, but maybe, you may want to consider getting rid of pages that get no traffic and no links and are just padding to your site. Look at your existing pages and how they can be upgraded. Make sure your internal linking is good.
6:02 pm on Nov 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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One has only to look back at threads from 4-5 years ago to see all the people that no longer post in the Google forum. Did they retire? Did they get fed up with WebmasterWorld? Or did they take employment because they were slowly but surely squeezed out of Google?
6:33 pm on Nov 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I can't SEO my way out of this era


Check out my post that explained how Classic SEO strategies are done [webmasterworld.com].

Google warned the SEO community they were moving way from strings of text in 2012. In 2013 Google announced that they had moved away from strings of text, it was done. So why in 2015 are we still hooked on a strategy that is more or less (more than less, I think), more or less obsolete?

It could be said (and I am the one saying it) that the date Hummingbird was released in 2013 is the official date of the death of SEO strategies that begin with keywords.


The SEO industry screwed that one up though. They wringed their hands about Entities, worrying if your site was understood to be an Entity, worrying about Author recognition and so on. That Entity nonsense completely missed the point. Entirely.

Strategies that begin and end with Keywords as the foundation of an SEO strategy are no longer relevant to algorithms today. Classic SEO, where you start with keyword research, fret about keywords in the title tag, all that is busy work for a search engine that no longer exists. Classic SEO is based on outmoded strategies for a search engine that no longer exists. That search engine no longer exists.
7:09 pm on Nov 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I'm all about the business model. To my mind Panda weeded out a lot of crap sites with a lousy business model. It also weeded out a lot of good sites with a lousy business model (and by business model I don't necessarily refer only to sites that exist to make money but to sites that have a reason for existing *at all*) And it's not surprising it did because you didn't have to think about that in the old days - I'm going to put up my ecommerce site that sells shoes, and it doesn't matter if there's 304,283,193 other sites selling shoes almost exactly the same way, because if I can figure out a better way to SEO mine, I'll outrank them. As martinibuster says, those days are gone. We don't live in that world anymore. It's not enough to just follow the rules and good things will come. You pretty much have to be amazing. And if being amazing isn't part of the plan, you well may find yourself winnowed out.
7:16 pm on Nov 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Aside from 'good practice' and classic advice, SEO is about decrypting the patterns that Google presents us with, and finding out how to turn understanding to our advantage.

Unless they build in some randomisation factor into the organic algorithm (entirely possible given that the organic SERPS are merely window dressing for AdWords) then analysis and testing should always yield insight.

I struggle to accept that keywords are 'done' because keywords are what searchers use.
8:52 pm on Nov 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@aristotle
I wasn't trying to convey a negative sentiment, just stating what I perceive as the current environment.
Although examples often don't come across well, I'll give it a shot. I have a page (page1) that has been around for at least 10 years with a good number of natural inbounds. In my brilliance, I removed most of the written content and made it user interactive which would take the user to a very similar page2.

There was a six week period where both pages were showing in the SERPs, but now page2 remains and page1 is far enough back in the SERPs as to not matter. Page2 doesn't perform as well as it could because it's a fairly new page with no inbounds of it's own. Various tools helped me see the issue I created.

If a person was starting today with a brand new website, I'd think they would want to know how to use AHREFS, Majestic, Analytics, WMT(GSC), possibly Piwik and read server logs. The barrier to entry is a little bit higher now.
12:11 am on Nov 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Did Panda kill bad seo, or just krap sites?

At some point, in any industry, especially when it is new, there will be too many busy bodies doing the same thing, just not as well as the top 10%. In fact that 90% piling on might even be unhelpful or interesting and will eventually die of ordinary attrition for substandard, or inept participation.

Most here think of themselves as publishers. Take a look at the world of print publishers and take heed. This kind of churn and burn as happened time and again over the last few hundred years (with the advent of new technology to play the same game).

Hand illuminated texts were replaced by Gutenberg presses, then later by typesetting (linotype), with typewriters making that even more prolific, then computers/laser printers, etc. The web is the same thing again. Back in the 90s to 00s the Wild West reigned. But with each of those step ups there was also a cooresponding consolidation/realignment of quality. Each "market" went through these reformations. Panda, specifically google, was the first for the Web though Bing and others are using quality signals as well.

Quality is key. Content is king. Putting both of those together for a NEW site is pretty tough. Older legacy sites (10+ years or more) might linger for a bit, and might even do stellar with good management for years to come. They started with content, engagement, and quality, and have shown themselves to be consistent over the years.

All of our sites are our children. We don't want to kill them, even when they are bad, no good, less than hoped. We can't do that, but others can, and do. Either via Panda, or bounce and no play. For publishers seeking ad revenue that's a kiss of death.

For sites built for different purposes, such as info, share, brand, business that is NOT ad related, Panda had little or no impact. These sites are built for a different business model ... and even info sites are a business... just not specific for ad revenue.

But the web, as we KNEW it, has changed. And the newbies don't ave a clue of where we have been and what has changed, thus mystified they can't make more than a few bucks a month... if that.
1:40 am on Nov 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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tangor -- I think you underestimate the opportunity that the web offers. As I mentioned, in my view we're very lucky to be able to participate in these early days. This is only the beginning. As I also mentioned, the expense of setting up a website is amazingly low. People can potentially reach large audiences at little cost. Information is being made available on an unprecedented scale. This is revolutionary.
2:22 am on Nov 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I set up a site years ago. No monetization yet. It ranks on the first page for at least 90% of its pages, for its targeted keywords. I'm justifiably proud of it.

It's a hobby site. A passion site. Each page I put up, most likely - will reach page one. But get this - it doesn't have many pages. Less than 50 pages after all these years. It's just a "side project" for me.

I only put up pages as and when I am able to. It can be months before I come up with anything. I don't bother with "SEO". Never had from day one. I believe this site has A LOT lot of potential. But I don't play short term. I play long term....;)

So yes, the internet does provide opportunity still. It's harder of course. Much harder. Panda/Penguin raised the bar and for many, that will be too high.

[edited by: Ebuzz at 2:24 am (utc) on Nov 12, 2015]

2:22 am on Nov 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Been there, done that, since 1996. The "front end" is behind us these days. I'm still all for it, just don't play the games to rank any longer, other than being better than my competition in any niche I play. :)

As you note, the entry is low bucks, and that's a good thing. Getting big, on the other hand, takes a bit more than that.
4:04 am on Nov 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Is content really king? At one time it certainly was, and the 26 steps provided a path. But I think we all acknowledge that things have changed. Content I work on, links I work on, but when I look at benchmarks, it seems I should be doing more with email and social, things I've never paid too much attention to.

I've actually been thinking about trying my hand in the adult sector (insert jokes below), which I've always avoided as a high competition area. That's a field that most likely won't go away anytime soon.
5:43 am on Nov 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Depending on which niche one's website was focused on, there are clear signs that Panda increased revenue and profits for a select few in those niches and the "search engine" itself. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure that out. I used to enjoy updating a site with the latest research, before the big sites did, and getting the traffic. Now, they're just sending people to sites that can make them the most money.
6:13 am on Nov 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Depending on which niche one's website was focused on


Recipe for disaster. Diversify your efforts.
1:33 pm on Nov 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I've actually been thinking about trying my hand in the adult sector (insert jokes below), which I've always avoided as a high competition area. That's a field that most likely won't go away anytime soon.


I had a friend who tried that, and couldn't make it work. Difficult niche (specially now) for sure - good luck if you try it, but manage expectations (and resources)

Content is not king; if it was ever king, it wasn't for very long. I'm not sure anything is king, but if I had to pick one nowadays, it's probably user experience. Not usability, but user experience. Can't really SEO that.
1:50 pm on Nov 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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So the naysayers say:

-- There used to be opportunities on the web, but it's too late now.
-- Big entities with big budgets have moved in and taken over.
-- Panda and Penguin are waiting to ambush you and take you down.
-- Even if you create a great website, bad sites will rank higher and get all the traffic.
-- Google keeps changing its algorithm, so it's hopeless.

Don't listen to the naysayers. There's still plenty of opportunity.
3:43 pm on Nov 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Depending on which niche one's website was focused on, there are clear signs that Panda increased revenue and profits for a select few in those niches and the "search engine" itself.

In my sector, the megasites got a boost from Panda early on, but that boost eroded over time, and Google's "subject authority" changes in 2014 certainly made a difference for our niche site. Today, our mom-and-pop site outranks the megasites (and has an average ranking of no. 1, according to the Google Search Console) for large numbers of queries that matter to us.

So, if my experience is any guide, it doesn't make sense to talk about "Panda" in the singular. There are a bunch of Pandas (more than two dozen, at last count), with different effects at different times for different sites.
3:45 pm on Nov 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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From the perspective of what Panda was meant to achieve, it was aimed at reducing the rank of what Google deemed to be low quality or thin content sites. I saw many, many sites get hit. Many deserved a slap as they were pretty awful, with very thin content. The sort of site that you'd visit, then immediately hit the back button because it had nothing of interest or of use. They were poor quality sites that ranked well. I don't miss many of those sites as they wasted my time.
However, there were many sites that I didn't class as poor quality that were hit by Panda. It was tweaked a little high, imho.

Moving on, and knowing what we now know, there's a simple answer: Don't make poor quality sites. The days of throwing a poor site up and it'll rank is a waste of long term effort. Think early MFAs: Many were awful.

I can't SEO my way out of this era.

I wouldn't try, it's about quality, not SEO.
There's plenty of opportunity, absolutely right, however, it's not just about SEO. That aspect plays a part, of course, but, it should not be the sole reason to put up a site just because you can make it rank.

Think about a site in the same way as you'd start a new business. You wouldn't start a business without evaluating the business opportunity, and then creating a business plan. Why should anyone start a site without doing the research? The business needs to come first, then the site. Of course, hobby and educational sites are exceptions, especially if they are to exist in their own right without external funding. But, even so, they have to be interesting, educational, and preferably have unique content.

Great sites still work, although there are many other aspects we can all use to market a site.

Always consider that in a crowded marketplace you have to look at all the ways to get to your audience. Google and SEO is only one part of the mix.

Panda has taught me lessons, and I choose to learn.
5:06 pm on Nov 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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However, there were many sites that I didn't class as poor quality that were hit by Panda. It was tweaked a little high, imho.

We suffered from the early versions of Panda, but I don't think it was because our type of in-depth niche information site was targeted negatively by Google: It was simply because Google started giving more weight to signals that favored big-name megasites. The megasites' pages tended to move up a few slots in the rankings, knocking ours down a few slots, and the effect was to improve their traffic at the expense of ours. (That changed with the Panda release of May, 2014 and subsequent tweaks to Google's algorithm.)

As far as SEO goes, there's a risk in focusing on short-term tactics instead of long-term strategy. Just because certain keyword densities, EMDs, X number of words per page, bulk links, etc. may work in 2015 doesn't mean they'll work in 2016, 2017, or 2025. Focusing on content and user satisfaction is likely to yield bigger dividends over the long term, with fewer fires to stamp out along the way.
7:14 pm on Nov 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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From a Web searcher's perspective, is that a bad thing? People aren't looking for sites with great SEO, they're looking for sites with useful content.

There is one big problem with Google and other search engines. They cannot rank technically not perfect websites with great information and no links pointed to this website.

Panda is a quality algorithm. So if your website is not perfect in html, database, php, styles, pics etc you do not rank. If the website is slow, you do not rank. No efforts made to implement https on your website and guess what... you do not rank. So instead of developing content you squeeze the bytes from your tcp payload to load pages in one tcp turnaround.

It also cannot rank you without links, cannot even find without links. If there is some wrong info on your topic or in your niche on your competitor's website you cannot win this website in SERPs without link building and without being perfect in on page SEO.

Having great information still means nothing in reality. The only quality measure is quantity of your job and your activity to maintain website.

Google is teaching its Algorithms using data from technically perfect websites. If you are as technically perfect as Wikipedia, Amazon, eBay or google itself, if you have their amounts of inbound links pointing to your website, you will rank #1 in your niche even having stupid garbage and nonsense written on your pages but with no grammar mistakes
7:41 pm on Nov 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Interesting thread.

From our viewpoint, Panda and Penguin were good things and a reason to have hope for the future, even though both obviously hurt us. My theory was that the intent was good and would make it easier for sites like ours to survive, and that stopping the "race to the bottom" would eventually help us.

My only quibble is with the notion that Panda is key to understanding what's been going on.

Yes, in the context of SEO-based business plans, Panda and Penguin have had a huge impact.

But it's hard to say how much of the evidence we see (or the trends we have observed in the SERPs) is specifically due to Panda (and/or Penguin), and how much is being driven by other factors.

What is clear in my niche (ad-supported information about a specific set of topics) is that there have always been way too many competitors. No one has been making much money, and most have not been recovering their costs (including the cost of their time to build the site). Sites get built, perhaps improved for a while, then start to stagnate.

There were a lot of competitors when we entered our niche (in 2003/2004) and it seemed difficult to compete against the pioneers that had a head start -- (they had great links from the 90's when good sites were linking liberally and they were the only site in the niche worth linking to).

Our sites slowly started attracting some natural links, but the value of each link seemed to keep getting lower, as "unnatural" links swamped the market. Faced with the tough choice of trying to keep up in the SEO battle by engaging in an extremely high-risk arms race by "building" links or abandon SEO and focus on our content and building systems to help us maintain and add content more efficiently. We went the latter route, with the hope that somehow, someway Google would eventually stamp out all the "fake" (low quality) sites -- and that many of the other participants would eventually realize they weren't going to get rich and would decide to abandon the market. The hope was that we would survive long enough to see the market stabilize with a few successful competitors -- like what we typically see in most "real" world markets -- and that we would be one of them.

For years, more and more competitors kept entering -- some specifically targeting our niche, but mostly folks that were shotgunning a broad array of topics that overlapped with parts of our content. Looking back, it isn't clear how many of the low quality sites gained enough organic traffic/market share to be successful with their business plan but I assume many of them were happy with quickly grabbing a lot of traffic for a short time and then disappearing from the SERPs before reappearing with different sites targeting other keywords.

Looking back it is clear that the rate of new entry slowed greatly and may even have stopped. As well, the great majority of the participants who have been targeting our specific niche have given up -- as indicated by the fact that they aren't updating their sites, and aren't adding more information. Nearly all of these sites remain on the web, and they still compete with us for traffic, but they are slowly drifting down the SERPs. It's hard to judge where the traffic is going because there are so many hundreds of sites appearing in the SERPS for various keywords/topics, but at a minimum it seems likely that the biggest of the brand name info sites are still getting a lot of the traffic -- they overlap our niche but are targeting many other niches as well. None of those sites seem to be making much money, their sites aren't being improved or expanded much, but they are keeping the information up to date and seem to be hanging in there.

Our niche was never dominated by high-powered SEO tacticians, but the SERPS always included a mix of content, including sites like MFA pages, "eHow" and the like, which grabbed a large portion of the traffic for any given keyword/subtopic before Panda and Penguin.

None of this is terribly shocking or strange. Looking back at the history of other industries we often see a "gold rush" mentality in which too many participants enter the market, and few or none of the participants make any money, and eventually there is a "shake out."

There are some key aspects of the web which exacerbate or intensify some of this: very low barriers to entry, anyone anywhere in the world can compete with anyone anywhere else in the world (not necessarily compete well, but compete -- (e.g. MFA sites cranked out by low-cost writers in India) and there are very few ways to judge (before entering a market) how hard it will be to get traffic or recover your costs (much less make a profit).

We're hanging on and hoping to be a survivor long enough to see whether the day ever arrives when it's possible to recover your costs and make a profit in our niche.
7:54 pm on Nov 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Google is teaching its Algorithms using data from technically perfect websites

I have to say I disagree; I see it more as programming algorithms from their point of view.

Technical example. Google's responsive guidelines state that you should use 'content="width=device-width'. This is a fail from a usability point of view. It should instead be 'initial-scale=1'. There is a BIG difference; read up on it and you'll see. Many responsive frameworks and sites say use both, but to advocate that shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the way it actually works. The first command is erroneous, and also superfluous if the second (correct) command is used.

It's not about web standards.It's about GOOGLE'S standards.
8:49 pm on Nov 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It's not about web standards.It's about GOOGLE'S standards.


Absolutely, there's room for argument there.

As for training the algorithms, the standard that Google uses to judge the success of it's algorithms is most definitely not a perfect model of what a natural website is supposed to be. There is no such model. There are statistical averages and spam sites out themselves by deviating from what everyone else does.

Search engines do measure sites against qualities of what a high/low quality site looks like and you can get an idea of those qualities in the Google quality raters handbook, which could be said to be at the heart of the Panda algorithm. It includes things like would you trust this site with your credit card, that kind of thing. Many sites pass that standard, it's not an impossible standard.

But the most important measure of success is the users themselves, not a standard invented by Google engineers. That's what click log mining is used for, to judge the user satisfaction. Essentially it's the users voting with their clicks that assist the algorithms in understanding what went wrong, as part of their quality control. The findings are then incorporated into a future iteration of the algorithm.
9:11 pm on Nov 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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FWIW, a site needn't be "technically perfect" to rank well in the Panda era. Does anyone here seriously believe that Google defines "content quality" in terms of code and other technical factors? Ditto for speed: Page-load time may be a ranking factor these days, but that doesn't mean it's part of the Panda algorithm. Let's not confuse apples with oranges (or marmalade with applesauce).
12:50 am on Nov 13, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the interesting discussion. I did have one follow-up point. One void to the discussion as it were.

With the decay (not sure what other word to use) of the user participation in the Google SEO forums here, it's not possible to hear from those vast numbers of people who stopped participating here. I would expect people still check in but rarely post as much. If Panda killed it for those people they aren't going to be weighing into this thread which makes this a bit hard to gauge.

I still consider Panda to be the blip on the graph that really sucked the life out of webmastering for a great number of us. We can look back and say aha, the game changed and became a lot less enjoyable and or rewarding at that point moving forward.

I'm sure a majority of folks here were successful before Panda rolled around and have kept on rolling. I think it's commendable. However I think it would be misleading to suggest that the vast majority would agree with a view that says Panda had nothing to do with it. I would suggest Panda had everything to do with it. Many people have moved on, clearly. Maybe not from webmastering entirely, but from Google discussion yes.

I also know business and the if you have been doing just fine, anything to take out the competition is a good thing. Thus I get the fact that people will praise Panda or the post Panda era. I like to see things with a clear, unbiased viewpoint. I don't expect a flock of agreement on my views on Panda and the post Panda era. A lot of people left the Google building as it were and likely won't weigh in on this discussion.

I actually don't pin everything on Panda, but the post Panda era to me was about Google disregarding or caring much less about the partnership with the webmasters and content creators. To me it signaled a big change in attitude from which has only really gotten worse. Let's ask whether Google organic is now what it was prior to the Panda rollout. Look outside of your own garden walls for that answer.
5:44 am on Nov 13, 2015 (gmt 0)

Full Member

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joined:May 30, 2009
posts:233
votes: 7


Something that pops into my head often is...why did they delete that lengthy thread on the Google hosted forums about Panda? There were over 3,000 posts and then one day, it just disappeared.

But the most important measure of success is the users themselves, not a standard invented by Google engineers.


(Asking nicely) How in the world can you state that as a known fact?
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