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Internet based side of our business basically wiped out as of March 28

.but no drops in traffic

4:11 am on Apr 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Who'd a thunk it. On or about March 28, our sales of our online "stuff" dropped by about 80%, and those sales were not unsubstantial. At the same time our adsense income completed the slow plummet by dropping again, so we're about 20% of our former hi's.

We don't do too many affiliates but our amazon commissions which were doing well, running about $100 a month also crashed after the 28th.

So, basically that about covers it. The ways of doing business that help us earn 6 figures a year now don't put food on the table. The fact that the drops were pretty abrupt brings the trail to...well, let's just guess.

So, we're going back to our roots, and actually will promote our consulting services by...well, believe it or not, snail mail, phones with a bit of email, and we'll not count on any money directly from our websites, which have modest traffic due to very specialized niches, but overall still in the 6 figures for visitors each month.

So, anyway, stuff happens. It sucks, and it's bye-bye retirement, but what the heck, I didn't like slippers anyway, but here's the thing that's really scary. The only explanation I have for all this leads to Google's door, either through changes in the search algos or changes in adsense. (We've tried adwords a fair amount, but haven't been able to make it work for us).

I never imagined that what has happened could actually take place.

Wow. Having to work for a living. Who'd a thought it would happen. Cripee, I'm even thinking of doing book signings and hitting the road to earn money.
4:20 pm on Apr 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I don't post much but I wanted to let you know that you aren't the only one this is happening to. In my case the drop happened in mid-November and income has been down 40-55% on the previous year ever since. Traffic is not the same - it was up significantly throughout November, December, January and Febuary then steady in March and April.

eCPM has plummeted, and I've been told that I've been smartpriced .... ironically, it is apparently probably because of my best-performing ad placement, which I carefully put just under the heading on each of my 6000+ pages on 5 separate sites after it was suggested to me about 3 year's back by the optimization team. This is now, presumably post-Panda, regarded as a questionable position.

I wonder if a similar thing has happened to you - especially as you say some of your designs are quite dated? It really does seem that sites are now being judged by how they look in addition to (or perhaps rather than) the content they contain. Having said that, there still appears to be a big disconnect between what Adsense wants us to do and what Google Search expects from us.

I haven't quite worked out what to do yet. Like you, I used to be scared to make any changes because the sites were working fine just like they were. Now I have various choices. I can a) accept that my income has dropped to depressing levels and keep on in the same way, adding more quality content to sites which are no longer as popular with Google as they were, but which are still popular with my loyal visitors. Or I can b) redesign the sites, change each and every page, and move that prime position ad placement. But as that ad placement provides 85% of my (much reduced) Adsense income, and Adsense provides 80% of my income overall, I can't bring myself to rush into it. Not to mention the time it would take to do.

I know I will have to do it eventually. The writing is on the wall - and stares me every day when I log into my Adsense account!

But somehow all the joy of being an internet publisher has been sucked away. Adsense used to be a real joy to me - you put the code in the right places and ads appeared like magic that were really useful to my visitors. They were 100 times better than the banner ads that other networks were showing. Nobody objected to them, they were relevant, and they complemented the subject of each page. They blended in or stood out, depending on how you designed them, and if your page had good content then you could be pretty sure that the adsense ads would be good, too.

Regarding your product sales and Amazon income the only thing I can think of is that Panda/Farmer has affected you somehow, and although you are getting similar traffic levels, the visitors are coming in through different pages of the site, on different keywords, and possibly with different expectations. I find it hard to make sense of my Analytics and to spend the time on going into them with too much detail, too, but have been wondering about buying in an expert's time through Elance or Odesk, to see if they can spot anything obvious that can be changed or improved. Might that be an option for you, too?
4:58 pm on Apr 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Thanks, SmallP. Great stuff. Indeed, some of the sites were/are pretty dreadful in terms of design. Working on remedies, because if I want to use my sites to generate real world work, they need to portray the correct company image.

The part about things being fun (or not) hits home. One of my hats is as a small business person and author on the topic, and several things operate here. First, it's all gotten so mysterious and unpredictable that any business who relies on any one company (Google) as the lifeblood for business is ALWAYS going to be at risk. Volatility and lack of predictability are bad business contexts, suitable for the young.

...and when you give up control of your fate, it's hard to enjoy the ride. I love the challenge, but no longer like the idea of being put out of business because of a search algo change. That's THE business killer.
11:40 pm on Apr 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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coachm, I understand you are ready to quit fighting the algo wars but still would like to understand how you could loose so much while keeping about the same traffic. Here's a possible idea I've seen in my own web business:

While Panda has slammed what used to be my prime keywords, it has elevated me for other less-precise long tail searches. I am considering that this is shifting my audience into a new profile. Wether this new profile has significant differences in how they respond to my AdSense, Amazon, and other business content remains to be seen, but it could possibly be a gigantic factor for some businesses, while almost nothing for others.

I'll be the first to admit this is mostly guesswork in the dark. I couldn't tell an elephant from a snake at this stage of the Panda episode.
4:53 am on Apr 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Dibbern2, I don't have any answers as of yet, but I will spend some time most days, experimenting, tweaking and trying to figure things out. The trend is going downwards by the week. To show the magnitude this week, let's say I was making an average of $200 a day before (like prior to Feb). Now, I'd be making $60 a day. Something like that. Those aren't the actual numbers, but just as an example.

I DO think that Panda has changed the makeup of the visitors. It`s almost the only explanation that makes sense. Not only would that account for lower ctr, but also might affect PPC if google assesses the traffic as less valuable.

(Noticed today that people from India simply do not click my ads).

I'll continue to update here. I'm seeing strange adsense numbers. On one site, I'm getting more page views reported than I have before, with the adsense numbers about a third to half higher than other measures of page views I use.

Why? No idea. It's one of the sites that is still making money. I'm using a url channel for for this.

I'm blocking almost all placement ads. There's hundreds, and it's tedious, but about 99% have NO relation to my sites. My visitors are simply not going to click on ads for dating in Korea, written in Korean. Doesn't appear to be any way to stop all the already "approved" ads all at once, so I'll do a little each day.

Here is one tentative theory that has been weighing on me for years. My impression is that when I have used ad servers (openx and it's predecessores, DFP, etc), I experience revenue drops. I "think" that might be happening now, since I've been having more adsense ads served via DFP than before.

DFP allows all kinds of flexibility that, theoretically, should end up increasing revenues, by having geotargetting, capping, and all kinds of stuff, BUT if it is screwing up the contextual part of the thing, it`s worse than useless.

I`have finally settled on a way to integrate both DFP and regular adsense adcode. I`m removing adsense from the rotation and putting the code back into my pages. I`ll use DFP for other kinds of ads in adjacent spots where context isn`t relevant.

I have a sneaky suspicion that might be one of the sources of the problems.

Just to add insult to injury, we ARE seeing traffic drops this week, attributable to Panda, probably.

Oh, one more thing. Looked at the new reports in the new adsense interface, and again, not a thing jumps out. Most of our ads are contextual, and while there`s hundreds of `placed`ads, it doesn`t appear that they are showing.

Still a mystery, but now that I have nothing to lose anymore, I`s still curious.
7:24 pm on Apr 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I'm having similar problems with an adsense only site. Compared to the same period in 2010, April 1 - 21, the situation in 2011 looks like this:

Earnings -17%
Page views +49%
Clicks -29%
CTR -53%
CPC +7%
RPM -57%

In 2010 nearly all ads shown were relevant to the content on the page. However, this year they are mostly irrelevant to the content, yet blocking them for 3 days and allowing relevant ads to take their place resulted in a signifcant drop in earnings. Thus I had no choice but to unblock them.
8:39 am on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

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@Richie0x That does tie in with a general theory of mine that Google have shifted away from the contextual element of the Adsense system towards one that is based more on advertiser bids.

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