This post is going to be dedicated to this years changes in the way that google ranks websites commonly known as “Panda” it’s name come’s from one of the engineers at google whose nick name is you guessed right! “Panda” the updates started earlier this year and even though I was aware of them I paid little attention to what was happening as all of my main site’s were not been affected neither adversely or positively to any degree that I could see with the naked eye in exactly the same way I was not affected in any other historical update “Farmer” “Caffeine” or the “Florida update” This post will be long so grab a coffee and take a moment or two to follow along with me.
On October the 14th 2011 google rolled out the latest’s update commonly referred to as Panda 2.5 or variations off. This time I experienced something that was visible with the naked eye and as one fellow webmaster stated “I nearly choked on my morning coffee” I was experiencing a 60% drop in traffic and revenue to my two main sites which represent about 80% of my income a quick search and I realized that I was one of many who had lost traffic and revenue due to the most recent iteration of the Panda update.
Let me state now this post is not going to focus on the negative or how I just lost 60% of revenue over night on the contrary it is going to focus on the good that can and will come out of this update to all the webmasters like myself who have experienced the exact same affect, sure I would prefer not to have lost this revenue over night it’s important to me as it is to others. Whats done is done though and this is a simple fact that I have now accepted in its entirety. In the first instance my first reaction after looking at what happened to myself was “google will roll this back it makes no sense” In my own case like so many others my site dropped from #1 to #3 and was replaced by sites that can only be described as thin and of less value than my own, which ever way you skin this it makes no sense and is obviously something google would not want. After allowing the dust to settle for a few days I had another thought what if the other 90% of results got better and my site like other similar sites is just a byproduct of making 90% of search results better! Would I roll back the update to help 10% and not worry about the other 90%? Heck No! I would sacrifice 10% of results for the greater good any day.
Here is the details of my own experience on one of the sites I have been referring to it is a site about caring for goldfish a simple site with average to good content all unique, its been around for around 6 years has had multiple updates and redesigns, 100% white hat, all the incoming links are natural with the exception of a few where I have added this site as my main site I.E on a forum I participate in or a blog post I responded too. Its not a site that’s trying to hog #1 for a branded term like “Toyota Camry” its a simple term that is often searched for by people looking for information on how to care for goldfish. you may ask and rightly so what makes this site deserve to be in #1 for the term “goldfish care” ?
The truth is a negative response in that it is the only site that is totally devoted to the term and no others exist that have better content, age or other attributes, one could consider to be so much better. Could the site be better? Yes could someone easily develop a site that could out rank this site? Sure! up-till now no one has and this is the only reason why I have been number #1 for the term for many years.
So what happened on October 14th my site got pushed down to the #3 position and was replaced in the #1 position by a young site with 5 thin pages of content “wordpress” and 13 pages which are empty “these 13 are important and I will refer back to them shortly. The #2 position is held by a site who is to put it bluntly ok it has a decent amount of content. On a par to mine the areas it is lacking in compared to mine are domain, age, obviously affiliate driven. I’m not going to focus on this site as it is way superior to the other and I cant honestly say it is better or worse in a huge way to my own.
So for the purpose of this post I will be referring uniquely to the super thin site in #1 position, It dose not take a genius to see this site in no way deserves the top position compared with my own “I’m calling what happened a side effect of the latest update and have accepted it” If my site was about Toyota Camry’s and I’d been hogging position one for years and got bumped by Toyota’s Site “Camry Page” I would not even be thinking of “how can I get the #1 spot back” results like that are logical and I believe best for the user.
After a lot of reading, deep thought and analytic comparisons I have actually become quite exited by these changes and how with some work I can turn them into something very positive. Reading other peoples examples within the same realm as myself categorically demonstrates some common themes, here are a few..
- Main keywords dropping 2-3 places Long tails down 2-3 pages
- 60% drop off “this is interesting as it demonstrates just how much more important #1 is to #3 finally clear undisputed proof from a large data set.
- Thin sites replacing those sites that lost ground again my realm “non branded terms” or informational terms if you wish.
Here are a few things that kept popping up and were in my mind worth noting.
- Anything with Video is getting a bump up
- Over use of ads can be detrimental. Sure we all know that already, seems like the bar was raised and those sites with next to no ads got a bump up.
- This kept coming up though it’s not pertinent to me Affiliate links “less is better”
- The big one also seems to be the removing thin pages from your site by use of a nofollow, completely removing or using robots.txt to remove from the index.. I’m on the fence on this one, more so as it applied to earlier panda updates, I will cover it later as it relates to me.
- Low quality links have been devalued even further.
Here are a couple of things that have come to mind over the last few days that I have not read..
- It appears that if google was previously using X major factors to value a website this number has been increased for example if it was content and links before now it is content, links and Video. This is an extremely simplified example but I’m sure you get the point if before you had both variables covered but not the third you would lose 33% of your value with this update..
- “Content is was king” I believe a long time ago it was and was 90% of a site value. With the number of sites on the web growing it was getting more difficult to decipher who had the best content along comes Social Media, Video, etc obvious candidates to be incorporated in to a web business as they are such a large part of the web. The other thing I found was a reference from google themselves that states “duplicate content taken from say wiki. Found on another site is not reason to devalue that site IF and its a great IF “it adds to the depth of a users experience” this is important in my eyes for two reasons it echos google’s general theme of making interesting interactive unique sites, and somewhat encourages sites to reference and use where permitted Non Unique Content.
- Lastly my own personal view is google is getting closer and closer to creating an algorithm that will be very difficult to game, this in my eyes is great news and the only people that will suffer long term are those looking to make a quick buck with the absolute opposite true for those who are in this for the long haul and prepared to treat it as a business like any other brick and mortar business.
So this is pretty much all the information I have gathered concerning my situation and I believe so similar to a lot of other people’s. What next?
One thing that became very apparent whilst reading through the reports of people been affected by the Panda Update was quite a few had recovered and in fact gained traffic and income after the fact all these people had a few things in common… the one that grabbed me the most is here Recovering from the Panda Update the one that is found on the page in the content demonstrates once again that there is no real magic to this game just basic common sense what google determines to be a quality site is widely written about and available for all to read go above and beyond and create a great website.
Another thing I have seen often is “a redesign” Its been on my mind for a while guess what just thinking about it will not change anything, now I have accepted that I’m an unwilling side affect of something that is probably in the whole good I’m just going to go about making my website better this alone I believe will restore me back to my favored position probably with an uptick at the same time, In the mean time it’s not entirely impossible that google will review the small amount of results that are far from perfect and amend the recent change to take care of the problem that this recent Panda Update produced.