Jan Leow's Press Blog

Has Panda update caused your website traffic to reduce?

When Panda update announcement first came about early this year 2011, it has cause a number of websites traffic to reduce. The update was meant to weed out questionable web sites that are spewing out useless fluff in the internet as well as weed out web spammers.

However the algorithm was not perfect and legitimate authority web site was hit as well. It created a lot of negative publicity about the Panda update and Google tried to defuse it and reverse any harm it has cause to web site owners who made enough complaint about why their web site is nowhere to be found with the relevant keywords.

So as the Panda update is rolled out to the rest of the world (meaning Google searches with TLD ending other than .com, for example over here in Malaysia, google.com.my), I waited and see what will happen to my websites.

Basically, Google’s Panda update should not affect my website since it is authoritive in nature. Just to be on the safe side, I moved my forum to another web site URL so that lesser and irrelevant posting should not affect the main site.

PandasUnfortunately, for one of my travel website, I did see a steady drop in my website traffic around June to August. Since it is a travel website, it could also be affected by the general poorer economic situation in Malaysia. Higher inflation, less income, poorer economy, people will cut back on their travels. So logically searches will also reduce as less people will plan for travel.

Strangely when I checked back previous years, whenever a holiday festival approaches, usually my website traffic will spike. Not so for this year. So I wonder this could be caused by Google’s Panda update rolling out across the world. Only way now is to wait and see.

Meanwhile, Google gave a list of suggestion for cleaning up your website to avoid being penalized by the Panda algorithm. And then for some, even after the cleaning up, their website still performed badly in SERP. Although Google can manually provide exception, they will do so only if it causes adverse publicity to their name if the website owner complained vehemently! For small fries like us, it is highly unlikely Google will entertain you.

Anyway, just in case the suggestions actually work, here are the Google lists in the following as “questions that one could use to assess the ‘quality’ of a page or an article”:

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • How much quality control is done on content?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

Also it was said that a single poorly made page within your web site could impact your entire site is also a very sobering thought.

Singhal also reminds webmasters, “One other specific piece of guidance we’ve offered is that low-quality content on some parts of a website can impact the whole site’s rankings, and thus removing low quality pages, merging or improving the content of individual shallow pages into more useful pages, or moving low quality pages to a different domain could eventually help the rankings of your higher-quality content.”

Then again, we don’t know how Google’s algorithm works, and Panda update is not the only one affecting your website. Google makes as many as 400 tweaks in a year to their algorithm, so no way you can reverse engineer what they are trying to do. Whatever SEO tricks you use today, may become obsolete the next day.

Main point is still this, content is king. Post good articles and information in your website or if you are a programmer come up with good useful web services and you should be alright. Write it for humans rather than for robots. Still there are many SEO tactics being use because it seems writing good content is never enough these days. The search market is highly competitive!

So meanwhile, I just have to wait it out and see how my travel website will do. Whether it is due to the poor economic situation or due to Google’s Panda update algorithm will remain to be seen.

[update 16/11/2011]

Now I’m pretty sure my websites have been hit by Google Panda update. Not just my travel website which I wrote earlier, but practically all my travel websites have been hit including this blog! It wasn’t a total loss though. Some of the inner pages may have lost ranking while the main ones are still intact. And that was enough to lose 50% to 70% of my web traffic! Cleaning up the website won’t be an easy task especially since I don’t really know exactly what is the problem. All I could do is just give a guess based on the vague points and ideas mooted by Google representative.

Thin pages and too much ads may be affecting this blog, but then all along I’m just experimenting with my blog. My other income earning sites on the hand is another matter. I was sure I didn’t do anything that would contravene any of the those points, but it looks like it was being hit pretty hard by Google Panda. So looks like I will have to scrutinize those points very much more so and take heed small little things like page load speed, boilerplate issues, etc. Sigh! It is going to be a lot of work and leaving me with less time to write more content.

Now it seems “freshness” or posting new content is becoming another criteria, but wasn’t that what I have been doing all along? This is certainly very confounding!

“As we announced just over a week ago, we’ve made a significant improvement to how we rank fresh content. This change impacts roughly 35 percent of total searches (around 6-10% of search results to a noticeable degree) and better determines the appropriate level of freshness for a given query.”

And they are also experimenting about how much content that could be seen above the fold.

Matt Cutts said that Google was testing algorithms that determine how much content is available above the fold on your web pages. He cautioned that sites that have ads that obscure content could be in trouble.

The last I checked, I should be within this criteria. Then again, their algo could also be blind to what a website actually looked like. Hmmm…

Related Posts:
Fixing the penalty of Google Panda 2.5.2 update

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