After hearing so many stories of people who have lost a huge percentage of traffic from the Google Panda Update, I finally experienced the dreaded Panda first-hand. On October 14th, traffic on Cool Marketing Stuff took a nose dive.
According to Matt Cutts, there was a minor Panda update on October 14th. Over the last month, compared to the previous month, unique visitors fell by 33.4%.
Google’s Panda Update which first hit in February 2011, was designed to reward quality content with higher rankings while pushing down low quality results. One of the targets was content farms, or sites that generated large amounts of low quality content with the goal of ranking for a lot of long tail phrases.
Panda is different from other updates because it uses a combination of humans who rate sites for quality and machine learning which identifies patterns in the data. This video from SEOMoz explains the history of Panda.
There are a few factors that I think may have triggered Panda on this site:
Syndication of Creative Commons Articles
In the past, I have republished articles on this blog that were previously published on other sites. These articles were from sites that put their work into Creative Commons, which grants permission for content like an article or photo to be shared or republished as long as there is attribution given to the content creator. Unfortunately, many sites abused this practice and Panda may hit sites that have a lot of content that is published from other sites.
Low Quality Content
In order to improve the quality of search results, the Panda update may be applied to sites that have pages with very little valuable content. In the early days I have published some blog posts that were extremely short such as a marketing quote or a couple sentences on why I like a video. This may have been viewed as low quality or “thin” content. Fortunately this can be easily fixed by removing any thin pages on your site. According to Google, “Removing low quality pages or moving them to a different domain could help your rankings for the higher quality content.” Another thing that may have lowered the quality of content is accepting guest posts. While, guest posts can be a good way to generate content on your site, often times the content is subpar and I end up regretting accepting an offer for a guest post. While, I don’t think it would be right to remove any guest posts that I have already agreed to publish, I plan to be more picky about future guest article submissions.
High Bounce Rate
My bounce rate has been almost 79% in the last month. According to Avanish Kaushik, almost 80% of visitors who came to this site threw up and left. Google can access bounce rate data and if people frequently return to the search results page after visiting your site, this can signal that people are not finding what they are looking for and your site may be low quality. One thing that can help with lowering bounce rate on a blog is to have links to similar posts at the end of your blog posts. This can encourage people to read another article and keep people on your site.
High Number of Ads
On this site, I currently have about 12 ads in the sidebar. One thing that Google is taking aim at is sites that have a high advertisement to content ratio. Many low quality sites are filled with Adsense ads with a small area of actual content. So one way to reduce this ratio is to eliminate some ads. Although many of my ads here are helpful, such as book recommendations, it wouldn’t hurt to reduce the amount of ads. In recent months, I have been making about $30-40 per month from Amazon affiliates from the sidebar book banners.
I’m looking forward to experimenting with these changes to see if I can recover.
Photo by Rev Dan Catt