For those of you who are professional writers that don’t run your own websites online, you may not have heard of the Google Panda update. Essentially, Panda is an algorithm run by Google against its search index that it uses in the wake of stinging criticism about its search result being cluttered with low quality content, especially that associated with content farms like Demand Studios and Seed.com. There have been several versions released in the months since the original version embarrassingly missed eHow.com, the biggest content mill of all.
With each version, website owners, online writers, and others have complained that their website was unfairly hit by the Panda downgrade. With each version, whether or not most of those websites were targeted unfairly is a matter of opinion. However, many high-profile websites that did get hit were subsequently restored, either manually or by a future version. And, Google keeps cranking out Panda updates, while admitting it is a work in progress. In other words, so far, it has not been perfect, but Google figures it is moving in the right direction (or at least is pretending it is).
To avoid any major backlash, Google always "estimates" how many websites are affected by each update, with the number always being a relatively small percentage.
ArcticLlama Panda Attack
In addition to being a professional freelance writer, I run several of my own websites and publish material for websites owned by others. I write for Bright Hub, which got nailed by early versions of Panda. They responded by deleting huge swaths of content and by asking writers to stop doing what they used to explicitly require them to do (using exact keyword phrasing regardless of proper grammar comes to mind.) I also write for HubPages. They responded by breaking off each writer’s submissions as their own subdomain.
HubPages seems to have recovered nicely. Bright Hub, not as much.
I also write for Demand Studios, but the parent company Demand Media, notified everyone that they won’t really be publishing anything anymore except for specialized content. I’m guessing they aren’t making near as much money as they used to either, although since I get no access to traffic data for my articles, I’m just guessing.
In other words, I have seen those who got hit and lost their traffic and those who have made it back. However, through it all, my own websites have been untouched, for the most part they were all growing slowly as they build up an audience and more quality content.
Then came August 13th.
Prior to August 13th, one of my websites averaged over 1,000 hits per day. On August 14th, that number dropped to around 400. It has stayed there pretty much ever since. My other websites have been hit with similar reductions in traffic from Google. The effect is subtle, ranking 5th for a search that used to rank 2nd, for example.
The strange thing is that I seem to have been hit across the board despite the variety in my websites. Considering that my websites include this freelance writing blog, a business strategy blog, a personal finance blog, a parenting blog, and an ADD/ADHD website, it seems strange that they would all take the same hit, since there is no way they are ranking in the same way for the same key phrases. While I write the content on all of them, I doubt my writing style can be to blame for the across the board ranking reduction. My sites are even spread across three different web hosts to avoid putting all my eggs in one basket.
The only thing that they all have in common is that they are WordPress blogs. I can’t help but wonder if this version of the Panda update targeted WordPress blogs or blogs in general.
Either way, I’ll keep doing what I always do, writing useful articles and posting helpful information about writing or whatever else I write about. Hopefully, I’ll be one of those websites that gets "fixed" the next time around.
Did you get hit by the August 13 Panda update? Has your site recovered? Are you doing anything new or just plugging ahead?