So I've been following some very complicated conversations on the forums recently about this Panda update thingy and I've started wondering what it all means for someone who is still pretty new (8 hubs and 3 weeks old in my case).
From what I can gather, there are a few themes circulating about the Panda:
1. It has pulled Hubpages' pants down and given a lot of people an unpleasant spanking.
2. Some people have a reasonable idea as to why, but most people are generally just a bit confused and dizzy from the spanking.
3. Nobody really knows for sure if this is the kind of Panda that eats shoots and leaves, or is here to stick around...
From what I can gather, people mostly seem to be doing one of the following in response :
1. Waiting and hoping the situation improves - either through Google or Hubpages changes, and meanwhile working on other things.
2. Making adjustments to their hubs which appear to range from the fairly innocuous to lobotomizing years worth of work.
3. Being like me and trying to work out what is going on from others before deciding what to do.
So, that said, does anyone have any advice for people who are just starting out still and don't therefore have the problem yet of owning a lot of hubs that the Panda may not like? I know the sensible answer is probably to tell me/us to just do everything that the Panda says it likes, but that seems a little risky also. After all, the signs always say you shouldn't feed the animals at the zoo...
Google's Panda update happened in February 2011. I recommend you go to the Google site and read what they have to say about best web practices and creating quality content. Since you have only started making Hubs, that really should take care of it for you.
I'm wondering, Ethan, if you are referring to the "Panda" changes that took place at the end of February 2012 (not the "original" Panda) which chopped a lot of people's traffic off at the knees?
I don't know much about it, only that traffic to my hubs (that is, the portion of traffic not directly created by ME) dropped by a magnitude of 75-80%, overnight, on February 27th, 2012. For example, a hub that WAS getting 120-150 reads a day was suddenly getting 20-30.
I don't know enough about it to comment intelligently (although I AM interested), I can only observe that "it did happen."
To be honest, I don't really know which Panda change I was talking about. I am not expert in these things (hence my not very serious tone, though don't get me wrong - I do consider it a serious matter like everyone else) so I was mainly referring to the current climate of worry rippling throughout the forums about people's traffic not coming back. Thanks for the reply!
I've only been hearing that quality content is a must, well of course and Penguin was used to weed out 'link' schemes or what they deem as 'spammy' 'gaming search rank' type of sites. Just watch where you link. Make sure it's a good 'neighborhood' and write what you know, enjoy, dislike, whatever - and answer the why, what, where, when, who and how, is all I can suggest.
Panda was a new component of Google's algorithm launched in Februarly 2011 and rerun every few weeks ever since.
Pre-panda, Google's algorithm mostly examined individual webpages: their content, words emphasized in headers and links and image names, what sites linked to them, and what pages they linked to. It used all these cues to help it decide what search terms the page was relevant for. Once it knew that, it could decide hoe high up to list that page versus other pages relevant to the same searches.
What's different about Panda is that it operates at the domain level. It looks at ALL the content on Hubpages and asks questions like, "How much of this is content copied from (read:identical to) elsewhere? How much is poorly-written with bad grammar, spelling mistakes, typos, and what is clearly some other language run through a translator? How much is on spam-prone topics like diet pills and "make money online" and gambling? How much is affiliate marketing content written with a view to making commissions? How much is thin content, some generic and unhelpful mush written to cash in on a search phrase or trend? Are there excessive ads above the fold?" It's also checking cues as to user experience -- time on site, sharing with Google Plus, speed of page load...anyway, all these factors are totted up, then Google assigns what I call a Panda Score to that particular domain.
That Panda Score is then used as a ranking factor -- a strong one -- when performing the main Google algorithm's evaluation of individual pages. It's like putting English on a pool shot. All pages get a boost or headwind depending on the Panda Score of the host site.
Hubpages got hammered, because it had a lot of pages Google considered low quality or spam. It flailed in various ways trying to recover from the traffic drop, and succeeded about halfway, but each time Google re-runs the Panda calculation (every few weeks), Hubpages may see another traffic hit or boost depending on whether Panda decides there's more or less good quality content on Hubpages than last time.
One thing Hubpages tried is to break content into subdomains, giving each hubber a chance to have their content partitioned off from the rest of the site. (e.g. my articles are all posted on the greekgeek.hubpages.com subdomain instead of www.hubpages.com.) the theory is that Panda may evaluate each subdomain separately. I am not 100% convinced this helped, as I have been monitoring Hubpages' overall traffic compared to comparable article-writing sites, and they're getting fairly similar traffic. But different hubbers have been hit more or less by the Panda penalty, so the subdomains split may have had some impact.
What does all of this mean? If you write on an article publishing site with lots of authors, your traffic is partly dependent on the overall quality of content on the site. Flagging and removing spam and junk can help. (The community needs to act as antibodies.) Even the nagivation and structure of the site can make a difference. If Hubpages's topics tree tends to list good content prominently in each subtopic page and hide the spam, it'll get a better Panda score.
You can partly overcome Panda by providing not just good content, but really useful content that gets shared. Another small but useful tweak is to look up how to establish authorship -- there is a way to link your Google profile to your author profiles on various websites and thereby build up Google clout if you tend to create excellent stuff under that authorname. Google MAY be looking to see if you get comments -- it's looking for every factor it can to help it evaluate, and is continuing to tweak.
If you've whipped off low-quality 400 word articles selling automatic toothbrushes for a commission, it may be time to take those down and up your game. Google may be evaluating your overall hub portfolio, and to a lesser extent judging your hubs by its overall sco for Hubpages. Thin, poor, boring articles that you wouldn't read if you ran across them might should be taken down. But the best thing, as you guess, is to start creating more useful, fresh, excellent articles.
This year, Google added a new Panda-like calculation code named Penguin which attempts to detect, discount, and penalize links dropped in various spammy ways to manipulate search engines. For years, Google's algorithm checked links to webpages as one ranking factor, until everyone bought links and started coding bots spamming the web with links to pages they wanted to rank. Paid linkbuilding services, free linkbuilding services, link drops on unsecured guestbooks, low-quality link directories and websites that link to ALL their other content, even if it's not relevant to the topic, got creamed by Penguin. So people are now trying to clean up unrelated backlinks, automated links, links from spammy sites, and links from paid services which Google hosed. Hubpages hasn't taken too bad a hit from Penguin since only a minority of its users spammed the web with links trying to get their hubs to rank better. There's not much you can do here, since it's another domain-level penslty, but make sure your own hubs only link to relevant and related content -- DON'T link to "my five best articles" without regard to subject matter on every page. Also, don't use services promising to build you tons of automated links. They don't work and could hurt.
Two things most people are missing in all this is that Google search is aimed to find content which is MOST RELEVANT to particular searches and MOST USEFUL to its users. Good content is therefore not enough. Google ranks up content that answers questios, solves problems, and satisfies searchers looking up particular things. Not only that, but your content has to be more useful than OTHER pages on the topic. Videos, infographics, freebies, checklists, quizzes and other extras can help give yours an edge, but it still comes down to, "does your content give the searcher what he/she is looking for?" The best way to succeed on the web these days is to rack your brains for what you know, and find ways to turn that knowledge into something that's useful to people. Entertainment and a good read are also useful, but there's a lot of entertainment and good reads out there, so it's a little harder to succeed just by writing things that are interesting or fun.
Thank you for the most awesome response I've ever seen to any forum post! I'm really impressed, and more than a little bit grateful that you took the time to answer the question.
I've been doing a lot of research in the last few days because Google has de-listed my Hubpages subdomain and I am kind of reeling from the shock. Ironically I started writing 3 weeks ago with no idea about SEO. Then I found a couple of hubs about it, discovered the keyword tool and analytics and thought to myself 'o crap - I'd better re-write all my hubs so they get indexed'. And I'm sure you can guess what happened next...
So after I submit this post, I'm going to return all my hubs to their original fairly keyword-free states and submit my subdomain for reconsideration.
What a wonderful welcome to the world of blogging/online writing. Since Hubpages is my first venture into this world, I guess I am either really unlucky to have come along and hit this hurdle so early on, or really lucky I don't have 1000 hubs that all need deleting or rewriting. The jury is still out on that one...
If any other new hubbers come across this thread - please heed Greekgeek's answer and don't get de-indexed like me and face an unknown amount of time in Google purgatory...
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