May 2015 - The Google Update That Didn't Happen
22% of Google search traffic disappeared!— Paul Edmondson
On May 3rd, our Google traffic compared to the prior week was off by 22% across all of HubPages. Google has said that this isn't a Panda update. Even so, it's pretty brutal. I feel tremendously bad for Hubbers and the team at HubPages that have worked extremely hard over the last several years to improve the site.
We've spent the last few days looking at data and trying to glean any information from these stats. Here's what we found out about this recent Google update.
This Update isn't About Quality at the Page Level
- When we analyze each Hub by internal quality score, we see very little differentiation between our lowest-rated and highest-rated content. It's extremely unfortunate to see really good authors lose a tremendous amount of traffic.
- We compared the traffic losses of our hand-picked, high-quality Editors Choice Hubs that are on the main HubPages domain vs Hubs on subdomains and they both lost 22%.
- We compared professionally edited, HubPro-Edited Hubs to unedited Hubs and they were virtually a tie at a 22% loss on average.
- Squidoo-imported Hubs were down just about the same as original Hubs.
- We compared how Hubs with external links and affiliate products did comparatively, and we didn't see any meaningful variation.
This means Google applied a site-wide ranking factor that ignores quality and subdomains. I'd call this a very blunt site-wide whack if your site is on the wrong side of this algorithm.
Change in Google Traffic by Content Quality
Google Change vs Dwell Times
As with our quality distribution, we didn't see any significant differentiation in Google's traffic change based on dwell times.
Dwell time and word count are highly correlated. We didn't see differentiation by analyzing traffic changes by word count either.
Change in Google Traffic by Dwell Time
A Little Differentiation By Category
If you've followed search, you've probably heard folks talk about how Your Money and Your Life topics are held to a higher quality bar. However, we saw the biggest categorical drop in our Religion category—perhaps it's just an outlier.
We compared our traffic change by category to another large site that was hit, and while we lost different amounts, the relative correlation was there across categories. This appears to be the most significant connection we can find, but it's still not very useful.
Change in Google Traffic by Category
Looking at the Data by User
With most Google updates, fluctuation by subdomain is common; However, in the last update nearly every subdomain lost traffic. Looking at the buckets for HubPages authors, you'll see that this was a really hard on folks across the board. 90% of the accounts we sampled saw a decrease in Google traffic.
A big reason we are on subdomains is so each Hubber can be evaluated on their own merits. This update does not insulate subdomains and affects all accounts no matter the quality.
Lost Traffic and Gained Traffic in Latest Google Update
This list was sent to me that highlights a few sites that were impacted and others that weren't. While Google said that this wasn't a Panda update, in my very small sample list, it does seem like sites that have had Panda issues tended to do poorly with this update.
Lost Traffic in Latest Update:
Gained Traffic in Latest Update
Again, I'm truly sorry to Hubbers that have been affected by this update. We are feeling it as well. We will continue to do our best to get HubPages in Google's good graces, and hopefully reduce the volatility while we raise the quality of our site. As most people know on HubPages, we have put a considerable amount of resources into aggressively editing the highest traffic pages to improve the site for the vast majority of readers. At the same time we have been no indexing a tremendous number of pages. The hope is we can raise our overall quality to escape Panda once and for all. We will continue these efforts.
I'm going to pass this analysis on to John Mueller at Google and hopefully the search team will take a look at how this update is impacting the whole of HubPages.