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How to get your hubpages subdomain out of the Google Panda penalty box

Updated on October 1, 2014

The Google Panda update was the biggest shake up to Google's algorithm since the Florida update of 2003. Hundreds of websites saw their search rankings fall sharply, including Hubpages, which was deemed a "content farm" and hurt particularly hard by Panda.

Hubpages fought back and decided to put all their authors on subdomains - that way, good authors wouldn't be contaminated by the bad authors. And sure enough, some authors (including me) have experienced sustained surges in traffic. But some authors, who can by no means be characterised as "bad", experienced falls. What was going on?

Google is just a bot

The first thing people need to understand is that Google hasn't yet developed Artificial Intelligence. Their machines can't assess a quality piece of prose the way a human can. As far as I know, no one at Google can do telepathy, magic nor has alien powers either.

All the bot can do is look at a domain or sub-domain and compare it's metrics to those of known spam sites.

In a nutshell, Google uses human raters to identify spam sites, and then uses these as a benchmark. If your site has similar characteristics to a spam site, then down you go!

You can be innocent as anything - but if a spammer decides to build their sites using techniques identical to yours, you need to watch out. Part of the reason SEO is ever changing is that the spammers constantly adopt and borrow techniques to disguise the fact that they are spammers, and as Google catches up with them and bans the techniques in their algorithm, innocent people get caught out simply because they haven't moved fast enough to adapt to changing conditions.

"Your honour, I've been using this technique since 1999" doesn't wash in an internet world that moves at warp speed and expects all it's participants to adapt quickly.

The key to staying safe online as a webmaster is making sure that your site or sub-domain does not conform to any pattern that the algo has identified as spammy.

What is a thin affiliate site?

As it happens, we have a leaked document from Google designed to help their quality raters, dating from 2007. Here it is.

Here's what they had to say about thin affiliate sites:

Spammers make money when a transaction is completed after the user has clicked through to the “real” merchant site from the affiliate page.

After you have clicked through you will see you are on a different URL or right-clicking on an image on the original page may reveal the URL of the affiliate. You may also be re-directed through a third party domain. A common type of thin affiliate spam is “hotel” spam, where you land on one page but are taken to a different domain when you attempt to complete the transaction. Amazon and eBay are also highly associated with this type of spam

It is unlikely they have softened this viewpoint as time has passed. On the contrary, their view of what they think of as thin affiliates has probably hardened.

So - they are clearly profiling sites that link out to Amazon and eBay.

Does your subdomain only link out to Amazon and eBay? If so, your profile will look similar to those autoblogs that use wp-robot or other auto-plugins to produce hundreds of amazon pages and nothing else.

I've seen some hubs with about 12-15 products listed per hub. This means a total of 24-30 amazon links per hub (as there is one link on the image and one link on the text). If you have a 100 hubs like this, this means your subdomain links out to Amazon 2400-3000 times.

Do you have anything to offset this? Links to other sites? Links to other affiliates? You need to make sure that your total outgoing links to Amazon/eBay are no more than 80%. So if you have a total 2000 links out to Amazon on your sub-domain, then you need 400 links out to other sites. Even that might be generous given the contempt G has towards affiliate sites.

This means either reducing the number of products that you feature in your hubs, or writing additional hubs that are informational and link to other trusted sites, to dilute the Amazon/eBay effect on your sub-domain. Link out to the main newspapers, link out to sites you own, link out to relevant sources. Linking out is good! It's what the web is based on.

If a good proportion of your subdomain is not amazon/ebay at all, you will definitely not fit the profile of a thin affiliate site, and you won't have been dinged.

Incoming links aka backlinks

If you have thousands of links out to amazon, do you have incoming links to balance this? And no, I don't mean links from other subdomains - they will have the same IP address as your own subdomain, and when it comes to backlinks, Google is looking for IP diversity. I mean links from other IP addresses.

I know that some people have reported that Hubpages is weird about people building backlinks and deliberately unpublishes those who do. However, relying on links from a single IP address (hubpages) is potentially a road to the back end of the SERPs.

So build some links, even some mild bookmarking on some do-follow sites should help produce a profile of diverse IP addresses linking in.


Google relies on profiling and pattern matching to catch out those they think of as undesirable spammers.

The key to survival on the net is to make sure that you don't conform to any pattern that others set, don't follow the crowd.. Zig when eveyone else is zagging and you will have a Merry Christmas!


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I appreciate your kind and goeeruns advice a lot!. I have been trying it hardly and did not get those amazing results!. It is nice to see that you got my comment in a good way!God bless you!VA:F [1.9.10_1130]please wait VA:F [1.9.10_1130](from 0 votes)

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I have a little guy that alywas wants his nails painted too! Last week he told me he wanted blue because pink was for girls. LOL.[WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us '0 which is not a hashcash value.

    • Vinodkpillai profile image


      6 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thanks for sharing this very different perspective. Voted up and awesome.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      6 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Ugh! So much to try and keep up with, so many conditions, rules, protocols, etc...I can't keep up. It's all too confusing. In a way, I miss the old hard copy, manual typewriter style of writing.....I came to HP to write and share from the pure enjoyment of writing and sharing with other writers, and the "social" aspect (at least as social as things get when not in-person). If I earn any money, it is incidental. My main "pay" is in the comments, knowing that I have entertained or enlightened fellow authors. Sure, it would be nice to make some supplemental money, but it takes me SO long to even reach the payout threshhold, and I just don't have the time or energy to devote to all of this SEO stuff and "promoting." I use Twitterfeed to auto-tweet and post to FaceBook my new articles, and that's the extent of my promotion.

      In light of the latest debacle, however, with a lot of folks having their hubs stolen, I may just find, as in the Glenn Yarborough song, that "it's time to move on" ..and start doing e-books instead.

    • Bianu profile image


      6 years ago from Africa

      This is interesting.

      I have some hubs with a lot of amazon links. Funny though, traffic and earnings rose sharply with Google Panda.

      Its all so confusing.

      Some hubs have many comments and a low hub score. Others have a high score and low traffic. I have decided to just write more on things I'm comfortable with.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 

      6 years ago from Canada

      Good information. I was in the Sandbox for a while but just recently came out of it. It was just after I started a new site and I had put Google ads on it, without having very many pages. I think that might have been what triggered a sandbox for all my sites, including Hubpages. I was recently released, about a month ago but it was 4 months of nothing.

      I think your advice is very sound. I took all of my advertising off that new site I had built and waited until I had a bit more content. I think that helped. Thanks for this. Great content! And I am your newest fan.

    • profile image

      Will Dangerfield 

      7 years ago

      This is all in the effort by google to produce better content (and supposedly do no evil). Trash linking web 2.0 properties and youtube is fading. Also, as google becomes more of a scraper and gives more incentives to markup in your web, they will be looking more towards links that you did not produce yourself as well as article s written by someone other than yourself.

    • gabgirl12 profile image


      7 years ago

      I had to read this twice to try and figure out what Google Panda does when in regards to Amazon. I still have a few questions, but I'm so new at this. I just like writing but the 'revenue' portion while its a nice incentive can be so damned tedious. Voted up because I really have to read this one again soon. Thanks for posting this information!

    • Rik Ravado profile image

      Rik Ravado 

      7 years ago from England

      I'm doing OK with the subdomain switch but welcome any help in what to do to avoid a future penalty - Thanks for some useful tips!

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 

      7 years ago

      I am still as pleasantly confused as ever about Panda, but I appreciate your noble efforts to clarify it for me! Seriously, thanks silverrose. I learn a little more every day.

    • Rachelle Williams profile image

      Rachelle Williams 

      7 years ago from Tempe, AZ

      This is a very useful hub. I have learned a lot from you about the Google Panda Update.

      Voted Up for Extreme Usefulness.

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 

      7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Useful information. Never realised that Amazon links counted as two. Wish I had your understanding of this tangled web we weave!

    • PaulGoodman67 profile image

      Paul Goodman 

      7 years ago from Florida USA

      As you have probably realised by now, I like your analysis a lot and see it as far more feasible than much of the other ideas that I have seen. Voted this hub up and marked it as "awesome".


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