I Was Hit by Google’s Panda Algorithm … Twice

Filed in Google, MY BEST POSTS, SEO by Matt McGee on November 9, 2012 21 Comments

You may have noticed that I haven’t published anything here during the past week. There are two reasons for that:

  1. extreme busy-ness, and
  2. testing my Google search traffic level

More specifically, I was testing to see if my Google traffic would continue to rise without any new posts. My logic: If it did, then I’d be more comfortable in thinking that I’m recovering from being hit by the Panda updates this year.

Actually, I think I was was hit twice. Have a look…

Google Panda Updates in Google Analytics

Here’s the graph showing Visits from Google / Organic search since early 2012. I’ve marked two noticeable drops in Google traffic.

sbsm-detail

(click for larger version)

You can see at the bottom that I make annotations for Google updates (recommend you do the same). There’s a drop-off in late February/early March, which is right after Panda Update 11. Google traffic steadied and was stable until a second noticeable drop in early June, right after Panda Update 15.

The numbers? Google traffic was down 14 percent in April (compared to March), and then down 21 percent in June (compared to May). Ouch.

Why Was This Blog Hit (Twice) by Panda?

I have no idea.

Panda is more content-related than link-related (and I don’t do any link building, anyway), so I’m not worried about anything link-related.

Content? You can browse through the article archives from February and May and let me know if you see anything unusual. They were pretty standard months in my mind. I don’t hit a home run with everything I publish … then again, I’m not trying to.

So, like I said, I have no idea why two Panda updates would impact this blog.

What I Did to Recover

Nothing.

I just kept blogging like I’ve been doing all year. And waited patiently to see what would happen. Luckily, things are starting to get better now.

As you can see below, my Google search traffic for October was up more than 21 percent and is almost back to where it was in June. I still have a ways to go to get back to the March levels.

sbsm-overview

(click for larger version)

Moral of the Story?

I’d like to think that my blog content didn’t deserve either Panda slap, so maybe the moral of the story is…

1.) Here’s some proof that Google’s algorithm changes aren’t perfect and sometimes have negative impacts on sites that don’t deserve to be hit negatively.

2.) Panicking or rushing to solve a problem that doesn’t exist isn’t necessarily the best idea.

Sometimes you have to trust that you’re doing things the right way and that Google screwed up, not you. And yes, I recognize it’s way easier for me to have an attitude like that than it is for a small business owner that depends heavily on Google traffic. Which leads me to the real moral of the story…

Don’t count on getting free traffic from Google for eternity.

Google can change things at any time and hurt any business, whether it’s deserved or not. Remember this old post?

You Can Diversify, or You Can Die

Still applies today. Always will.

Comments (21)

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  1. AJ Kohn says:

    I wonder if your Best of and Flashback posts are viewed as thin content. What’s the historic ratio of those posts to original content? Just spitballing.

  2. DennisG says:

    Could seasonality have had an impact on your traffic trends?
    If you pull data on which posts actually lost traffic, you might find interesting nuggets on seasonal traffic/searches you would never had anticipated.

    However, the dates of these drops could be too coincidental with the Panda updates…

  3. Stuart McHenry says:

    Matt, I love your advice about panicking. I see people flip out and start making changes too quickly. Especially when they don’t have all the facts. I’m with you and *sometimes* you just have to wait it out.

    Kudos for telling us your personal panda story.

  4. Kirsten Else says:

    I watched a webinar last night on bypssing Panda and any other update, It was a 3 hour long feed of invaluable SEO info that you NEED to know.Contact me on Twitter @gomobileappz or email me for more info…..this isnt a spam or ad btw….I just have strong opinions about Google upates and the impact it has on us all!!!

  5. Larry Kim says:

    “You can diversify, or you can die” – what a nice way to put it!

  6. Meg Geddes says:

    Interesting. I have six fireworks sites. They’re all structured basically the same, they just cover different states. Five of them are killing it. Top rankings for every reasonable search term (on season and off season) One of them (one of the new ones) got hit with the September Panda and has lost a lot of traffic (although since it’s new and off season, it’s hard to gauge exactly how much). It’s certainly no less a quality site than the other five.

    I’m not going to change anything, I’m just going to keep adding to it like I do the others, and see what happens.

  7. Mark Walters says:

    Maybe Google is viewing some blog posts as being ‘thin’? Are some pages getting very short viewing times? If people are coming via Google reading a short post and then bouncing back the serps then that could be a reason. Google say they don’t incorporate Analytics data in the algorithm, but it would seem wasteful of them not to.

  8. Just having a discussion on twitter at the moment over the possibility that the drop in traffic is not directly linked to Matt’s site being hit by Panda.
    I’m considering a ripple effect:
    1) Site gets lot of links from low quality thin RSS aggregator sites.
    2) Those sites pass on a limited amount of juice but still pass some of it.
    3) Panda comes around and wreck the thin sites
    4) You lose mentions and links
    5) Your site goes down in rankings

    Probably won’t account for 15-20% drop as shown on the post but could still have an impact.

    Looking forward to hear everyone’s thoughts on this.

    Freddy

  9. It’s a scary thought, but one that I’m sure we’ve all had, that the algo isn’t always right. If it hits a blog/site with quality content like yours, this is just another reason to focus on the content and UX than how the engines see you, I’d say.

  10. Another take…

    I work with a lot of locally oriented eCommerce websites, and these updates have hit most of them with loss of traffic. Most of these sites have generated more sales year/year with higher conversion rates and little other changes in their tactics.

    What’s gone? Non-local specific traffic and unrelated image and product hits from all over the web. For these niches, it appears that the algorithm is ACTUALLY providing results that are more relevant to the search and sites that are “doing it right” are benefiting from the changes through conversions, even through a loss of overall traffic. Who really cares about non-relevant traffic anyway?

    While this may or many not be relevant to a B2B site or sites in other niches, my question Matt, is; have your conversions been affected?

    • Matt McGee says:

      Thanks for all the comments, everyone. Some replies:

      Dennis: No seasonality that I can see. Traffic in 2011 was much more scattershot because I wasn’t posting as much … maybe about 75% as much as I’ve been blogging this year.

      Meg – I’d be curious to hear what happens with that sixth site. Good luck.

      Freddy – interesting idea but, as I said on Twitter, I don’t see how that would cause such a substantial drop in Google traffic. But I could be wrong.

      Duane – I don’t have any conversions on this blog. It’s read only. :-)

  11. Leads and ads on the right sidebar?

  12. Sarah says:

    My blog/website was slapped upside the head with a 2×4, but unlike you it was in April. The big difference, in my thinking, was because my blog is local, about tourism and my city. My knee jerk reaction was to do something about it, but my more rational self said to wait, and of course it was the right thing to do. More recently, probably with the last update, I had a much milder hit that was more of a tap on the shoulder. This isn’t recovering as quickly but it’s hard to say since so much of my traffic is cyclical with travel times. Thanks for putting up this post. While I can tell when Google has danced, I have never charted it as you have above and I probably should, if for no other reason than to prevent that jab of adrenaline that happens when the dance becomes apparent.

  13. Casey Meraz says:

    I had many calls over the past few weeks about business owners who were in similar situations. Unlike you they seemed like they may have been algorithm chasing and not worrying about actually producing good content. I think your story is important because it shows that if you’re doing things the right way with the user in mind you will prevail.

  14. Chuck says:

    I agree that that Google’s algorithm changes sometimes have negative impacts on the wrong sites that don’t deserve to be hit. I lost many of my affiliate marketing sites during the first round. I’m getting worn out with Google changing things at will, hurting many business websites, whether it’s deserved or not. Years of hard work gone in a flash! In my mind, diversification is the name of the game in the long-run.

  15. Harsh says:

    Glad your site is recovering. I have seen many blogs recovering based on content publishing…even if you hit by panda …never stop publishing content…

  16. Michael says:

    The key problem is that Google has too much power. They are controlling the search market, whether you like it or not. Hopefully, the competitors like yahoo, bing (maybe facebook)will work together so that google will become less important.

  17. Trevor says:

    Since the latest update, I think it was a Penguin refresh i’ve seen some pretty bad results in my niche. Hell I am now being out ranked by 4 page emd websites with virtually no backlinks. Pretty sure Googles whole update was to prevent that… apparently not.

  18. Janus Ng says:

    Totally agree with how you approach the situation. If you don’t believe your site deserves the Panda slap, then “panicking or rushing to solve a problem that doesn’t exist isn’t necessarily the best idea”. And yes, we definitely need to diversify.

  19. lindsay says:

    I got hit by the Jan. 15 Panda update. Hard. On that one day, my daily page hits were slashed in half. The next day was worse. And now I get about a third to a fourth as much traffic as my site consistently received before Jan. 15. I don’t know what to do, as I think I run a quality, although quirky, niche blog. It doesn’t seem like your site was hit quite as devastatingly hard as mine. Does that mean I can panic?

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