HubPages CEO on Google's Panda algorithm: SEO doesn't work!!!

HubPages CEO on Google's Panda algorithm: SEO doesn't work!!!

Summary: Is Google's Panda algorithm the end of SEO as we know it? Something is different about its latest search algorithm. And Google is minting money...

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TOPICS: Google, Browser
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I met with Paul Edmondson, CEO of HubPages, and Jason Menayan Director of Marketing to talk about how the publishing site is dealing with the aftermath of Google's major update to its algorithm, Panda, released earlier this year.

Panda has caused huge problems for publishers because it cut off massive amounts of traffic in a bid to force publishers to produce higher quality content.

There have been four versions of Panda released since late February. Each new version of Panda has impacted traffic to large content sites. You can see the damage here: Pandalized: Websites Negatively Impacted by Google's Panda Algorithm Change.

Here's an example:

This shows how a steady increase in traffic for eHow turned into a disaster following Panda. It's a graph that many other content sites also share in shape if not in volume.

The changes have spelt disaster for many companies. For example, Demand Media's share price has fallen from a high of $27.38 to $8.50.

The Panda algorithm has had a heavy cost on Demand Media investors, the same is true for the many private investors in other firms such as HubPages.

While there are many losers because of Panda, there is one giant winner: Google. Since the Panda release Google has been reporting stellar financial results, way above Wall Street estimates. It makes Larry Page, who returned to his job as CEO in April, look very good indeed.

But what about the huge numbers of businesses that have been negatively affected by Panda? Google is shifting massive amounts of revenue away from publishers in its AdSense advertising network.


Here's some notes from my meeting with HubPages:

- We've spent the past five months trying to figure out what Panda is looking at and how we can increase the quality of our content. We have tried everything and nothing seems to work. Once you are marked down by Google, it seems there's almost nothing you can do. It's tremendously frustrating.

- The only thing that seems to work is converting to sub-domains for each author. We think it's because then Google can treat each sub-domain separately. We are one of very few sites that was hit that is actually starting to grow again.

- Google tells webmasters not to make changes specifically for the search engine so the fact that subdomains seem to work, is not something that Google would recommend but we are unable to find what does work.

- It seemed that the fallout from Panda wouldn't last long, that sites would figure out what the SEO is, and then roll out changes across all their content. But this hasn't happened, sites are continuing to be hit with each new version of Panda.

- The Google AdSense team (this is the ad network for publishers) has been great they've tried to help us but they are also in the dark about Panda. The search team won't tell us anything. How are we supposed to improve the quality of content? Google won't tell us.

- The drop in traffic has been discouraging for many of our writers. Some have left because they couldn't raise traffic levels despite being very focused on quality. Google shouldn't be able to affect other businesses in such a way. We are trying to do everything Google wants but apart from sub-domains, nothing seems to work. Once Panda marks you it seems almost impossible to recover.

- The effect of Panda and the lack of feedback from Google means that this is dampening innovation in ways you can't imagine. And it's causing a lot of pain for no good reason. Instead of focusing on growing the business we've had to spend the past five months trying to figure out how to recover from Panda.

- We did everything, removed duplicate content, deleted some low quality content; we even cleaned up grammatical errors. Some things work some don't, for no apparent reason. There seems to be a random element operating in Panda.

- The random element of Panda could also be a way for Google to focus on a few sites at a time, so that webmasters can't get together to complain.

- The Panda effect has been so large on some companies that if you knew they were going to be hit by Panda, you could make a lot of money in the stock market.

- Google's Blogger has been unaffected by Panda. [This means nothing was done to improve quality of content and Blogger hosts a huge number of spam sites because it's so easy to automate the publishing of spam websites.]

- I believe Google is trying to do the right thing but because they affect so many businesses there should be some transparency so that we can know what Google means by quality and allows sites to upgrade the quality of their content. But it seems once Panda gives you a quality rank it sticks no matter what you do.

- Google seems to want people to shift their content to its platforms. For example, Youtube is the second largest search site and so it benefits you to have a channel on YouTube rather than on your own sites. We've delayed the rollout of our video platform because of Panda.


Topics: Google, Browser

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29 comments
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  • Did they pinch my name?

    "I believe Google is trying to do the right thing" . . . it isn't so long ago that the church used to burn witches and they believed they were doing the right thing!

    The Panda effect seems to be that page views are capped. No matter what you do or what you add there is no growth.
    Hub-UK
    • RE: HubPages CEO on Google's Panda algorithm: SEO doesn't work!!!

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      yantangseo
  • Google causes billion dollar damage with panda

    Onpage SEO still works, that's fact. <br>You can optimize content for a better ranking, restructure website metrics, and extend you textual content.<br><br>I'm really wondering how Google could devalue even press-release sites, cause in my opinion this is massive censorship. Do you know what it costs to release an article on an official press mailing list like APA (austria press agency)? They have lost -75% visibility in search. It's fatal.<br><br>I compare SEO with other marketing campaigns, and that's definitely not forbidden.<br>Is TV/radio advertisement forbidden? No!<br><br>If the search results quality would be better, we'd really not discuss about the panda, but that didn't happen. <br><br>I call it "Google's sandbox warfare" to re-vitalize the adwords cashbox for the upcoming deals.
    dynamind-seo
  • I suggest looking at MCI vs. AT&T

    It seems that you're saying that Panda was done primarily to improve Google's financial position by doctoring search results. I'm inclined to agree. I also suspect that certain sites, such as HubPages, were specifically targeted in the algorithm with the intent of damaging your business while improving Google's earnings. If you think you can prove this in a court of law, take them there. That's what MCI did to AT&T and they won, changing the telcom landscape in the process.

    The irony is that Panda has apparently damaged the quality of Google's search results vs. those from Bing and Yahoo. Experian Hitwise recently reported on this.
    ancientprogrammer
    • only attitude counts

      @ancientprogrammer <em>The irony is that Panda has apparently damaged the quality of Google's search results vs. those from Bing and Yahoo. Experian Hitwise recently reported on this.</em> 100% agree from me. I mean it ^^ cause we all know: the only profitable business for google IS adwords. I'd be impressed if someone can show me that's wrong.<br><br>This update does not only concern the SEO sector, SEO software developers and customers. It hits the press & marketing area as well.<br>But let's see: anyone can make a decision which search engine is delivering the best results.<br>If Google can form the internet unbraked, it's possible the next step is "forbidden keywords" ; ) BTW they just removed 11 mio. co.cc domains from their index with a wink. Is it right or wrong now?<br><br><a href="http://goo.gl/e3947" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://goo.gl/e3947</a> ( < very interesting results)
      dynamind-seo
  • RE: HubPages CEO on Google's Panda algorithm: SEO doesn't work!!!

    Ive looked at an analysis of the traffic affected by the panda update (http://igniteresearch.net/4-search-engine-ranking-factors/) and it seems its a small update base on userdata for most sites - but about 100 sites have been manually penalised. There is nothing hubpages can do, because it is a manual penalty.
    mail987@...
  • RE: HubPages CEO on Google's Panda algorithm: SEO doesn't work!!!

    Having more pages that tell me the same things is NOT useful to a normal search user. I run a site with unique content that is not available anywhere else on the web. It costs me money to produce that information and I want to get paid for that content by the visitor buying my product. What a normal user wants to find when searching is the one site that tells them exactly what they want to know. If there are hundreds of sites that are effectively only a copy of other sites and don't have unique content I don't want to see them in my search results. So if you want to make money off of advertising, place your ads on the sites with unique content. There is no economic value in paying a toll to ad aggregators.
    wdlists@...
    • RE: HubPages CEO on Google's Panda algorithm: SEO doesn't work!!!

      @wdlists@... Thank you. Forget "SEO"... focus on making a better site. Out of the two, having a good product is more important than having good marketing.
      jgm@...
      • RE: HubPages CEO on Google's Panda algorithm: SEO doesn't work!!!

        @jgm@... REALLY? The best widgets never sell unless they have great marketing. That is often why the best widgets do not succeed.

        Marketing is SO important. Marketing is about establishing visibility and hopefully presenting a value proposition. If the world does not know of your widget, how can you sell it?
        smayer97@...
  • RE: HubPages CEO on Google's Panda algorithm: SEO doesn't work!!!

    While there may be sinister actions at play, as a consumer, I have been finding Google searches more accurate. I rarely have to scroll past the first screen anymore to find useful results.

    Some publishers may be unhappy with the results as I for one don't want to be sent to sites like hubpages, zdnet, etc and see opinion pieces presented as news or fact. Searches for, lets say, an obscure IRS document, now show .gov results before sites advertising/selling, tax prep services.

    To me that's a huge improvement. Bing and Yahoo are still jokes in my opinion. One of two things happen, you get the same results as with Google or you must go to the 2nd or 3rd page to get relevant results. The latter happening much more often than the former.

    I also hate to say it, but Google search isn't there to promote your business. They are there to assist users in finding what they need in this WAY over populated world we loving know as the world wide web.

    Now I use ad blockers and install them on every computer and network I setup. So those paid spots at the top of the search results, which are clearly marked by a different color background, don't show up.

    Google is a service like any other. If you don't like it, don't use it. If a company doesn't like how Google chooses to index the WWW, use your energy and resources to improve your ranking on other search engines, and/or, as is now the American way, take Google to court.

    If there is truly this inside attempt to direct search results to their own resources, then the various federal investigations into Google will prove fruitful. And if it's as clear cut as this blog and comments make it seem, it won't take long.

    Keep in mind that people choose to use Google. Windows all come installed with IE which uses Bing by default. When you install Chrome, Googles own browser, one of the first things you see is a popup window asking you whether you want Bing, Yahoo or Google as your default search engine. I haven't installed Firefox in quite some time, but I imagine that with the competition from Chrome, Mozilla no longer makes Google the default search engine, although I could be wrong.

    As an IT professional, 10+ years ago I'd hear complaints from people that search results were useless. I no longer get any complaints like that. And with an overall user base of 10,000+ with an approximate workstation turn over of 10-15% per year, users never ask for a different default search engine or web browser (both changes require admin rights or GPO changes.)

    While 10k is a very small #, the businesses I have as clients range from mom & pop shops to medium size enterprises and from restaurants to advertising firms to financial institutions. So it's a decent cross section.

    Now keep one thing in mind..... The businesses I work with don't want their employees wasting time during the day on non-work related activities. Thus one of the reasons for blocking advertising, not to mention the waste of system resources they create. Some businesses have 'personal' time limits where each user get's 60 to 120 minutes a day of less restricted internet access so they can shop or plan their weekend getaway. Some simply have preset times, like lunch hour. And some, mainly financial companies, simply block a lot of traffic for legal reasons. Whatever the reason, employees are supposed to be doing their jobs, not spending their day doing searches which may bring them to sites like hubpages, etc..
    mschauber
    • RE: HubPages CEO on Google's Panda algorithm: SEO doesn't work!!!

      @MedicNYC
      "I also hate to say it, but Google search isn't there to promote your business. They are there to assist users in finding what they need in this WAY over populated world we loving know as the world wide web."
      +9000
      hawks5999
    • RE: HubPages CEO on Google's Panda algorithm: SEO doesn't work!!!

      @MedicNYC

      GREAT RESPONSE!!!
      smayer97@...
  • RE: HubPages CEO on Google's Panda algorithm: SEO doesn't work!!!

    +1 @MedicNY.

    Aggregators are being punished by this, and I for another am glad. I have never found value in an agregator. They not only are pushing second hand content, they quote incompletely and hide it behind a barrage of ads, and multiple clicks that the original stuff (that I was looking for in the first place) did not have.
    dimonic
    • RE: HubPages CEO on Google's Panda algorithm: SEO doesn't work!!!

      @dimonic

      I don't have personal experience to say there is an improvement or not, but aggregators ARE useful as they help narrow searching on a giving topic area.

      Some aggregators actually take the time to narrow down the plethora of information to USEFUL information.

      Maybe that is what Google is trying to do...make aggregators more relevant? Just my 2 cents.
      smayer97@...
  • RE: HubPages CEO on Google's Panda algorithm: SEO doesn't work!!!

    If Google is targeting competitors for ad revenue through its search engine, that is and should be considered evil.

    If they are truly seeking to assess quality of content and provide the searcher with the best results, then that's great.

    As far as one business being able to negatively impact another, consider the role of financial rating agencies.
    pwatson
  • kill the beast

    Load IE9, turn on tracking protection, add all of the Google analytics URLs to your list. No more data goes back to Google. As you say, Googles only profitable item is Adwords. If Google can't prove that users are going to your site there is no reason for you to buy ads on Google.
    mswift@...
  • Google Simply Doesn't Want SEO Intervention

    After investigating the many "Panda" updates, articles and personal site stats, it is my view that Google doesn't want the SEO community to game their system. They (Google) seem to have applied a meltdown on sites that even smell optimized.

    Forget bolding your keywords...screw the description tag...who cares about the Title Tag...and domain names that are keyword rich are out the window.
    Even Google Adsense seems to be a stain for a site's reputation.

    So what does Google want? The truth.
    Real, qualified knowledge and transparency in site ownership.
    A big clue is evidenced by Googles +1 feature.

    They want to create a better site-ranking system and are looking to see if forcing people to log into their Google accounts and +1 what they like is the way to go.

    I don't think it will work, simply because it's a pain in the rear. People aren't looking for more work to do when browsing...
    noasound
  • RE: HubPages CEO on Google's Panda algorithm: SEO doesn't work!!!

    I wouldn't say SEO is dead, but I would say that Black Hat SEO has taken a fatal blow to the head.

    Sites like eHow were simply cranking out weak, shallow content in order to park themselves atop the rankings for every keyword they could find. While there was the occasional diamond in the virtual content rough, the majority of the pieces I saw on eHow before Panda were either inaccurate, shoddily written, or hardly of any value. Now, what you see from eHow that stays in the rankings is the best of the best.

    The comments about be transparent, produce quality original content, etc. are spot on. Here's the rub - that's what has ALWAYS been the crux of ethical / White Hat SEO practices!

    Google has taken a stand. Play by the rules, or get your traffic elsewhere. We can call it evil, but as others mentioned, we can always spend our time on other activities to build our businesses. Focus on other search engines. Blow cash advertising. If only we could make it in today's digital age without organic traffic...
    tommy_landry
  • RE: HubPages CEO on Google's Panda algorithm: SEO doesn't work!!!

    "The drop in traffic has been discouraging for many of our writers. Some have left because they couldn?t raise traffic levels despite being very focused on quality."

    That's very insulting to online writers. Most of us are fully aware that traffic can change at a drop of a hat. We were COMPLETELY willing to stick it out with Hubpages till they started making unreasonable demands and made about ten changes to how articles had to be published in less than three months.

    I don't know of a single "quality writer" who left because of the traffic!
    WryLilt
  • RE: HubPages CEO on Google's Panda algorithm: SEO doesn't work!!!

    Hubpages was one of the first sites we blocked in our social bookmarking sites. It came across as a real hub (pardon the pun) for every opportunistic self-serving spammer and pseudo SEO expert.

    Dear hubpages, can you run the following Google search:

    site:hubpages.com +download

    This returns around 74,000 hits. These are 74,000 hits too many. Until you reduce this number to close to 0 you will not be able to say you have quality content.

    - Have the courage to ban whole words or articles from being posted, such as dow?load or pa?day

    - Expect a drop in popularity. Spammers are the only ones keeping you afloat in Alexa rankings.

    - Ban links to illegal content sites (some of your entries have been there for years and even some of the offender sites are long gone)
    - Get an army of editors that can spot and rate quality content.

    Once this is done, we will certainly remove your site from our blacklist.
    puppprecious