What Really Is The Panda Up To?

Because of the Panda Update, I sort of got disillusioned and almost gave up on my ventures into earning money online. I felt like I’ve come to a dead end where I have no idea how to proceed. Which probably is not unlike what Hubpages CEO Paul Edmondson felt when the Panda first struck. But unlike him, I have no employees and millions at my disposal to do the dirty work of searching for remedies to the predicament. I stopped working on my sites for fear that what I do, especially backlinking, might further bring them down. My postings on this blog even almost slowed down to a halt.

The latest news was this ‘freshness’ update purportedly made to encourage webmasters to produce fresh content on a regular basis. This is actually an offshoot of the Caffeine update, but ever since the Panda came into the scene, I see all updates henceforth as a Panda update.

Here are some facts (and speculations) I’ve gathered about the Panda update.

What Google Really Said

“This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites – sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites – sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.”

“you should evaluate all the content on your site and do your best to improve the overall quality of the pages on your domain. Removing low quality pages or moving them to a different domain could help your rankings for the higher quality content.”

“Google’s new Freshness Update affects 35 percent of queries. It prioritizes recent and timely results, and it’s based off their Caffeine infrastructure.”

What SEO Analysts are Saying

Knowing that Google never really reveals anything specific about the updates, SEO analysts are all over each other in giving their own interpretations and suggestions on what the new SEO game should be.

Panda is a content update, not a backlink update.

This should put to rest the debate about some specific backlink types (see ‘Does Google Hate Profile Backlinks Now?.’) I personally don’t think Google should ever tinker too much with the backlinking battle field because this is an area which can be abused by webmasters to either (of course) boost their own sites or (horror) destroy their competitiors. But then what’s this I hear about some backlinking service offered by someone and advertised through the warriorforum where he has currently suspended his services because a lot of his clients are complaining that instead of raising their rankings, the service actually effected the opposite. Their sites have dropped and some have even been sandboxed. Is this a google oversight? So, we can now destroy our competitors by generating thousands of automated backlinks pointing to their sites?

Google is basing its ranking re-structuring on the likes and dislikes of the ‘quality raters’ (the ones they gave questioners to regarding user experience ) they employed. And Google is incorporating the logic and process that these quality raters are using into their algorithm.

Google must have utilized a lot of people for this job. Google must have called on people who are knowledgeable in the finance field to properly rate the user experience for finance related sites. Google must have called on folks who know about photographic scanner technology to rate sites on this field. Google must have called on adepts in theosophy to rate theosophy sites. Google must have called on…what? They did not? You mean those users who rated Perez Hilton’s gossip site with a thumbs up (inspite of thin, poor quality content, crowding ads, etc.) are the same users who rated sites about structural engineering technology and sites that focus on, say, the theory of relativity?

And they now know the equations and code to use to duplicate the human raters’ system of judgement? Aesthetics wise, can they now program a robot to pick its favorite color? Would each robot pick the same color, or would each pick a random one?

Any low quality pages within a site can bring down the general ranking of the whole site.

While in the past, it was assumed that Google rates each page as a separate page independent of its mother domain, they now take into consideration each page relative to the whole site. This is what Hubpages believed to be the case when their site was first hit a few months back. After almost giving up because ‘no amount of SEO works anymore’, they found that converting author pages into subdomains, which separated the poor quality ones from the best, worked to recover their previous rankings.

Thus, it must be safe to assume that the above premise, about low quality pages within a site bringing down the high quality pages, is true. But with regard to the subdomain technique, there are talks that imply Google being not happy with this loophole.

Suggestions involve the use of robots.txt file to block search engines from indexing your low quality pages. Another is to totally remove any low quality pages with your site.

Panda penalizes content that has obviously been made for SEO purposes. It wants content that makes everyone who see it want to share it and say, wow. It wants content that makes readers want to stay longer on the page.

Does this mean that it will penalize all pages that has a keyword density of 3 to 5 %, as this has been generally considered good SEO practice in the pre-Panda past, and people who know SEO never fail to implement this on their pages?

In the case of scientific sites, what might the scientific users see in the site’s presentation of tabular data that would hold their attention more and want to share with their peers? Engaging writing? If this is the case, hiring writers who can translate a scientist’s knowledge into something engaging would be a requisite for every scientist who wants to share their knowledge to the world through their blogs. How would the quality raters rate, say, 35 different pages (each from different domains) displaying the same table of elements? Ok, this is where the consideration of the whole site as a whole comes in, I suppose.

Bounce rate. A low bounce rate means readers stay longer in the page and explore other pages within the same site. Here again is where user experience quality is given emphasis. People would want to share quality pages to their friends. Of course, this has been in Google’s algorithm since the beginning of Google time.

Some SEO practices that were effective then are now busted by Google.

Some of these SEO practices, they say, include blog commenting, link exchange, and link wheels. Links from sidebars and footers also are said to have less effect now. Apparently, contextual links carry more weight than other forms of links.

Contextual links. So, how do you get contextual links? Off the top of my head, I’d say you can get them by:

  • Guest blogging.
  • Everyone knows about this form of backlinking and how it draws traffic and Google love.

  • Link baiting. Just simply posting great articles on your blog can endear others to point everybody to your pages through links from their own blogs and sites.
  • Buying through Pay Per Post and other related sites.
  • Ezinearticles and other article directories. The problem with this is that a lot of article directories have been hit and marked by Google in their Panda update. Which means that links from there might not carry that much weight anymore. Unless of course these directories manage to recover.

Google wants everyone to side with them and not the competition. Google wants us to use only [wpPopWizard item_id=kswppw_in1ine inltext=”<p><strong>YouTube </strong>is owned by <strong>Google </strong>and is their primary video platform.</p>” ]YouTube[/wpPopWizard] platforms for publishing our videos. For free publishing platforms, it wants you to use blogger/blogspot.

Why? Because as you can see, Google favors itself. See? Blogger (in spite of the fact that it hosts a lot of spam sites too) and Youtube were unaffected and in fact were listed among the winners who benefitted from the update. This development can thus be considered as a Google invitation that new SEO practices should involve more submissions of videos to YouTube and using them in our blogs/sites. Mark A. Lockwood, elaborates on this in his book ‘Mechanics of SEO’.

Google is taking social media more seriously this time.

Hint: Google +1

Personally, I’ve decided to try doing most of the above suggestions. Quality content? I’ll try my best then. Otherwise, the other best option would be to outsource. Let the games begin.

What, do you think is the Panda really up to?

Does Google Hate Profile Backlinks Now?

Ever since the last update, I’ve been reading about how google hates profile backlinks. Webmasters talk about how effective profile backlinks were prior to the Panda update where there sites were flying around the top of the serps and then, after the update, all their sites plunged down.

panda update

One blogger said that after he was hit by the update, apparently because of his forum profile links, he’s starting to take steps to diversify his traffic sources so that he wouldn’t have to ever rely again on google for his business. He said the update caused him sleepless nights as his income plummeted down to pitiful levels.

Another one declared that he’s dropping his subscriptions from profile links sellers because he’s turning his sights on blog commenting and articles submission this time. But then how do we know that the big G is keen on blog comment backlinks just as it is keen on profile backlinks?

Then there are those who vow that they’re sure what Google is up to this time. “Don’t fear about profile links’ effects on your websites. The Google Panda update was a content update, not a backlink update.” Probably these guys think that all those testimonies were all made up. If it is indeed an update that did not touch on backlinks, is he implying then that most, if not all, of those websites were of thin content and not relevant to their subject matter? Hmmm…could be.

Some folks even go as far as to advise everyone to stay away now from profile backlinking because Google would give you a minus point everytime it sees a profile backlink pointing to your site. So, they are now spending some considerable resources hiring VAs to remove all their profiles.

I think Google wouldn’t necessarily post a negative point for your site because of profile links because if that were the case, wouldn’t this mean that anyone now has the power to bring down a competitor’s site from the serps simply by creating a ton of forum profile links pointing to their site?

Whatever your conclusion might be, it’s clear, if all those feedback are to be believed, that forum profile linking is no longer as effective as it was before. The former glory of the forum profile backlinks was based on the fact that most forums have high PR and thus are considered authority sites and they are crawled often because of the constant changes in their content and thus even the useless profile pages are crawled too and indexed quickly. Forum profile backlinks are also very easy to create and automate.

I personally can attest that after the Panda update, one of the few sites I own which previously was number one (for one of its targetted keywords) slipped down to the bottom of the serp. While Market Samurai reports that the site has more than 6,000 backlinks (90% of which are forum profiles), the first top six sites now only had 675 backlinks, 306 backlinks, 698 backlinks, 251 backlinks, 0 backlinks, and 76 backlinks, respectively. The PRs are either 5, 4, or 3. Mine’s only 2.

Google must have realized that a forum profile page has nothing to contribute content-wise, as all it contains are someone’s vital statistics and their site links. Thus it probably classified these as spam.

Someone at the warriorforum thought up of a possible run around on this issue. And that is to add content to your Bio or About Me section in your forum profiles, not just your links. Then again, this is one man’s idea. After reading so much feedback and articles about the Panda update, I am beginning to think that no one really knows. It’s all conjecture out there. That’s why I’m holding on to my money and not buy those WSOs that promise to conquer the Panda update this early. Google surely wouldn’t go about revealing the changes they make to their algorithm because they know it will just be gamed again by every serp-hungry wolf worldwide. Besides, Google promised to be making more adjustments to the update. Who knows what those little adjustments would do to the serps?

Me? I think I’ll just go for better content. Although I still see top pages with only 400 to 500 words in it, I think it still is better to go for 1000 words, preferrably more, to make a page’s content that also makes sense.

What do you think?

A Glitch at G?

This would be just one short post about something that got me worried for a couple of days.
panda update
I got this site that’s giving me (not that big, but at least) a consistent flow of extra bucks every month. Though I have left it unattended for several months, it continued to earn a few bucks for me. Then, three days ago, I happened to type the site’s key phrase in google using Firefox and realised that it was no longer at the top of the serp. Refusing to believe what I saw, I fired up IE and did a search there. IE returned the same results. My site is no longer there. I clicked to see if it’s in the second page. Nada. Third page? Nada. I gave up and allowed myself to wallow in pessimistic thoughts. Btw, this site I’m referring to is the one I did work on in the post called ‘Update to Keyword-In-Domain-Name Experiment ‘.

Fortunately, me, my son, and my wife decided to watch the Transformers (Dark of the Moon) movie in the evening. So, whatever brewing suicidal thoughts were interupted until the next morning. I then decided to accept the fate of that site and chose to go with the flow…that is, try to see what I can do with it. I was certain, my site was hit by the G’s panda update, or whatever animal it is called after.

I set off to do an overhaul of the site and see if I can bounce it back to its former glory. For 3 days, I researched about how to improve it and I worked on my site whenever I can. I removed some ads and added some more text on the content body. In an attempt to make it look more pleasing, I added some color to the previously drab black titles and subtitles. Through all the time I spent, I was able to effect a considerable change in the look and content of the main page only. Note that the site is not wordpress. That means, I need to spend more or less the same amount of time on all the other pages (which I estimate though to be just around 30). And the work I’ve done so far is in the local server only. I have yet to upload it to the live server lunarpages.


A check with statcounter showed that indeed there was a 60% drop of visitors for the past 2 days.

But what’s this? On the third day, the traffic came back like nothing happened. The site is back in the serp but Google is displaying the www version of the site. Let’s say my site’s url is http://mysite.com/. This is the url that I’ve been building backlinks to and the url that’s been at number 1 for its keyword for several months. Then google ripped it off the serp for a couple of days and then put it back, but this time it’s http://www.mysite.com/, on the third day. What the…?

I dug further using MS and yeah, that indeed is what happened. The funny thing is that while http://mysite.com/ has more than 5,000 backlinks, the http://www.mysite.com/ has only 16.

The http://www.mysite.com/ stayed on number 1 for another couple of days. Then it disappeared completely. But google put back http://mysite.com/ in its place!

I still don’t understand what happened, and since everything’s okay, I chosed not to tire my brain analyzing whatever it was that happened. I figured my site was not after all a victim of the Panda update. On second thought, perhaps the site was picked and placed on the the Panda cell for scrutiny for a few days. So, now that it’s back, does that mean it passed the panda sniffing test?

Now, I don’t know what to do with the work I’ve done in the localhost server. Do I upload it so that all the changes I’ve made will be effected on the live site, or do I stay put? Meanwhile, I’m staying vigilant, since I am now finding Google a little too unpredictable for comfort. Who knows what will happen next.