SEO: I Got Comfortable & It Resulted In Being Hit By Google's Panda Filter

May 23, 2014 • 8:06 am | comments (43) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

comfortable pandaThe ongoing thread about Google Panda 4.0 at WebmasterWorld has an interesting post from someone who was hit by Panda a while back and is slowly recovering.

In short, he blames himself. He said, he got comfortable and lazy and didn't invest in his site because it was doing well. Then one day, Panda came along and took it all away from him but he said he blamed himself for sitting back and not innovating, thinking it will last forever.

It is a pretty amazing post to read and honestly, it is a nice read. Let me share it here, but he shares more feedback in the thread:

We're up 100% (Google traffic) on one site and 75% on another since Monday. That doesn't come close to closing the gap that Panda and Penguin created over the last 3 years but it helps.

The site with a 100% increase (from 600 daily visitors to 1,200) was completely rebuilt. We've actually seen a gradual 1,200% increase since early this year with various other updates. As of today, that's 2,400% traffic growth since January.

The main work done was: [snip]

We pretty much did everything we could think of that would push the needle in the right direction. We spent over $100,000 on the rebuild not to mention thousands of man hours.

On the site with a 75% traffic increase we did much of the same however it was newer and needed less of an overhaul.

Frankly, after all of our work and frustration for years now not seeing an increase, always dreaming of the day when Google would come back around, I still have high expectations for growth to come. Back in 2011, we had 7,000 users a day coming from Google that eventually slipped to 50 early this year. We're back to 1,200 but we'll need to double three more times to attain our former glory.

I will say this about Panda/Penguin and Google's algo improvements in general. I was the first to complain about how Google almost destroyed my business. It has been very hard. We have laid off numerous employees and lost more advertising customers than I can count. It's cost us more than one potential acquirer. Safe to say that Panda/Penguin has cost me personally millions of dollars in the last 3 years.

And I believe, Google did the right thing with these improvements. I got comfortable and when you get comfortable you can get lazy. I got lazy. I didn't innovate my sites. I didn't improve the content like I should have. I didn't police the scrapers and copyright thieves to protect my content. I didn't employ the newest, fastest technology to make sure my users had the best possible experience. I didn't do these things because we were getting $10,000's of AdSense revenue a month without making any investments. I thought that would never change. Why invest in the health of the cash cow if it just keeps producing milk every single month with only minimal care?

Shame on me and every other webmaster that got comfortable. It's like a marriage. You don't get to stop working at impressing your spouse once you're married. You have to keep working at it or one day, you'll wake up and they'll be gone.

I will never let this happen again to my business. I have learned a valuable lesson that I hope I get to use to my advantage before the bankers come beating down my door.

Just a reminder, to take my Panda 4.0 poll if you have not.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Image credit to BigStockPhoto for comfortable Panda

Previous story: Faces Go Missing From Google's Search Results For About 75 Minutes


Marie Haynes

05/23/2014 01:13 pm

I feel like there's so much about Panda that we don't know. I'm seeing all sorts of people talk about how their hard work paid off and their Panda sites are making huge recoveries. But...I think something funky is going on with Panda. I've shared this before, but this is a site that was affected by several Panda updates and no work was done at all to fix it and so far it has improved to higher than pre-Panda rankings. It's always a good idea to work on your site and make it the best site possible, but I kind of feel like a lot of the sites that are recovering from Panda are doing so, not because of their hard work, but because Google vastly changed the criteria for what constitutes a low quality site.


05/23/2014 01:37 pm

I fully agree with this. We saw about 8 of our sites improve rankings when we haven't really changed anything. I think this update just softened Panda in a way.


05/23/2014 01:37 pm

I second that. I have 2 sites destroyed by every Panda update. Both are up 50% in traffic after Panda 4. Both of those sites were what I would be consider to be Higher Quality, so maybe they just got it right this time?

Marie Haynes

05/23/2014 01:39 pm

Totally makes sense. I kind of feel like the previous Panda updates would ding a site if it had architecture that confused crawlers. But, the new Panda is able to see past that provided that the architecture doesn't confuse users. That's just a guess though.

Christopher Meinck

05/23/2014 01:48 pm

Not all of us benefited. I've been on a steady decline since late 2012. I've made significant improvements, fixing broken links and removing 'thin content'. In March of this year, I found that Google had incorrectly indexed URLs from my previous board software, despite years of 301s to new URLs. It would show the old URL with a cached page of the new board software. Despite dropping thousands of URLs via 410, I saw yet another dip. Oddly enough, traffic was up Sunday and Monday – only to decline after the announcement by roughly 5 percent. I'm wondering if the instability of the clean up process adversely affected my chances.

Nick Ker

05/23/2014 02:02 pm

Gotta agree with this. I am currently working with some sites that have Panda problems, some of which have nearly un-fixable duplication issues due to typical e-commerce handling of product variations and thin-ish product descriptions. A couple of those sites are currently in the process of improving those pages and eliminating duplicates - but were far from fixed when this new Panda hit. Those sites have regained in a way that looks a heck of a lot like your graph. To me, it does look like this panda is more forgiving of these very common issues - or perhaps has significantly improved the algorithm's ability to make sense of less than ideal structure/navigation.


05/23/2014 02:10 pm

Mmmm - I feel kinda sorry for the person who posted that on WebmasterWorld, I cant believe he is more or less saying he messed up!! he didn't do anything wrong... BIG G did and I am surprised no one has had the guts to sue their sorry arse. Talk about a company that has operated illegally and committed countless fraudulent activities. Seriously, can the public not see anything anymore, are you all blinkered! We live in a world of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Yet we also live in a World of extortion, dictatorship, corporate monopoly. The sad facts are these. The internet was invented (not by Google) Google came along and set up a search engine where by you could search for things. Who in their right mind, lets a company come to your website, take all your content... index it in a so called 'search engine' - then to top it off, they tell you your content is not good enough, they tell you to change it, because they have not carried out surveys and tests, but yet the tell you that the people visiting your site do not like your content! they then proceed to tell you who you can share your content with, who you can swap links with - in fact they tell you, YOU have to build YOUR website and write YOUR content to suit them!! and tell you that when you see it fit to share a link with another website, you're wrong and you cannot do that!! COME ON people WAKE UP, for GODs sake! I am not sure at what point BIG G received permission from any website owner that they could crawl their website, index it, and then present this information to other people. I am sure Big G never asked permission to do this! I am not sure at what point Big G were given permission to decide when, how, where and who should see YOUR website (especially as the internet is FREE). I am sure Big G never asked permission to do this! I am not sure who gave Big G permission to put an engine between you and your customers, Grab that customers information before they reach your website, CREATE an AD MONOPOLY business and then sell these customers to you! I am sure Big G have never asked permission to do this. I am not sure at what point Big G were given permission to dictate to website owners how much content they should have on their website, where the content should be placed (above the fold) when it actually has nothing to do with them, in fact I am unsure who gave BIG G permission to dictate anything - after all if they want to create an engine for people that is fine - charge the people that make searches on your engine! and certainly DO NOT decide that the website owners should pay and certainly DO NOT dictate to us what our websites should be filled with - it has FEK ALL to do with you. I am sure Big G never asked permission to do this! SERIOUSLY people need to wake up - business owners need to WAKE UP! Have BIG G - ever sent you an email and said ' Dear Mr/Mrs Website owner' we would like to 1. Scrape your website and index it on our search engine? Once we have; 2. this engine will sit between you and your customers, Oh an we will sell you these customers by a thing called PPC 3. Mr/Mrs Website owner, we have decided your website copy is rubbish - change it or else. 4. Mr/Mrs Website owner, we have decided, you cant share YOUR websites URL anymore. If you do, we will stop your website from showing when people come looking for your products - in fact we will put you out of business. We OWN YOU now! The reason for this is that YOU WILL ONLY USE US to gain customers, HOW DARE YOU use an affiliate site. 5. Dear Mr/Mrs Website owner, remember when I told you that I OWN YOU, YOUR FAMILY and YOUR BUSINESS - well guess what? WE HAVE DECIDED that WE OWN THE INTERNET, isn't that GREAT NEWS!! NOBODY is here to stop us, and no one really cares, so we have decided that we are going to own it! so fek you. I am sure Big G never asked permission to do this! TIME FOR THIS TO STOP - Its time to wake up and put an end to this monopoly that is ruining peoples business and livelyhoods... they have never been given permission to do or act they way they do. I wish all Forums like this would unite and say enough is enough!! after all you would all be back in business marketing on a level playing field. If anyone can start a change its you guys

Jenny Halasz

05/23/2014 02:10 pm

This is totally a shot in the dark, but I've seen it so many times... the pages that you redirected that google had cached pages for... were they by any chance blocked in robots.txt or with meta robots tags? Because if they were, Google can't index them to see that they are 301 or 410 and is likely to cache the most recent active page they have instead. Sorry if I'm insulting your intelligence; I just find that a lot of people don't understand how Google works on this point.

Jenny Halasz

05/23/2014 02:14 pm

Normally I don't read rants like this, but yours is well stated. The bottom line is that we don't have to play by Google's rules, unless we want to be in their game. If we don't play by their rules, they will just take their ball and go home. It's the way life works. Now is it unfair that Google has more than two thirds of the search share? Sure. But is it illegal? Not so much.

Christopher Meinck

05/23/2014 02:24 pm

I appreciate the advice! No insult taken. This was a vBulletin forum which migrated to XenForo in 2011. I'd regularly check redirects to make sure things were working. They would require 3 hops to the actual URL. Google kept thousands of the old vB URLs indexed and the new XenForo URLs. These are completely different URLs. If you searched a snippet of text, both pages would show up in the SERPS. If you looked at the cache for the vBulletin page, it would show the XenForo page. The technical issues were a large amount of broken links, common to most forums and plenty of internal links pointing to vB pages. I ended up editing all of the links to remove any vB references and using 410 gone for VB pages. My index has shrunk in GWT, but apparently not fast enough. I had initially used the URL removal tool for directories, but felt this wasn't an organic cleansing. I'm not sure if removing from SERPs via URL removal tool helps with Panda indexation issues. It's a maddening process and the stress of a slow spiral is something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

Jenny Halasz

05/23/2014 02:33 pm

Yes it is awful. You said "I'm not sure if removing from SERPs via URL removal tool helps with Panda indexation issues." I don't think it does. Not in my experience anyway. Again, dumb question, but do you have a very current XML sitemap that only contains the most important pages on the site and has absolutely no errors? I also find that a perfect XML sitemap can help speed indexation cleanup. Finally, it's probably a little too late for this, but for anyone else watching the thread, I've found that on occasion an HTML sitemap with the old URLs redirecting to the new ones can be helpful in cleaning up index issues.

Christopher Meinck

05/23/2014 02:39 pm

Yes and no. I'm using two perfect sitemaps and also using one to 'advise' Google to visit the pages I want removed. That's a 'dirty' sitemap, but seems to help. Considering these are indexed pages from a forum I ran in 2010, there are no links to them from my site. It is satisfying to watch these dead URLs fall out of the index. Like so many webmasters dealing with Panda, I can only hope this *was* the issue. At least we got an official confirmation this time around. Not knowing when this runs each month leaves folks like myself in a constant state of wondering if steps being taken are making a difference. I greatly appreciate your willingness to help.


05/23/2014 02:52 pm

Whhhhaaat? 100k to rebuild a site that's only getting 1,200 visits a day? Their conversion rate must be insane or they are deeply in debt. Either way, something smells funny here. This IS from whine world? Right?

Nick Ker

05/23/2014 03:19 pm

Google is not stopping you from swapping links, or publishing whatever you want on your website. However, if you want to appear in Google's search engine, you have to play by their rules - no matter how ridiculous you may feel they are. Just as you have no obligation to put something from me on your website, Google has no duty to even include anyone's site, much less rank it higher than Google's algorithm "thinks" it deserves. It is in Google's best interest as a provider of a nearly complete index of the web, to give webmasters guidelines as to what they prefer to include and highlight and what is not acceptable. That, in theory, would improve the search engine and keep users happy with the search product. Where that fails is when huge numbers of people disregard those guidelines. It fails Google (which they try to fix with these anti-spam updates) and it fails those who felt entitled to game the system or ignore the guidelines. Ruined livelihoods? I suppose if Google had somehow taken control of people's websites, and forced them to not follow those guidelines, and forced them into only one source of traffic or revenue - then you might have a point. But the truth is that the vast majority of ruined livelihoods came from website owners who relied almost entirely on one revenue stream (Google organic search), or either intentionally or negligently went outside of the rules/guidelines. Or both. As for not giving G permission to scrape your content, you can always take your ball and go home by blocking Google via robots.txt. Sorry if I seem insensitive, but blaming Google for trying to keep webmaster shenanigans to a minimum and reward what it deems to be quality, while claiming victim status when Google decides to not rank your site as highly as you'd like really doesn't achieve anything useful. You can do whatever you want with your website - but you can't reasonably expect Google to approve of everything you do. The guy who blames himself has recognized that he got complacent and others passed him by. Reality acceptance like that is rare and is something from which everyone can learn.

Nick Ker

05/23/2014 03:23 pm

"Whine world" indeed!


05/23/2014 03:25 pm

Some people have big ticket items where 1,200 visits a day works wonders. Like us :) Everything is relative...

Gareth Mailer

05/23/2014 03:26 pm

Yet, is ANY of this a problem for you when the rules are adjusted in your favour? i.e. toxic links work, thin content works, regurgitated spam works etc. Google doesn't 'take' your content, it stores it in a cache. It's a conduit. Sure, there's an increasing inclination on the part of Google to feed people with as much information from the SERPs as possible, but why should they do anything other than act in their own self-interest in this regard? You can block them if you want. Your entire comment is orientated around your own self-interest or right to expression not being recognised yet when Google looks after its own self-interest, it's in the wrong? I understand your frustration - it annoys me also having to watch webmaster help videos which are nothing more than an expression of Google's self interest veiled as .helpfulness' and 'corporate responsibility' - but you can't blame a Company for acting in its own self-interest.


05/23/2014 04:12 pm

A more concise way of saying this is "Google is a Monopoly". Every point you say supports that description.


05/23/2014 04:28 pm

I don't buy the whole "Google ruined my life, but they were right to do it" posts... smacks of corporate shills with vested interest in the stock price... No sane person would be so accepting of another party ruining their business. For that reason the whole article feels like a lie to me.


05/23/2014 04:50 pm

"Google ruined my business but then they took the rough edges off their algo and gave me some of my life back. I worked so hard to recover and now I have". Mate...if your hard work made you recover it would of happened prior to this update. You recovered because google loosened the grip.... your hard work counted for zip mate. Google giveth and Google taketh away. Don´t get too excited about these recovery stories. It´s early days yet and google has a history of launching loose and then tightening the screw. Googles next update might well screw you again mate so be sure to save some of those tears of joy and relief for tears of grief. Everyone should just calm down, take a step back and look at this for what it is. Google loosened it´s grip of death and it can damn well screw you again in an instant.


05/23/2014 05:38 pm

No, it's not a monopoly. It has plenty of competitors and people are free to use any search engine they like. Clearly people (searchers, not webmasters) still think it provides the best results.


05/23/2014 05:43 pm

It's a monopoly... shitty customer service... nearly all the marketshare... they describe themselves as the worlds most efficient kingmakers... monopoly.

Ralph Slate

05/23/2014 05:47 pm

Google Images takes your content and displays it on a Google page.

Ralph Slate

05/23/2014 05:54 pm

This site owner sounds like he has Stockholm Syndrome. If Google has a problem with a site's speed, then they should (and do) tell the site owner - not penalize the site. If Google thinks that some content is thin, then it should rank that content below other non-thin content - not penalize the site. If Google doesn't like a link, then it should ignore or discount it - not penalize the site. There is a big difference between not ranking well and being penalized. If Google tells me that my page on widgets is thin and that's why it isn't showing before 10 other well-rounded widget pages, then I get that, if I want that page to rank I will beef it up. However when Google says that my page on widgets is thin and decides to either penalize my entire site, or decides to penalize that widget page by putting it far behind other thinner pages (which copied my page), that's a different story.

Gareth Mailer

05/23/2014 06:54 pm

Please detail specifically HOW Google has ruined anyone's business. I'm genuinely interested. Is it not more the fact that people believe they have an entitlement to free traffic from a search engine? If you were sending me thousands of visits per month from your website to my website, and I had become reliant on that traffic to make a living and you decided, on a whim, to remove that link, would you be responsible for 'ruining my business'?


05/23/2014 07:18 pm

Google caffeine/mayday updates killed nearly all longtail traffic to retail websites. Google instant consolidated keyword searches to shorter tail search terms driving up CPCs... again crushing online retailers. After those updates The Gap downsized brick and mortar stores because of slumping online sales. Smaller retailers faired worse. It is arguable that Google effected unemployment rates in that sector after those updates. But at least Google made money. I wouldn't be shocked if they invested in the winners and shorted the losers too...technically its not insider trading right? Recently Google's top exec describe the company as the world's most efficient kingmakers...which is probably true...but they are also the world's most efficient kingbreakers too.


05/23/2014 07:58 pm

"We pretty much did everything we could think of that would push the needle in the right direction. We spent over $100,000 on the rebuild not to mention thousands of man hours." For 1,200 daily visits? Am I missing something? WTF company would have the money to do this with this little return on visits?

Gareth Mailer

05/23/2014 08:40 pm

Don't get me wrong, I get the crux of what you're saying - I own an Agency, we get prospects coming through all the time who have been hit by the impact of successive algorithmic updates, specifically Penguin and Panda. HOWEVER, Google hasn't ruined these businesses. These businesses perhaps feel entitled to Google's traffic, but Google isn't there to serve the self-interest of webmasters, it has it's own self-interest/objective: deliver the best possible search results the best way it knows how. Just to repeat my original question: If you were sending me thousands of visits per month from your website to my website, and I had become reliant on that traffic to make a living and you decided, on a whim, to remove that link, would you be responsible for 'ruining my business'?


05/23/2014 09:06 pm

If hey have a 10% conversion rate and get around $2.27/conversion it would add up to close to 100k/yr. It would require some highly targeted traffic though.


05/23/2014 09:46 pm

You asked how... I said how. I get that you own an agency and think Google is your friend... I don't think that. Profiting on the demise of others is sick. Manipulating markets is an unfriendly act. They practically brag about it. They may not have a legal obligation, but they definitely have their hands in stirring it up. Are they not responsible for the search engine that shakes up the marketplace? Then how are they not responsible? I think what you are missing is the point that they are responsible... just not obligated. And "yes" if all your traffic came from me and I cut you off then I would be responsible... but not obligated. Google should change their motto from "do no evil" to "not obligated to do good" because it is really how they have been behaving in search.


05/24/2014 05:55 am

"Monopoly" you keep using that word, I Do Not think it Means What you think it means.

osman musa

05/24/2014 07:43 am

I get 3,000 visitors a day average now and sometimes higher with this new Panda update. Most are USA visitors too. Seems like USA is the one country in which most people go online.

osman musa

05/24/2014 07:44 am

Agreed. The reality is though that Google doesn't do things fairly.

osman musa

05/24/2014 07:45 am

My past recoveries were really Google loosening their grip after strangulation lol and I thought all those things I was doing were helping me recover. Couldn't agree with you more man.

osman musa

05/24/2014 07:48 am

Intelligently well said. Thanks for the info.


05/24/2014 11:50 am

100K is either false information or the writer is a complete tool that gets taken advantage of

Patti Paz

05/24/2014 12:16 pm

Am I the only one who thinks that there is a strange 'smell' to this post?

Ben Guest

05/24/2014 02:02 pm

You would think with all this whining Jenny, that we would see some campaign against Google. But for some odd reason, Google's grip on the search market has barely budged. 68.65% as of April 2014 which is slightly down from March at 69.55%. Seems the whiners are still "Googling it".


05/24/2014 02:21 pm

Its not monopoly? Then why is it that Google brainwash people to believe all affiliated links are spammy? Why did they take action against those who had clickbank links? Why did they suddenly get insensitive about intext ads? They don't do the same for majority of the sites which have adsense ads installed. Their updates are always about this. This is preventing advertising businesses from entering the market.


05/24/2014 04:29 pm

Love this sentence "Shame on me and every other webmaster that got comfortable. It's like a marriage. You don't get to stop working at impressing your spouse once you're married" reminded me other concerns at home ;)

Bill Boesenberg

05/25/2014 09:52 am

Is this a joke? Zero on specifics, not one actual piece of information of what he's talking about and then a complete and utter turn around? he drank the cool-aid completely? Really? I don't buy any of it and shame on you for being so gullible. I will read these posts with a great deal more skepticism.

Don Dikaio

05/25/2014 03:06 pm

Well put.

F1 Steve

05/26/2014 11:56 am

""Profiting on the demise of others is sick. "" wertwert I like you, well said, sadly many humans lack compassion and empathy as a form of mental illness, these people are most likely to believe in the mantle "profit at any cost" :)

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