Reverse Engineering Google’s Panda Slap, Hubpages Seeing Improvements After Offloading Content To Subdomains
By on July 14th, 2011

It has been over four months since Google’s famous Panda algorithmic update, also known as Farmer update went live globally. This Panda update is one of the most devastating algorithmic changes ever, crippling site traffic of thousands of sites in a flash. There are so many forum threads where webmasters   have said that their site has just disappeared from Google search. Publishing platforms, article directories, content sites, blogs, forums or any other web property which has a lot of content were most affected by this algorithmic change.

Why this new algorithm? Because Google has been under attack from content farms and spam aggregators and they had to do something about it.

To this day, most of the webmasters have no idea what is the exact problem which led to the penalization of their site(s). Here are some case scenarios:

  • Is it just the content on the site which is considered thin and shallow in nature?
  • Or the incoming links have lost their weight post panda?   Because the sites linking to you have lost their value (assumption).
  • Were the pages been knocked off because of competition?
  • Duplicate content or canonical issues within the source code?
  • Scraper sites outranking the source for the content they have written?
  • Too many advertisements on the site   or the Ad to content ratio is way above the line.
  • A large volume of user generated content which was hastily produced and don’t serve any value.

Many possibilities.

Since no one has yet recovered from Google’s Panda slap, it makes sense to conclude it’s not just one factor.

Recovering From Panda What The Experts Said

Google did published an official guideline for webmasters on how they can improve the overall user experience and quality of their sites to ensure that they can overcome the Panda penalty. The blog post highlighted 23 questions webmasters should ask themselves but what caught the attention of many webmasters is this statement from Google employee Wysz

Our recent update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites, so the key thing for webmasters to do is make sure their sites are the highest quality possible. We looked at a variety of signals to detect low quality sites. Bear in mind that people searching on Google typically don’t want to see shallow or poorly written content, content that’s copied from other websites, or information that are just not that useful. Removing low quality pages or moving them to a different domain could help your rankings for the higher quality content.

A lot of SEO experts including Vanessa Fox, Danny Sullivan, Ben Pfeiffer, Rand Fishkin have documented their observations and research regarding combating Panda. But the main question still remains unanswered what should I do to get out of Panda? what is the quick fix?

The short answer is that there is no such quick fix to get your site out of this algorithmic penalty. Every site is different and you just can’t draw conclusions seeing the performance and graph of any other website. As far as strategies go, they might work. There is a thin chance.

The World Of Hubpages And Blogspots

hubpages-site-trafficNow here is Hubpages – an open publishing platform which works on a revenue sharing model. Users create content for Hubpages and the publishing platform offers a 60% share of the Adsense revenue to the user. Since Hubpages is similar to other free blogging platforms like Google’s own Blogspot.com, their content is not considered trustworthy and useful among majority of web users.

This is because most of these free sites and hubsare created in minutes and users jot down 500 words as fast as possible to make money from Adsense ads . Sure there are good hubs too but their number is so less that the entire domain is considered shallow.

As a result, Hubpages saw a massive dive in traffic and they began iterating on different methods to improve their site’s overall visibility. But Blogspot.com a similar free content factory was never hit in the first place.

Several reports have claimed that the overall traffic to Blogspot.com has increased post panda. This is interesting, why an algorithm treats two content factories differently? Both of them are filled with spam, useless, duplicate and junk pages, cheap sites are created each and every minute. So why is that hubpages, co.cc and other free blogging providers saw a huge dip in traffic but Blogspot.com was never affected in the first place.

How Hubs Were Weeded Out As An Experiment

While everyone was speculating on the reasons, Hubpages took an initiative to offload site content to different subdomains. This is similar to the Blogspot model, where every blogger gets a separate subdomain on the main site. Time and again, Google engineer Matt Cutts has repeatedly said that a subdomain is considered a different site while a subfolder is considered part of the same site. A quote from his blog post:

A subdomain can be useful to separate out content that is completely different. Google uses subdomains for distinct products such news.google.com or maps.google.com, for example.

In May, Edmondson wrote an email to Google engineers and asked them whether the site needs to be breaked up into subdomains,where each author gets his own website at author.hubpages.com. He received affirmation from Google engineers and then Hubpages started testing this theory and moved individual authors to subdomains (e.g. pauledmondson.hubpages.com).Putting authors on a subdomain clearly delineates between sets of Hubs by author, so one author’s Hubs won’t negatively impact another.   The experiment paid off!

Hubpages CEO Paul edmondson told   WSJ that traffic to a lot of hubs in the subdomain have returned to pre panda levels. The other authors have seen significant, if not full, recoveries of Web traffic.

This is indeed a good idea. Separate out good content from the cluster of junk pages and put them in a subdomain or separate your junk from quality pages and offload them to another subdomain, whichever is easier for you. Google treats multiple subdomains as independent sites so after your pages get recrawled and reindexed, the algorithm might respond to your change when data is recomputed again for your entire site.

Should you divide your site into 20 subdomains? Probably not and doing that will further hurt your site in the first place. Should you buy a new domain name and redirect everything to the new site? I don’t think this will help either because the algorithm has nothing to do with specific domain names, once the content on the new site gets indexed and data is recomputed, the new fish will also get trapped.

The only problem here is to find the pages that are considered thin. Nobody can tell you that this page is shallowwhile this one looks okayand this one looks Good. A good idea would be digging up into your analytics program and see which pages get the least traffic and love from search engines. If these pages also have a high exit ratio, probably, it’s worth deleting them or moving them to a subdomain. By moving, I mean doing a 301 redirect and not placing another copy of the page on a new subdomain of your site.

All in all, you have to separate the good guys from the bad guys. Who are the good guys and who are the bad ones? Only you have the answer.

Tags: ,
Author: Amit Banerjee Google Profile for Amit Banerjee
Amit has been writing for Techie Buzz since early 2009 and keeps a close eye on web apps, Google and all things Tech. He also writes at his own tech blog, Ampercent. Follow him on Twitter @ amit_banerjee

Amit Banerjee has written and can be contacted at amit@techie-buzz.com.
  • http://seekyt.com/ cameron

    I am a freelance writer on the web and I have been reading several posts regarding the usage of subdomains and the pros and cons of using them. Hubpages is such a big site and it seems like a good idea for them since they have an open platform. It will be interesting to see how it pans out in the long run.

  • http://www.pandacode.com/ Stefan

    Putting content on different subdomains may be a strategy for large content ‘farms’ or whatever you want to call sites like hubpages, squidoo or blogspot. But this only keeps the penalty from spreading over the entire domain – it doesn’t solve the root problem.
    Like a ship having a hole with water leaking in – shutting all doors will keep the ship from sinking but doesn’t fill the hole.

    What I have found is what after Panda matters most is how visitors behave around your site: how long they stay on your site, how many pages they visit, how many of them bounce back to Google and search for something else. Basically Google now let’s the users decide what they like. This type of ranking factor cannot be manipulated as easily as incoming links.

    Stefan

  • http://techiebug.com kishore

    Duplicate content and page loading time are the big factors for the penalization.

 
Copyright 2006-2012 Techie Buzz. All Rights Reserved. Our content may not be reproduced on other websites. Content Delivery by MaxCDN