How We Managed to Benefit from the Panda Updates

As I am into the online marketing field, I read a lot about SEO. This is my first post about SEO, so please don’t be harsh in the comments. The Panda update is what made the SEO community roar about how many websites lost ranking and so on. There is so little information about the ones that benefited of the update and we are one of the winners.

I personally think that the Panda update made the SERPs quality a lot better and to some point buried the medium to low quality websites deep into the results. Even some of the high-authority websites went down.

I will share some insights of an user generated moving reviews website and how we got positively impacted by the Panda update. The website features many US and Canadian moving companies and provides the opportunity for people to rank them and write moving reviews. Additionally to that, there is a blog/article section with moving tips and info.

Industry specifics that influence the analytics data

Before we begin, you should know that the specifics of the industry add some additional noise to the analytics data. These are the main trends in the moving industry:

  • Weekly trends: People search a lot more about moving services in the beginning of the week in the working days. Mondays are usually the most active days. We assume that people usually search for movers at work during work hours.
  • Monthly trends: People search for movers more by the end of the month and less in the middle of the month and during holidays.
  • Seasonality: People search 30% more for movers in the summer months than during the rest of the year. Nobody wants to move in the winter (especially in the Northern states).

The Fist Panda update

Since the first Panda update in 2011 we started seeing some increase in rankings. Because of the specifics of the users behavior in our industry, the analytics data is looking weird but you can see the pattern.

first panda update mymovingreviews

Further benefits from the Panda update

As we saw a huge opportunity in the Panda update, we tried to adjust the website to better suit the visitors, give them alternatives once they visit the website and make visitors consume more of the moving industry related content. The goals were to increase the time on sitereduce the bounce rate and increase the pages per visit.

What we did to increase rankings/visitors

1. Reducing the bounce rate

We stared by working on the high bounce rate pages. We edited some of the content and deleted some of the pages. One of the very high bounce rate pages were the blog section posts. Since we are always committed to build only high quality content, we knew that the problem with the high bounce rate on the blog was elsewhere. We knew that visitors were able to find the information they were searching for and after that they were leaving the blog. We added a suggestion fly-box. The box appears on the right side on the page once the visitors scrolls by the end of a post and suggests another random post from the blog. This had a huge impact on the blog bounce rate by lowering it with more than 30%. From the highest bounce rate section of the website, the blog become the lowest one overnight.

2. Creating a mobile website

mobile visits my moving reviewsWe have about 11 percent mobile visits (we don’t consider iPads to be mobile traffic). We decided to further lower the bounce rate by creating a full-featured mobile website. This of course brings the benefits of higher conversion rates. We’ve been postponing the mobile website for some time now and we finally decided to finish it and launch it by December. We kept the same URLs as the desktop version and only changed the templates.

3. More content

As part of the Panda update is the amount of content on page. We didn’t want to have many pages with thin content so we increased the minimum text required for a moving review to be posted. After reading about how Zappos corrected the spelling mistakes of all their reviews, we additionally wanted to avoid spelling mistakes as much as possible. We included a spell checker on the moving review form. We are also planning to correct the mistakes on all old reviews in the future.

To recap, here are the changes we did:

  • Editing some of the content with the highest bounce rate.
  • Adding a spell checker on the write a review page and setting a higher minimum amount of text for the reviews.
  • Giving suggestions to users once they finish reading a blog post to reduce the bounce rate.
  • Started a mobile website to reduce the bounce rate and time on site for mobile visitors.

The results

We had almost 50% increase in visits in the next one-two months. Please note that we introduced most of the changes in December, so we can’t really measure how fast did these changes influenced the rankings because of the holidays. Not surprisingly, the largest part of the increase was from the blog as this is where we managed to reduce the bounce rate the most.

MMR traffic increase


I can’t say that all of the gained increase of visitors came because of the above changes, but given the changes and tactics we did at the time, these were the most significant ones. Targeting the visitor and thinking of how to enhance the customer experience results in more visitors. It is as simple as that. Working on the design and thinking of techniques to reduce the bounce rate will result in better rankings, especially if you are a high-traffic website.



Google De-indexes and Penalizes Private Blog Networks

Google De-indexes and Penalizes Private Blog Networks

Panda is currently on the leash and heavily penalizing and de-indexing websites filled with thin or low quality contents, which are solely created for the purpose of search engine optimization.

What is Private Blog Networks?: Private Blog Networks is composed of services that offer quick back-link creation through publishing articles on an array of blogs. These blogs serve as repositories of articles (usually spun ones). These spun articles are heavily laden with self-serving keywords and links. Before the release of Panda 3.3, Google’s search engine bots might have overlooked this type of link-building tactic, but, fortunately, they have caught up, and companies who are using this type of link-building services are paying their dues.

Google Doesn’t Like Spun Articles: As Google is always improving its search algorithm to deliver high quality services to its millions of search users, the possibility to game its system becomes more difficult especially for those greedy black hatters who intentionally violate major policies and rules most search engines want their users to adhere.
One of the most commonly abused link creation strategies is the heavy creation of spun articles, which are usually dumped to cheap private blog networks to produce numerous back-links. Google considers these spun articles as thin contents because they don’t offer much value both to readers and search engines.
Originality or uniqueness is one of the main factors used by Google to determine the quality of content. Their latest search algorithm has now the intelligence to detect spun articles from original ones.

New Way to Evaluate Links: Google has announced that their latest algorithm update includes new metrics and calculations on how they evaluate links. The excerpt is part of Google’s official statement: “We often use characteristics of links to help us figure out the topic of a linked page. We have changed the way in which we evaluate links; in particular, we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years. We often re-architect or turn off parts of our scoring in order to keep our system maintainable, clean and understandable.”

With this latest development from Google, search marketers should learn from the mistakes of those websites that are completely eradicated from the SERPs and create SEO strategies that have long lasting effects and are ethical to the eyes of search engines.


Demand Media: eHow Hasn’t Been Affected By Panda Since July

I think it’s safe to say that Demand Media has survived the Panda update. The company put out its Q4/full-year 2011 earnings report today, including a 5% quarterly increase in revenue for its content/media business and a 15% year-over-year increase. Considering the Panda update first launched just about a year ago, it hasn’t hurt Demand Media too much.

On the company’s conference call, CEO Richard Rosenblatt said Demand Media’s first year a s public company was “more turbulent than many of us expected.”

Still, it looks like they came out ok, even on the content side.

“Demand Media’s record 2011 financial performance, while navigating early year search algorithm challenges, underscores the strength of our complementary advertising and subscription businesses,” said CFO Charles Hilliard. “Importantly, our fourth quarter results delivered both growth and significant free cash flow, reflecting the value of our long-lived content library as well as our disciplined investment approach.”

Rosenblatt said on the call, that the last algorithm update to affect eHow was in July. There was in fact, a Panda update on or around July 23.

Rosenblatt says search is still an importan traffic channel, but that social, mobile and video are growing in importance.

He also pointed out that the company reduced eHow content production in Q4, and traffic and engagement is increasing.

eHow’s mobile audience is up to 10 million uniques. eHow is the 19th largest web domain in the U.S., the company says, citing comScore data. Meanwhile, they emphasize that there will be a great deal of focus on monetizing Cracked and this year.

Demand Media’s properties are getting 100 million visitors per month, according to the company.


Google Panda Update: New Winners and Losers


This past week, Google rolled out its latest iteration of the Panda update, which the company (as usual) downplays as only one of roughly 500 yearly algorithm changes.

It doesn’t sound like such a big deal when they put it that way, but for those who have lost major traffic because of it, it was a bigger deal than most of those other roughly 499 changes. Ask Dani Horowitz from Daniweb, who noticed the big traffic drop and tipped us about it before we confirmed the update with Google.

Daniweb was hit by Panda earlier this year, and was able to get all the way back to a 110% recovery – something few have been able to achieve. Then along came Panda “2.5” (as the industry is calling it) early in the week and took away more than half of Daniweb’s traffic overnight. All of the hard work that Daniweb put into that recovery might as well have been erased.

But Daniweb is far from being the only victim here. SearchMetrics, which has regularly released data about Panda winners and losers throughout the year, has compiled another list of the top winners and losers as a result of 2.5.

Here are the biggest losers:

A few things worth noticing:

A. Press release distribution sites were hit again. We talked about PRNewsire getting victimized by Panda in the past. Now it, along with BusinessWire – arguably the two top services in this area on the web, have been hit again.

B. EzineArticles and Demand Media’s eHow – two big past Panda victims are not present on the list.

C. Some pretty high profile sites are on the list. TheNextWeb (which if anything has increased in quality if you ask me).

It’s a pretty interesing list, as is the winner list:

A few things of note with regards to this list:

1. Google sites won again (YouTube and I’m not saying they shouldn’t be on the winners list, but given the regulatory scrutiny Google has found itself in over how it treats its own content in search results, one has to wonder if this will draw the attention of regulators.

2. HubPages is on the winners list. The site, which we have written about several times, used to make the loser list. They must be doing something right. But who knows? They could get hit on the next one. One would have thought at that Daniweb was doing something right too.

3. The list is dominated by pretty big brands.

I’m sure we’ll be digging into all of this more soon, but this is a quick look at what Google’s algorithm is considering to be of quality, for better or worse. It will be interesting to watch how these sites perform moving forward.

I can tell you one thing, Google is all about some identity these days. I’d encourage you to take advantage of the authorship markup Google uses to highlight who is responsible for various content. They’re even starting to include Google+ Circles numbers with it. It’s looking more and more like you ought to be taking full advantage of Google+ if you want to do better in search.

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Google Made a Minor Tweak to the Panda Update


Google makes hundreds of changes to its algorithm every year. Some days it makes more than one (obviously). One day last week, the search engine reportedly made a small tweak to the Panda part.

Barry Schwartz posted the following statement from Google regarding the matter:

“We’re continuing to iterate on our Panda algorithm as part of our commitment to returning high-quality sites to Google users. This most recent update is one of the roughly 500 changes we make to our ranking algorithms each year.

So, take that for what you will.

Google has not given any new indications of what it is doing differently on the Panda front, but as the company has said in the past, they will continue to “iterate” on it.

A few webmasters recently took to the forums to express that their sites had suddenly changed rankings, and interestingly quite a few seemed to be for the better. That’s kind of a change of pace from the grumbles we’ve been hearing for the better part of the year.

We still haven’t heard of any full recoveries, though HubPages is taking an interesting approach, as we looked at recently, by giving authors their own subdomains, as to separate content author by author, so one author who writes poorly doesn’t drag down the content of a higher quality author.

In early tests, HubPages has seen some success in rankings for certain content employing this strategy. The jury is still out on how this will impact the site as a whole.

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