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The Google Panda Hack and Slash – How To Survive

Beware – Straight Talk That Might Not Be Popular

Oh, this Google Panda thing is nuts, isn’t it? Sites dropping like flies, the SEO community in a whirl-wind of guessing….and tons of marketers crying, “Why me? My content is GOOD!! It’s not fair!”. The latest list of “losers” with the most recent release of Panda includes some big name sites…and Google-owned sites? Well, surprise, they are doing well. So how do we survive this craziness?

Panda Update 2.5

This latest and confirmed Panda run in the Google SERPs brought forth an interesting list of losers. We’re talking “big” and popular sites like ConsumerAffairs.com, savings.com, KillerStartups.com…Entrepreneur.com… Technorati.com. Just nuts. Oddly, HubPages.com made the “winners” list this go-round – supposedly with their use of subdomains.

What’s really nuts is that a site that was severely nailed by the first Panda release, then recovered…was hit AGAIN by this most recent Panda run. Let’s make it even MORE interesting. After that site publicly reported that they were hit again, Matt Cutts with Google made a Tweet stating that we should “expect some Panda-related flux in the next few weeks, but will have less impact than previous updates”… and then that site that was hit twice somehow reported a full recovery from Panda…again.

Out of 90 or so client sites…and hundreds of my own sites…there are 2 sites that seem to have been hit by either a manual review or by Panda. The time line for these 2 sites could point in either direction as to the “why”, but both sites have been handed a heavy pair of cement shoes and have sunk drastically in the rankings.

Here are some details about these sites: (in case it helps anyone)

 
Both sites are affiliate sites.
Both sites have unique content that is good, in my opinion. One site I am clueless about the topic and after reading, I learned things about it, so to me, it is “useful” content. The other site talks about many types of similar household products and I found the articles very good, very well-written, and if I was in the market, I would appreciate the info on those pages since it put it all in one place (as opposed to searching all over the internet for bits and pieces).
One site had ONE AdSense block below the fold…the other site didn’t have AdSense at all.
Both sites had Google Analytics installed.
Both sites WERE ranking #5 or better for their targeted terms.
Neither site has video on their home page.
Both sites have a PR of 2 or better.
Neither site has any “social signals” on it (ie, Google +1, Facebook “like”, Tweet This, etc)
Both sites are getting fresh content on a regular basis.
Both sites danced oddly in their rankings right before the confirmation of Panda…and then after the confirmation, the cement shoes were in place.
Both sites get the same gentle “off page” work done as the other 90 or so client sites I have…which is the same as all my OWN sites and my teams sites (which have NOT seen changes in rankings).
Both had a nice raise in their rankings to Page 1/ Above the fold in the Google SERPs…and stuck there for quite some time.
Both sites are in very heavy affiliate query spaces. This means that if you search for their keywords on Google, you come across a TON of affiliate sites in the results.
One site no longer even ranks well for it’s domain name phrase…the other DOES still rank well, but the root domain is NOT the page that is ranking… Now an internal page with a video is the page that ranks.
When I do a “birds-eye” view of the stats of the currently ranking Top 10 Sites…I see no obvious reason why these 2 sites should not still be ranking as they were before all this madness started.

 

OK, that’s an over-view of these 2 affiliate sites that have been hit by either Panda or a manual review…or both (?). The sad thing is – when I look at each and every url that is NOW ranking on Page 1 of Google for these search terms… well, it’s sad.

For one of the sites, the Top 10 in a Google search now look something like this:

#1 – Product owner site (this makes sense)

#2 – ANOTHER product owner site on a different domain (not exactly the same as #1, but it takes 2 seconds to know it’s the same).

#3 – An Affiliate Review page with TWO pop-ups when you try to leave (note: Google Analytics does NOT appear to be installed on this site). This site also has video..and a “resources” page for link exchange (I felt it important to mention this because I am seeing this kick my butt in the rankings more often these days).

#4 – Yet ANOTHER copy of the product owner site on another domain name.

#5 – Another affiliate review page with video and “only” one exit pop up when you try to leave.

#6 – Amazon page for a related book (this makes sense based on my feeling on keyword intent)

#7 – Another affiliate review page (this one is a keywordBonus.net type site)

#8 – A Forum thread from 2005

#9 – Another Affiliate review page with THREE hyphens in the domain name (note: the only way OFF this page is via an affiliate link to the product)

#10 – Another forum thread, but this one is from 2006.

Now, please…someone tell me – How are these BETTER results for search consumers?

How in the world can we affiliates survive this Panda madness when THIS is the “quality” Google is showing me it is going for?? When I am searching for a specific product, HOW is it a better experience for me to go to a forum thread from 5 or 6 YEARS ago as opposed to going to a site with fresh and NEW content?

As I’ve been researching for this post, I feel as if all I’ve been doing is shaking my head in that way my grandmother used to do to me when I did something “disappointing”.

I am disappointed. Yes, I know it takes time for a new algo or algo signal to really start working…but man, this is frustrating.

Before I get into how to survive Panda, let me show you one more thing that really frustrated me.

 
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