• Rose Pangilinan

    Thanks for a great and useful article, really helps a lot! keep them coming :)

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    Wow—seeing that numbers graphed like that really hammers it home how hard these sites were hit. And it’s really interesting to see how they haven’t hardly bounced back at all. I know a lot of small business owners feel like if they had the money and the manpower of a site like HubPages all their SEO problems would be solved. Clearly there is more to it than that.

  • Durant Imboden

    Nice roundup. There’s something else to consider, though: Over the past few years, Google has changed from a fairly simple “10 blue links with ads” layout to a Universal Search layout that includes personalization and results from YouTube, Google+, Google Image Search, Google Maps, and other sources. As a result, a high ranking in organic Web Search may not have as much drawing power as it did a few years ago, simply because the user is confronted by so many other choices.

    To put it another way, even sites that weren’t hit by Panda (and which rank high in organic Web Search) have more competition for visibility than they did before Universal Search and personalization came along. It would be interesting to see a study of the impact that changes to Google Search’s user interface have had on Web Search clickthrough rates.

  • Dirk Steffes-tun

    Thanks for the good read, Matt. Looking forward to the interview.

    My ideas for a follow-up post: Which content-based business model survived the updates without a loss in traffic – if any? Maybe an interview with a “real” journalist who wants to share his point on that? And my other idea: correlation of loss in real-traffic with the mentioned visibility-indices.

  • http://twitter.com/sharithurow sharithurow

    Hi Matt and everyone,

    I feel VERY compelled to say this. I think the companies that were hit by Panda (or any other major algorithm) got what they deserved.

    First of all, if anyone was doing any black/gray hat implementations, how was this really unexpected? You want to play the cat-and-mouse game? Well, your mice got caught. I am well aware that the cat-and-mouse game can be and often is profitable. Nevertheless, companies choose to play the game. Companies should accept the consequences.

    Second, and I still cannot believe that I am saying this in 2013, rankings and traffic are not guaranteed. If the bulk of your business depends on top positions via organic placement? Look, I’ve been an SEO for a long time, and even I don’t rely on organic rankings as a primary source of marketing. It’s part of a marketing plan, of course, but Panda did not wipe my business out, or hurt it whatsoever (or my clients).

    I’ll be the first on a pedestal to say how and when an alleged algorithm or search display really stinks. Google (and any web search engine for that matter) is not perfect. No one should expect perfection from them.

    That doesn’t mean common sense should be thrown out the window. I almost feel as if the companies that were hit by Panda, Penguin, [flavor-of-the-week animal name] need to work with people who have a more realistic attitude toward SEO.

    My 2 cents.

  • http://twitter.com/YoungbloodJoe Joe Youngblood

    It is a no-brainer. Google is a public company, and public companies need to continue to grow. They have tapped out search/ppc and most of display advertising revenues. The only growth markets left are destination sites. YouTube, Google+, Google images, Google Shopping, Google Hotels, Google Flights – these are just the beginning. Any data focused website is about to lose everything if they depend on Google for traffic.

    That includes: Automotive search, real estate search, comparison shopping, etc.. Don’t get too comfy, Google is coming for you.

  • Durant Imboden

    IMHO, data is a commodity. Packaging and presentation are the differentiators. What’s more, that was true before the Web and Google came along. Cookbooks are a case in point: There are plenty of recipes for devil’s food cake or chocolate brownies around, and nobody needs to pay for them. (They can find such recipes on the back of any chocolate or cocoa box.) But that doesn’t prevent a book THE CAKE BIBLE from becoming a bestseller. It’s all about using raw data as the starting point and adding value.

  • Matt McGee

    Thx for weighing in, Jason. Definitely agree with you on the idea of not relying on search traffic and considering it a gift.

  • http://twitter.com/Yakezie Yakezie

    Out of curiosity, why don’t folks just write better, meatier content? Seems logical after all this info?

    Financial Samurai

  • http://twitter.com/rigseo RiG SEO Service

    So what you suggest now, please be specific what to do ? I understand
    you told not to stick to seo only. But for many small biz seo is the way
    out, many freelancers depends on seo also, they cannot afford PPC ad
    cost regularly.

    I have seen lots of bad search results in post
    panda 2013, many websites inner pages / categories continuously holding
    60 to 100 positions after 4th page in Google search results.

    After all Google going behind reputed sites, but the fact is many small sites have much better result than them.

  • http://www.chriskrycho.com/ Chris Krycho

    And you know what? As a user of Google, and not a site trying to bank on it, I have loved every minute of it, because I hate content farms getting in the way of my actual desired search results. I get that it sucks for companies that built their approach off of Google’s then-current search practices. But it’s a really, really good thing for the user, which is why Google did it.

  • http://www.london-insider.co.uk Boon Koh

    Better, meatier content equals…

    Longer content = more time required per article and more pay to writers
    Better content = more skill required per article and more pay to writers

    Combined with a glut of display advertising and low CPM rates, its not profitable to write good articles unless you already have a loyal following and other revenue streams apart from advertising (e.g. NY Times)

  • Durant Imboden

    It can be profitable to write “better, meatier content.” I wrote a cruise review back in 2003 that has racked up at least 800,000 pageviews and continues to draw traffic. Even at a conservative RPM, that translates into decent earnings.

    BUT….My wife and I own and publish the site. We aren’t borrowing from a bank or using VC money to bankroll content. If we need to, we can subsist on pasta and potatoes while we’re waiting for revenue from a new article to roll in.

    Things get trickier if you’re a company that needs to pay for editorial content. That’s why so many startups have gone the “user-generated content” or “content farm” route: They can’t afford to pay good fees to professional authors and wait months or even years for the resulting material to generate a profit.

  • Flaminia

    Dear All of Search Engine Land, I’m a SEO girl coming from Italy and I’d like to know on which software you made the charts contained in this article. Could you tell me?
    Thansks :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.estig Paul Estig
  • Durant Imboden

    Trouble is, content farms are doing better than ever. What else is TripAdvisor but a content farm, for example? Even professionally-edited sites like CNet and ZDNet (which do well in Google) crank out vast numbers of autogenerated, keyword-driven pages that contain less information than an eHow article does. At least eHow tells how to fix my faucet instead of merely displaying a statement that “This product has not been reviewed” followed by a cluster of price-comparison links.

  • http://www.chriskrycho.com/ Chris Krycho

    Granted, and granted too that about.com still gets far, far better placement than it should. Even so, it was a step in the right direction from where I stand, even if it didn’t fix all the problems.

    chriskrycho.com (http://chriskrycho.com) accounts management

  • Kumar Suhas

    Businesses that are mostly based on search engines always have the risk of being harmed by algorithm updates. Publishers must make sure that they are not only relying on search engines.

  • PeterCul

    It’s impossible to predict what Google deems as legit content sites and those that are content farms. They seem to be pushing a much more aggressive paid strategy when it comes to promoting their own products. Building a business model around content and Google traffic is like building your business on sand…

  • http://www.dekh.com/members/profile/13 Harsh Bawa

    Some of the big businesses were really affected by Google updates. Then Again, some of them gained big time with the updates.

    The mid size businesses were most affected because they cannot afford expensive PPC campaigns and rely more on traditional methods which have been going around for years.

    The ultimate model is not to be dependent on just one single source of traffic but multiple sources.

  • John Beagle

    This gravy train is coming to an end. Now what?

    If that’s the first time you thought of this, then perhaps you did indeed get you you deserve.

    Great comprehensive article Matt! good added points Shari