Number Crunchers: Who Lost In Google’s Panda Algorithm Change?

Danny Sullivan on
  • Categories: Channel: SEO, Content Farms, Features: General, Google: SEO, Google: Web Search, Panda Update Winners & Losers
  • On Thursday, Google announced a major change to its search algorithm, designed to weed out shallow and low-quality content from its top search results. Content farms were seen by many as the target. Were they hit? Who was hit? Some figures are coming out.

    If you were expecting these figures to show Demand Media’s eHow site to have been harmed — surprise! Two studies show eHow actually gained. I’m still crunching through some of the figures, but the biggest “content farm” type brand that seems to have suffered are Associated Content.

    Sistrix’s Visibility Index Losers

    Over at Sistrix, the company crunched through 1 million keywords that is says it has before and after placement data about. It then ranked these by a “visibility” index value that Sistrix created, which takes into account the number of keyword positions lost, specific ranking position and estimated clickthrough rate from those results.

    Using an index makes some sense, because if you just rank by the percentage of keywords lost, you get some sites with relatively few ranking positions dominating the top “losers” list. Below, the domains that lost the most total visibility, according to Sistrix:

    Domain Visibility Index Loss SISTRIX (percentage loss)
    wisegeek.com 93.3622 -77%
    ezinearticles.com 58.4273 -90%
    suite101.com 50.755 -94%
    hubpages.com 47.7632 -87%
    yourdictionary.com 39.5044 -74%
    brothersoft.com 37.6418 -66%
    buzzle.com 36.7005 -85%
    associatedcontent.com 35.7198 -93%
    freedownloadscenter.com 27.2522 -90%
    essortment.com 23.4146 -91%
    fixya.com 22.9456 -80%
    americantowns.com 22.6942 -91%
    lovetoknow.com 21.4714 -83%
    articlesbase.com 18.7999 -94%
    howtodothings.com 17.8122 -84%
    mahalo.com 17.2586 -84%
    automotive.com 16.9008 -71%
    business.com 16.104 -93%
    doityourself.com 15.9952 -77%
    merchantcircle.com 15.7573 -85%
    thefind.com 15.6825 -83%
    wrongdiagnosis.com 15.5617 -73%
    findarticles.com 15.2418 -90%
    faqs.org 15.0573 -91%
    tradekey.com 15.0415 -89%

    Note that the table above is slightly different than what you’ll find at the Sistrix site itself. I created the chart using a spreadsheet that Sistrix sent to me (more about that below), sorted by the same factor that Sistrix says it used for its own post. I’m checking on this.

    Sistrix: Most Keyword Rankings Lost

    Upon request, Sistrix will send people a full list of 331 domains that were found to have lost in its analysis. With Sistrix’s permission, here are the top 100 domains that suffered losses, sorted by total number of keyword positions lost. Also show is the percentage loss. For example, AssociatedContent.com was found to have 216,419 top rankings before the change, which dropped to 53,512 rankings after — a loss of 162,917, or 75%.

    Domain Positions Lost % Loss
    associatedcontent.com 162,917 75%
    suite101.com 141,469 79%
    ezinearticles.com 130,231 71%
    hubpages.com 102,820 67%
    buzzle.com 62,049 72%
    merchantcircle.com 58,666 63%
    wisegeek.com 52,084 70%
    articlesbase.com 50,909 62%
    findarticles.com 44,621 69%
    answerbag.com 41,260 61%
    examiner.com 39,509 56%
    manta.com 36,945 48%
    freedownloadscenter.com 34,494 81%
    yourdictionary.com 32,981 67%
    lovetoknow.com 31,711 64%
    trails.com 29,835 78%
    thefind.com 29,011 39%
    travelpod.com 28,513 68%
    brothersoft.com 27,594 40%
    docstoc.com 26,650 56%
    fixya.com 25,867 42%
    howtodothings.com 25,621 77%
    mahalo.com 24,135 71%
    insiderpages.com 23,346 70%
    faqs.org 22,506 67%
    prlog.org 22,254 57%
    kaboodle.com 21,949 39%
    citytowninfo.com 21,615 86%
    shopwiki.com 21,528 43%
    roadsideamerica.com 21,510 73%
    buzzillions.com 21,421 48%
    tradekey.com 21,096 56%
    essortment.com 20,042 73%
    uptake.com 19,655 58%
    encyclopedia.com 19,625 51%
    helium.com 18,931 66%
    wordiq.com 18,877 77%
    springerlink.com 18,625 49%
    livestrong.com 18,175 38%
    business.com 16,743 78%
    doityourself.com 16,386 70%
    americantowns.com 16,201 62%
    prnewswire.com 15,162 70%
    cinemablend.com 14,259 72%
    epodunk.com 14,190 78%
    vodpod.com 13,766 38%
    labnol.org 13,541 85%
    medicalnewstoday.com 13,426 75%
    mytravelguide.com 13,340 69%
    highbeam.com 13,324 34%
    blogcritics.org 13,312 57%
    chacha.com 12,900 48%
    retrevo.com 12,601 35%
    sharewareconnection.com 12,600 54%
    planetware.com 12,387 75%
    ptf.com 12,380 41%
    digitaltrends.com 12,154 67%
    testfreaks.com 11,938 63%
    galttech.com 11,804 76%
    aceshowbiz.com 11,639 67%
    userinstinct.com 11,410 47%
    viewpoints.com 11,191 55%
    destination360.com 11,167 76%
    topshareware.com 11,000 48%
    consumeraffairs.com 10,832 80%
    onsugar.com 10,699 40%
    stateuniversity.com 10,560 70%
    allbusiness.com 10,423 63%
    blurtit.com 10,331 47%
    everything2.com 10,298 76%
    kioskea.net 9,781 32%
    travelpost.com 9,412 75%
    wrongdiagnosis.com 9,293 52%
    technorati.com 9,135 67%
    whosdatedwho.com 8,986 58%
    entrepreneur.com 8,974 75%
    slideshare.net 8,909 27%
    geek.com 8,632 65%
    gizmag.com 8,594 46%
    mp3.com 8,577 64%
    trendhunter.com 8,539 66%
    fotosearch.com 8,473 48%
    daniweb.com 8,316 61%
    iloveindia.com 8,240 58%
    eventful.com 7,948 55%
    globalsources.com 7,927 34%
    songkick.com 7,908 50%
    eggheadcafe.com 7,828 47%
    ubergizmo.com 7,807 73%
    ez-tracks.com 7,779 62%
    popcrunch.com 7,728 63%
    ghacks.net 7,695 78%
    healthcentral.com 7,660 59%
    5min.com 7,652 62%
    famouswhy.com 7,619 63%
    fanpix.net 7,445 64%
    ilike.com 7,401 62%
    torrentreactor.net 7,252 29%
    bellaonline.com 7,171 69%
    hotel-rates.com 7,124 67%

    Ubergizmo Disagrees

    Look toward the end of the chart above, and you’ll see site Ubergizmo listed. However, in the comments below, Ubergizmo’s Hubert Nguyen suggests that Sistrix has it wrong. His site’s search related traffic has gone up since the change, and he’s posted a chart to back that up:

    The data is from Google Webmaster Central. What could be happening is that Sistrix is right — Ubergizmo may have lost rankings — but it might also be better placed in some other searches where it has retained these but other sites have dropped.

    Sistrix: Biggest Percentage Keyword Rankings Lost

    Below, a top 25 list, this time sorting by the biggest percentage losses suffered, from the Sistrix list:

    Domain Positions Lost % Loss
    transitionsabroad.com 3,752 88%
    citytowninfo.com 21,615 86%
    labnol.org 13,541 85%
    thedailygreen.com 6,359 83%
    webreference.com 2,717 83%
    daviddarling.info 3,236 83%
    referenceforbusiness.com 5,468 83%
    webdevelopersnotes.com 3,229 81%
    1000ventures.com 1,354 81%
    freedownloadscenter.com 34,494 81%
    worldwidelearn.com 4,326 81%
    educationworld.com 4,924 80%
    cultofmac.com 4,535 80%
    cnx.org 3,657 80%
    consumeraffairs.com 10,832 80%
    techblissonline.com 4,590 80%
    madehow.com 2,964 79%
    suite101.com 141,469 79%
    fabjob.com 1,039 79%
    world66.com 5,966 79%
    guidetoonlineschools.com 2,281 79%
    petplace.com 2,662 79%
    forleasebyowner.com 1,239 79%
    geckoandfly.com 4,041 79%
    knowledgehound.com 1,211 78%

    Sistrix: Demand Media & eHow Escape!

    Interestingly, for an update that was targeted at content farms (in my view, nor am I alone in that view), Demand Media’s flagship eHow.com site doesn’t make the list. Over 300 other sites saw a “visibility index” drop worse than eHow. In fact, Sistrix says that eHow actually went up in visibility value (from 270 to 310) and increased the number of top rankings held, from 317,320 to 324,021.

    A few of Demand Media’s other sites did see losses. AnswerBag.com and Trails.com just made the end of Sistrix’s top 25 visibility losers (in my chart using Sistrix’s data, they’d come in at 32 and 34, respectively. In terms of positions lost, LiveStrong was ranked 39th on a percentage basis but only 293 in total number lost. AnswerBag ranked 10th in total number lost, and Trails.com 16th. On a percentage basis, AnswerBag was way back at 158th while Trails.com was 27th.

    Overall, I’d say Demand Media did well in this update, at least according to Sistrix’s data.

    SEOBook On Losers…

    Over at SEObook, Aaron Wall takes the Sistrix numbers above and tries to come up with a winners list. He’s come up with a list of sites that seem similar to eHow (which is run by Demand Media, and which is NOT in the Sistrix top ten above but which is considered by some to be a content farm). He then takes that list of sites to see which have had gains and losses in traffic. Top losses:

    1. ezinearticles.com
    2. associatedcontent.com
    3. suite101.com
    4. hubpages.com
    5. buzzle.com

    And Winners

    And sites with top traffic gains:

    1. youtube.com
    2. ebay.com
    3. facebook.com
    4. instructables.com

    Keep in mind this isn’t comprehensive, not in the least. There could be — and probably are — sites that have gained much more from the update. But figuring that out is hard. Wall’s working as best he can within a “content farm” type category.

    Dan Abbamont

    Dan Abbamont mined about 60,000 queries, if I understand correctly, and compared rankings on Google.com to Google.ca, which is Google Canada. His logic is that since the change is only working in the US, this will show a before-and-after look by using Google Canada.

    I’m not sure this is correct. Google Canada will have geo-targeted results that will be different than Google.com. The ranking changes he’s seeing might be due to that. But here’s a summary of what he’s found:

    Abbamont also provides his whole dataset for anyone to analyze as part of his post about the study.

    seoClarity’s Losers…

    From seoClarity comes a report (PDF format) that looked at 60,000 keywords along with before-and-after data to see which sites suffered the most ranking losses. These were:

    1. TheFind.com
    2. BizRate.com
    3. ShopWiki.com
    4. EzineArticles.com
    5. HubPages.com
    6. Buzzillions.com
    7. Shopping.com
    8. Suite101.com
    9. Kaboodle.com
    10. AssociatedContent.com

    And Winners (Including eHow)

    The company also looked at those that had the most gains. The top ten:

    1. Amazon.com
    2. eHow.com
    3. NexTag.com
    4. Wikipedia.com
    5. Walmart.com
    6. Target.com
    7. Etsy.com
    8. Answers.Yahoo.com
    9. Sears.com
    10. bestonlinecoupons.com

    BNET Gets Compete Traffic Stats

    BNET worked with Compete to get before-and-after traffic data for a variety of selected sites. The summary:

    WSJ Gets Comments

    Wondering what some of those sites listed above as being hit have to say? The Wall Street Journal has a nice article that did the rounds collecting comments. Some, like WiseGeek, confirmed a traffic drop. Others like Associated Content, said they are focusing on bringing more traffic to their articles directly rather than from Google. Google also said that if its YouTube site gained, that was “happenstance.”

    More To Come

    No doubt, there will be more dataset and studies to come. We’ll keep adding to them here, so this page serves as a type of clearinghouse list (there’s another one shaping up on Quora here). Also expect more analysis to come — please chime in with your own in the comments.

    For more about the Farmer Update, see our other articles:

    Don’t forget that at Search Engine Land’s SMX West search marketing conference in San Jose March 8-10, we’ll have a number of sessions where this update as well as Google’s previous updates will be discussed, including:

    This post has more about all these sessions: Google’s “Farmer Update” At Search Engine Land’s SMX West Conference.

    Opening image from IMLS DCC on Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

    Postscript: See:

    Postscript: Google has since officially named this the “Panda” update, so our headline has changed to reflect that.


    About The Author

    Danny Sullivan
    Danny Sullivan was a journalist and analyst who covered the digital and search marketing space from 1996 through 2017. He was also a cofounder of Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land, Marketing Land, MarTech Today and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo and MarTech events. He retired from journalism and Third Door Media in June 2017. You can learn more about him on his personal site & blog He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.