Google's Panda update was designed to eliminate spam and content farm content, thus improving the quality of Google's index and SERPs.
Many sites caught in Panda's grip claim that they were unintended victims of the update, and have sought ways to recover.
That secret: break up a site zapped by Panda into lots of smaller sites. HubPages, one of the 'content farms' hurt most by Panda, reportedly lost some 50% of its traffic following the update.
But by reorganizing its content into subdomain-based sites, a tip the Wall Street Journal says was provided directly to HubPages by Google's Matt Cutts, the company is seeing "early evidence" that such a move can bear fruit:
The HubPages subdomain testing began in late June and already has shown positive results. Edmondson’s own articles on HubPages, which saw a 50% drop in page views after Google’s Panda updates, have returned to pre-Panda levels in the first three weeks since he activated subdomains for himself and several other authors. The other authors saw significant, if not full, recoveries of Web traffic.
The idea behind breaking up into subdomains is simple enough to understand. By giving each HubPages author his or her own subdomain, it may be possible for Google to evaluate content on a more granular level.
Instead of punishing all the content located on the hubpages.com domain because some of it is lacking, subdomains that Google determines have quality content will be treated better than subdomains that don't.
Obviously, it would be foolish to assume that subdomains are a Panda panacea. Publishers without quality content probably won't see any benefit from a subdomain reorganization, assuming it offers any real benefit in the first place.
And if everyone rushes to employ the subdomain strategy in an effort to trick Google, it's likely that the strategy won't work.
Beyond this, there are also questions about how Google is working with publishers to deal with the fallout from Panda. The New York Times article creates the impression that Google engineers, and Matt Cutts himself, have been providing advice to HubPages, which reportedly generates $10m per year in revenue through AdSense.
Many publishers that claim they were unfairly harmed by Panda have not been able to obtain any explanations or assistance from Google. If HubPages' plight is actually receiving special attention, one has to wonder why.
At the end of the day, of course, Panda reminds us that Google isn't perfect. When it makes big changes, the consequences can be equally large for publishers in ways that are both good and bad.
For publishers dependent on Google traffic, trying anything and everything may be the only approach available, even if it does cause headaches, may be the only option when faced with the bad.