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Talk to publishers about Google's Panda update, and chances are you'll find at least a few who haven't had a pleasant experience.

Google's goal of cleaning up its index may be desirable, and perhaps even necessary, but many publishers feel their legitimate websites were collateral damage.

Take TravBuddy, a "free site for people who love to explore the world around them." It's innocuous enough. According to Eric Bjorndahl, the site's co-founder, TravBuddy is home to a large, vibrant community, and the site has been a Webby Honoree for four years in a row.

But TravBuddy was caught up in the Panda pandemonium in February, and Bjorndahl and his team have been trying to recover ever since. To that end they have:

  • Cut back on pages light on content.
  • Dealt with duplicate content.
  • Improved navigation.
  • Reduced the amount of advertising they display.
  • Taken steps to minimize the amount of TravBuddy content that is syndicated or scraped by other sites.

The result? Zip, zilch, nada. As Bjorndahl puts it, it's "almost as if Google has decided we should get X number of visitors every week, regardless of what we do."

Now, it's certainly possible that all the hard work will eventually bear fruit. Google doesn't 'forgive' quickly, and we shouldn't expect possible Panda overreach to be corrected overnight.

That said, Bjorndahl's experience highlights an inconvenient truth: no matter what you do, you'll never have control over your Google destiny. Obviously, there's the argument to be made that if TravBuddy had taken care of the SEO basics sooner, Panda wouldn't have hurt so much, but there's no way of knowing that.

So what should publishers do? Following SEO best practices wherever possible is almost certainly a good thing, but if you live to perform SEO instead of to publish, you've lost the plot.

The key to avoiding Panda-like pain is to recognize that there are plenty of areas outside of SEO which can be optimized. TravBuddy, for instance, may not be able to control how much traffic Google sends its way, but it can improve how much of that traffic converts and sticks around.

At the end of the day, while publishers ponder the long-term impact of Panda, they should also ponder the possibility that SEO, while important, doesn't always provide the most bang for the buck when it comes to the O -- optimization.

Patricio Robles

Published 17 June, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2419 more posts from this author

Comments (8)

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James Robertson, Web Marketing Manager at www.venuebirmingham.com

Another argument in favour of an opensource, distributed processing search engine; Google simply has too much power and is hyper-dominant to such an extent that it will take an order of magnitude improvement to dethrone it - not just an incremental one.

over 5 years ago


Ron Rule

All search engines will eventually go this way. Remember when Google was a "project"? In order to provide quality results, you have to protect the details of the algo- something an open source search engine couldn't do. To develop privately requires capital, which has to come either from advertisers or investment. You're only able to attract either if you have visitors, and you're only able to attract visitors if you serve quality content. Therefore all search engines must strive to favor the original source of content, and not those who copy it. It has more to so with the source than the legitimacy of the copier. What's the difference between a so-called "scraper site" reposting someones rss and, say, a local newspaper that displays a syndicated feed? There isn't one. Both are republishing someone else's work and displaying their own advertisements next to it.

over 5 years ago


James Robertson, Web Marketing Manager at www.venuebirmingham.com

exactly; it's this rewarding of copying that is so offensive - and Google's blatant copyright infringements.

I'm notsaying it's likely - just wished for. And I don;t see a reason why you couldn't opensource the algorithim if you also utterly banned rewarding of copying of content and only ever published links to the original material...

over 5 years ago



Funny - I changed a few product titles and drove thousands of extra google natural search visits almost overnight, but despite all the above efforts there was no impact on travBuddy's traffic at all.

over 5 years ago



It's certainly not worth stressing about it. I've just read a book discusses the technique of "shut up, move on"...
Whilst it might not get you back up there with google then it'll show you how to stop being so stressed about it.
You can't make google like you - so find other ways of getting people to you.
Doesn't facebook have more page views than google these days? Be creative and invent new ways of letting people find you.
Perhaps it's all time we started promoting a different search engine?

over 5 years ago

Caroline Whyatt

Caroline Whyatt, Head of Channel Experience at Royal Mail groupEnterprise

Really interesting article, I have been looking for information on people who have recovered from Panda and so far not found anyone. This probably explains why!

It is also interesting that a lot of people (both digital professionals and otherwise) are complaining about the quality of Google search results. Many are citing that old sites appear at or near the top of listings. This includes sites that haven't been updated for over a year when you search for the term 'cinema'!

over 5 years ago


Mayer Reich

This is the experience of one company that clearly isn't understanding what Panda is about.
As a founder of an SEO software company I have seen over a dozen websites hit by Panda and recover fairly quickly.
The primary reason these others succeeded was understanding it's much deeper then fixing a few page titles to win the game.
Why doesn't the owner of TravBuddy look at his internal search pages and tag pages and most of his answers will be found there.

over 5 years ago

Stu Foster

Stu Foster, SEO Manager at Stickyeyes

We developed a full & proper fix for Panda over a month ago. Works perfectly :)

over 5 years ago

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