Panda 4.0: One Month On, Signs of Recovery

Jacco Blankenspoor
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Last month I described how it was to be hit by Panda 4.0 on May 20th. As we’re now one month further, it’s time to make up make up the score again.

Let’s see some numbers!

This is what you don’t want to see when using the Panguin tool)

This is what you don’t want to see when using the Panguin tool)

Unfortunately my largest site (a job site) didn’t recover fully, but it’s getting there. There were a few major drops though:

  • Visitors: – 28%
  • Pageviews: -38%
  • Revenue: -36%
  • Average ranking: -15%

Ouch! My most profitable pages got hit the hardest. These pages account for the highest pageview per visit, as well as the highest CPM. That’s why my revenue got hit relatively hard and my pageview per visit count dropped.

My site has a few pages which together account for around 45% of the total traffic. These pages weren’t hit, causing my average ranking to remain quite steady.

And It wasn’t all bad: one of my more content rich sites saw an increase of around 40% in both visitors and pageviews, as well as an 20% increase in rankings. Its revenue jumped up a staggering 300%.

But as its total monthly revenue is only worth as much as two days income on my larger site, that won’t help much. It’s still a nice increase, and it neatly illustrates what Panda 4.0 was designed for.

Light on the horizon?

As I predicted in my previous article, some of my rankings recovered in the weeks following Panda 4.0.

While my rankings are steadily moving up again, there are some strange effects noticeable along the way.

Two weeks after getting hit by Panda 4.0, my job site had its busiest day ever. On the evening of June 2nd there was an explosion in traffic. I like watching my traffic coming in real time, and I started making screenshots.

Traffic explosion

It didn’t even stop here, as I saw it go up to 100 active users on site at a time. That’s about three times more than usual. It went up in minutes, as if someone at Google decided to flip the switch just a few minutes before the traffic burst.

It marked the recovery of my site from most of its losses. Too bad the 2014 FIFA World Cup started, which has had a negative impact on traffic. Luckily my visitors are mostly female, but it is still not as busy as it normally would be during important soccer matches.

What about the rest of the world?

Well, I’m in good company since some pretty large companies got hit even harder.

  • eBay: Although rumors still persist that eBay got hit manually, the site lost about 30% of its traffic. Its stock took a beating as well, after it became clear what happened. But as it was already declining, Panda 4.0 just accelerated the fall. eBay hasn’t shown any real recovery yet.
  • RetailMeNot: RMN is a coupon site, and it’s funded by Google itself. But the Big G’ doesn’t care about its babies that much, so RMN lost about 30% of its traffic. Its stock plunged, with a loss of 18% in 2 days. Its traffic is going up again, but is still at about 20% loss.
  • Ask: Already one of the biggest losers in traffic losing about 75%, it hasn’t been showing any improvement. In fact, traffic seems to be on a further decline.

What about some winners? Well let’s see:

  • Glassdoor: I guess the people at Glassdoor are still celebrating, and I hope they even adopted some pandas. These guys are one of the largest winners in the whole Panda 4.0 update, having more than doubled their traffic and still growing.
  • MedTerms: You can’t really call this one content rich (just check this page for a very important term), offering a dictionary for medical terms. Still they gained a nearly 10x increase in traffic. What?
  • ShopStyle: Another strange rise. ShopStyle is basically a collection of links to fashion webstores. Yet they gained a 5x raise in traffic.

Glassdoor is the most content rich site of there three, but it’s hardly a site where you can spend hours reading long in-depth articles. It is basically a job site with content on the side. But they saw a significant increase in traffic which surely accounts for millions in added revenue dollars.

The other two sites aren’t any better either. So I still stand by my conclusion which I made in my previous Panda 4.0 article that Google is being really indecisive on this one.

I did a survey on about 15 large sites, which were mentioned as winners or losers before. Generally speaking, there’s haven’t been large shifts in traffic since Panda 4.0 was rolled out.

My site is out of the ordinary for this matter, but maybe it shouldn’t have been hit that hard in the first place.

I also found out that some sites mentioned as “winners” actually lost a large part of their traffic a few days before Panda 4.0. This basically means they recovered their lost rankings with Panda 4.0, but this doesn’t make them a winner.

So, Do I Like Pandas Again?

Well, we can’t really blame real pandas do we? I just hope Google would name its next major update something like Naked Mole Rat 1.0, or something less cute.

The naked mole rat

The naked mole rat, in all its glory. Source: Wikipedia

I did learn a lot from Panda 4.0. Google has shown they really care about the quality of their results, and won’t hesitate to show its muscles. I used those lessons learned for my new job site, for which I will make sure to focus on quality content.

I still don’t like the fact that even though Google claims otherwise, sites displaying mostly links are still dominating the search results on many terms. But it’s clear that if you’re not one of the big boys, you’re better off focusing on providing quality content.

As for my current job site, I’m not complaining, since all the important visitor metrics are going up again. I have updated and improved my content, and put more of a focus on social, which is turning out quite well.

My revenue is on a steady rise as well. Since my least profitable pages were still going strong, I went looking for a better way to monetize these pages.

I added a new affiliate program which is doing so well that it almost covers my losses, making these pages coming up to par with the rest of the site.

So who knows, maybe I’ll end up loving pandas more than ever before.

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  • http://www.nicoblog-games.com/ Nico

    I don’t understand Google, scrappers rank better thank content authors, they call it quality, i call it bull****

    • http://www.buildyourownwebstore.com/ Jacco Blankenspoor

      Unfortunately yes, it’s still quite easy to rank high with spamming (although they most likely get you in the long run).

  • http://illuminationconsulting.com/ Illumination Consulting

    It can be a daunting job to manage multiple vendors that keep everything at a certain level of quality that will not be punished by Google search engine changes. We get many customer that have been loosing ground due to these changes. It takes time to recover. Great article and thanks.

    • http://www.buildyourownwebstore.com/ Jacco Blankenspoor

      Hi, thank! It takes time indeed. Too bad my results are a bit cluttered due to the Fifa World Cup, but you can’t do anything about less people searching :-)

  • OphelieLechat

    Jacco. That photo is going to give me nightmares.

    • http://www.buildyourownwebstore.com/ Jacco Blankenspoor

      Haha, you’re welcome ;-) This one isn’t considered the most ugly animal on the planet for nothing :-)

  • Ratcher

    Step one into making the world into a far less better place for internet websites and alike, complete. Thank you google for going power hungry and making content more automated and less assured quality-wise than what it used to be.

    • http://www.buildyourownwebstore.com/ Jacco Blankenspoor

      Hi, it’s not just getting worse, but it is getting more and more harder to claim your place as a small publisher I believe. But that’s just me :-)