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DaniWeb Forum Hurt By Google Panda. Why?

Google Collateral Damage Causing Some Good Sites Pain!

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If you feel your site was wrongfully hit by Google’s Panda update, there might be hope for you yet. We recently looked at a couple sites who have seen some minor recovery since being hit hard by the update, and since then, we’ve spoken with Dani Horowitz, who runs the IT discussion forum DaniWeb (one of those sites) about what she’s been doing to get back into Google’s good graces.

Should forum content rank well in Google search results when relevant? Comment here.

DaniWeb’s US traffic went from about 90,000 visitors per day down to about 40,000 per day after the update, she tells WebProNews. This sent her into “complete panic mode”.

“I just went into crazy programmer SEO mode, just removing duplicate content and things like that,” she says. She thinks duplicate content may have been a big factor, but duplicate content and its relationship to backlinks, specifically.

“We syndicate our RSS feeds, and there are a lot of websites out there that syndicate our content, duplicate our feeds legitimately…they just take our RSS feeds and they syndicate that,” she explains,noting that many of these sites were linking back to DaniWeb.

“My hypothesis right now is that Google Panda figured out all these sites are really content farms – are really just syndicators, and we just lost half our backlinks,” she says. “So I think it might not necessarily be that Google is penalizing us for being a content farm, but that Google is penalizing all the content farms that are syndicating our content, effectively diminishing the value of half of our backlinks.”

What DaniWeb Has Done to Aid Recovery

First off, she says she entirely redid the site’s URL structure. The actual URL of every single page has changed, Horowitz says.

She removed tag clouds, which were at the bottom of every single page, saying that Google frowns upon these because they can look like keyword stuffing. “What I went and did was made my tag clouds actually populate via javascript in such a way that it actually improves page load time for the end user because they’re no cache, except Google can’t actually spider the actual tag cloud pages, because I added them to the robots.txt file.”

It’s been established that Google takes page speed into consideration as a ranking factor, so certainly this could only help (though it does make you question Google’s whole philosophy of “creating pages for users and not for search engines”). In fact, Horowitz recently showed the correlation of pages Google was indexing with the improvements in page load time:

Pages Crawled vs load time from daniweb

Horowitz says she added a robots.txt to all search results pages, because Google also frowns upon actually having search-like pages in its index. Google wants to be the search engine itself, and point to the content – not to other search results.

She made heavy use of nofollow and noindex tags. “Basically what I did was I took hundreds of thousands of pages out of Google’s index from our domain, but hopefully the advantage being beneficial to the end users…”

Specifically, she noindexed forum posts with with no replies, hoping that Google will recrawl, and start indexing them after they do get replies. She notes that this is simply an experiment.

Finally, she made the Facebook and retweet buttons more prominent. Clearly, Google is moving more and more toward social as an indication of relevancy, so this can’t hurt either.

Horowitz notes that it is entirely possible that the uptick in post-Panda traffic might also be related to other updates Google has implemented since the Panda update. They make changes on a daily basis, and it could simply be that DaniWeb was positively impacted by a different tweak.

Forums and Their Value to Search Results

With the Panda update being all about the quality of search results and the content they deliver, we asked Dani about her thoughts on the value that forums have in this department.

“Forums are in my opinion the best way to get content online, and to get the answers to questions that people want online, where you have not just a single publisher or an editor and team of staff writers, but actually [are] able to poll the entire Internet and [are] able to get expertise from anyone who has it,” she says. “I definitely think that forums are growing. They’re not going to end anytime soon,” she adds, noting that they may change in format.

“It is a double-edged sword, because you have all this great content that’s contributed by the people who know the content best – know the answers best – as opposed to being limited by a team of staff writers, but the flip side is you have people who are not talking in 100% U.S. English, and you have people that don’t have correct grammar, and you have spelling mistakes,” she continues. “So now, we’re leaving it up to Google’s algorithm to try to figure out which…if someone is querying Google…which page has the correct answer. Is it the page that is written by some staff writer that doesn’t necessarily have a complete interest in the topic, but does have a three-paragraph/five-paragraph article that’s written in full-sentence English or is it written by someone who’s a complete expert in the topic, and knows everything…but maybe isn’t a native English speaker and is writing in broken english with lots of spelling and grammar mistakes. It’s hard to have an algorithm try to figure out which is the better result to show.”

Google did include the question, “Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?” in its recently released list of “questions that one could use to assess the ‘quality’ of a page or an article”.

Better Google Results?

When asked if she thinks Google’s results are better now, she told us that the rankings for DaniWeb content have gotten a bit weird. She says that they were ranking for “round robin algorithm” (a computer science term that would make sense in terms of DaniWeb’s content) before the Panda update, but not after the update. Meanwhile, DaniWeb started ranking for the odd keyword “rectangle” after the update (though this was no longer the case after she posted about it in the Google Webmaster forum).

“Before Panda, we were ranking number one for some really great articles that were very relevant,” she says. “Post Panda all of our number one rankings for all of these great articles went down, but we started ranking for some really weird stuff.”

She also noted that her experience searching with Bing “sucked”.

Recovery?

To be clear, it’s not as if DaniWeb has experienced a full recovery since the uptick in traffic began. “We’re still nowhere near where we were before,” she says. “We’re still down nearly 50% but literally we just stopped the bleeding, and there’s [been] a very small improvement week after week the past three or four weeks, but if nothing else, it’s not going down anymore…”

She’s still looking at other things that can be done, and concentrating on building backlinks – trying to create great linkbait.

Do you think DaniWeb should have lost Google rankings? Tell us what you think.

DaniWeb Forum Hurt By Google Panda. Why?
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  • http://mathewharper23099.webs.com/apps/blog/show/7222771-what-is-link-building-means-today prerveree

    Among the first things you will likely come across is building links.

  • http://www.GoTruckStop.com TJ

    Chris, what I think or anyone thinks about Google and their ranking of DaniWeb is irrelevant. It only matters to Dani Horowitz and her team.

    I very much appreciate the insight that you and Dani have shared … and the corrective actions that Dani has implemented on the site.

    The details further show that traffic for the sake of traffic is NOT what Google is looking for in their rankings. It is, and has always been, about QUALITY of information, non-repetitiveness of information, timeliness and of course, a website’s use of current technology as well as quality design.

    From the sounds of it, DaniWeb.com has made the needed changes that Google was looking for. Congrats to DaniWeb.com !!

    At GoTruckStop.com and BigRigGifts.com, we have actually seen an increase in traffic over the past few months … as well as BigRigGifts.com rising very well at Google for our niche market … Gifts for the Professional Truck Driver

    Note: BigRigGifts.com has only been up and running since Jan 2011 … and already controls positions #4,#5,#6 and #7 for the search phrase “big rig gifts”.

    GoTruckStop.com has held the #1 position for “big rig gifts”, “trucker accessories”, “trucking accessories” and “gifts for truck drivers” for several years now.

    Again, congrats to Dani and her team !!

    • JRBeaman

      Why would you dis Dani and mention your site multiple times?
      She went to great effort to explain her situation to help others.

      Your post looks like an inconsiderate action of no value except to brag about and garner clicks to your site. You can bet I won’t visit your site, nor recommend it to anyone because of your callous attitude.

      • Sid

        He is inviting competition. Think different.

        • http://www.m1creative.org Eldred Curwen

          Yup, he just gave away his niche ;)

    • http://mightycleanhome.com house cleaning marietta

      umm does not seem like big rigs a very competitive term at all. Who could not rank high for that term ? Seems like a lot of work for very little traffic, to have that many sites for that term.

  • http://www.bontemedical.com Tony

    That’s why they call it the “Google Dance”. I would like to know if tag clouds are good or improve your seo or are they penalized as mentioned above. What is a site to do if it has a ton of products and many internal links?

  • http://www.barcelona-on-line.es Mamborock

    No, I really don’t think this website should have lost ranking and traffic.

    All in all, I really can’t see any improvement in the quality of search, in my field (travel).

    We have lost a number of positions we were regaining since mayday… sincerely we are not a better nor worse site than before Panda, nor are other sites that are getting better rankings any different now than they were before… what’s the point, then?

    Google is really becoming much too powerful for my taste… they may “do no evil” willingly, but they hold too big a share of too many people’s life in their hands…

  • http://www.metanym.com/milton-keynes MarkFL

    Loads of great insight there, good job DaniWeb.

  • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

    It makes sense that content aggregators whose content is based on RSS feeds would be diminished in their ability to pass on link-juice because instead of webmaster reviewed content being referenced/linked to, its all automagic which means that garbage could get referenced just as easily as quality content.

    If one’s link-juice is based on ‘authorities’ who are such by no other reason than they happen to scrape RSS feeds from the right sites, a hit is going to be taken.

    The ‘double-whammy’ comes into affect, which is what it looks like hit Dani-web, when rss feeds used for content aggregation were effectively counted as back-links and now they’re not, and when content duplication exists within one’s own site, which is only too easy to have happen on huge sites.

    Two thumbs up though for DaniWeb working on pulling their hind-quarters out of the doldrums though, that’s taking the bull by the horns!

  • kain

    no, i don’t think they should be ranked. Most of the time when i am searching for something, I get forums and in order to post or view some data, you are forced to create a membership, yatta yatta….no what search is suppose to be for, it is to search for information that can be viewed and no be forced to do something

  • http://ww.luxuryhomegate.com Same Zilc

    I have as well saw that my main page at google.com went from 4th page upto 13 now and going down… what a mess by google

  • gino

    It is all an excuse for business. And not the algorithm to try to figure out which.
    I have made a strong and deep analytics about the behavior of the three main search engines.
    remember a while ago when they met and discussed the spam matter and arrived to a conclusion of fighting back till getting rid of them?
    Well the agreement wasn’t about the spam, instead it was about hurting the little guys websites and companies or individuals, because all together mad the sum of the biggest crowd in the market of advertisement and the big companies and corporations, who by the way, are ahead in search results these days. Any way, search engines made their numbers who were better potential advertisers for them and there is what the bear is about, hurting them so they run to pay or off line for ever.
    bad, because it is going to be until the USA government takes over and wins, when the search engines will stop and that will take time.

  • http://www.eembroiderydesigns.com/ Alice

    I agree with Danni that the best information you can get is from a forum of people who know what they are talking about. google really needs to do something to factor in the fact that good info is not always grammatically correct.I would not know a quarter of what I know now about a variety of subjects without forums.

    • http://mightycleanhome.com house cleaning marietta

      a forum the best place to get info ??? I find that forums are filled with idiots who in general have no idea what they are talking. Its pretty well known not to go to any forum for useful information. they are filled with trolls and morons

    • kendo

      Really? I client showed me what happens to his results when that happens… the first 3-4 results were for so called experts who waffled on about how such things didn’t exist.

      Forum posts are for people looking for answers, and are rarely the resource for the best solution. The majority of posts that I come across when I am researching don’t have solutions, and quite often incorrect advice.

      And now that Google has started to prefer QA, recommending unfounded amateur opinion before professional reference, everyone will start exploiting those opportunities. What do I mean? Well if you need a picture to understand how it works, hop on over to Yahoo Answers and ask a question, then answer it yourself and cut off any further suggestions.

      Just another example of Google naivety inciting more web pollution? Frankly, I don’t think they care as long as they sell more ads.

      • http://www.businessgrowth.org.uk @dr_ppc

        Well said @Kendo!

        @House cleaning marietta – you are talking tosh, anyone with half a brain knows how to find the right answers on forums, they are a great way to start your researchj then verify answers with “experts”

  • Seaman

    Desperate fix which will not help and if so, it will be temporary. Google is using site owners like marionettes. Google isn’t the same anymore. They are destroying tons of good sites and businesses left and right with their violent and stupid algo. which benefits only their Adsense/Adwords business and their other properties. It is time to call for the government to break up google or regulate it like a public utility.

    Thank you.

    Seaman

  • kendo

    All the more reason to get rid of Google completely!

    One of my sites has an internal search function that has been carefully vetted to provide the most relevant support information. So Google will penalize me for that? Or are we expected to use Google search for that also so that our site visitors can view ads for all of the scam merchants in our industry who plagiarize our innovations and falsely advertise pathetic solutions?

    Hmmm… ratings based on site speed, compression (mangling) of quality images, spelling and diction tests, when will this farce end? Like who is doing the spell checking, an American whose grammar wouldn’t survive an English class anywhere else in the world?

    Want to see how this bigotry works? Do a search on “software organizations” and then do a search on “software organisations” which is the correct English and how everyone outside of America spells it.

    The more I hear about Google, the clearer it seems that Google is unfit for consumption by anyone outside of America. For those in America, they can always nurture their national pride for being home to the most successful Internet scam and extortion of all times.

    Would you let the bookie be the adjudicator with the last say over race track results?

    • http://www.itrustgodonly.com John Park

      I agree with you completely. Have you ever noticed all the google books in the search results? All the garbage sites that still come up in the search results? I always use Bing for my search because they have much more relevant sites.

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      In affect, your multi-site search function sounds like ‘JASE’, just another search engine pulling in content from other sites.

      No real reason for Google to index what is in another search engine just like they don’t index content pulled up from in-site google search widgets.

      If you have actual pages, crawlable by a search engine, it might be better to make them non-crawlable, one way or another, so that your site, assuming it has other content besides, doesn’t get penalized.

      If all the site is is the content brought up by the site’s search engine, it likely won’t do well in any search engine once they figure out what the source of the content is.

      This is no different than Google, Bing and other search engines not indexing each other’s ‘content’, because effectively, they have no content, only a ‘service’.

  • http://www.mac-gizmos.com MacGizmoGuy

    The problem I see is Google seems to generally love well-trafficked Forums: But the problem in SERPs is how OLD AND STALE ranking content often is. For all the blither-blather we hear about how important it is to be current and now and newsy and fresh and buzz-worthy – the bottom line is Google still seems to think what somebody said in a forum in 2008 is worth one of the Top 10 positions. WTF?

  • http://emarketinguide.com/ Ankush Kohli

    Hmm…. very interesting article!

    Honestly, nobody knows the insights behind panda updates but the fact is: everyone is trying to improve their website in-order to receive Google’s organic traffic and that’s a great thing.

    It’s improving the web & web content, which is beneficial for everyone.

  • http://www.businessgrowth.org.uk @dr_ppc

    I absolutely believe that forum info should be prominent in search results. That is where I and, I bet, lots of other readers get answers to questions.

    Between forum posts and blogs is where the best answers to some of the toughest questions are located. I know Google are trying to improve search results but they really should take note of what we the users of their search engine want.

  • http://www.allglassproductsofflorida.com Rick Walkowski

    Thank you for the tips in your article Dani. In my opinion, forums are not always the best place for info. Most of the time all I see is people posting junky responses that are either to boost their post numbers, spam, or incomplete answers. You have to filter through a lot of posts to find a decent one that you can work with. I have a forum myself and I control every post. If it is not quality content, it’s gone.

  • http://freelancewritingnet.com FreelanceWritersNet

    The Google Panda update was long overdue as content farms add no substantial value and had to be curbed somehow. I think that Dani went about her changes, in a very methodical and professional manner and will regain her ranking in due course.

  • http://www.youririshjewelry.com Irish Jewelry

    What a great article – particularly considering how open and honest Dani was regarding the penalties incurred, as well as the actual solutions employed. Wishing DaniWeb well for the future!

  • http://www.simplyclicks.com Simply Clicks

    I have rarely noticed forum pages shown for most search categories I’m involved with. When I see them, its the exception that proves the rule. A forum that regularly appears must have something positive that triggers Google’s algorithm to show them.

  • http://www.financial-accounting.us/ Financial Accounting

    Wow!.. That’s a bummer. I have been using DaniWeb for last 2-3 years now. I suggest Dani should consider the page load time of DaniWeb. It rather takes longer than usual content rich pages from different sites across the web. I extremely recommend using a reliable CDN to accelerate and speed up the website. I am no professional. But all I can say is page load time is one of the biggest impacts in SEO.

  • Daave

    Thanks for sharing the post….

  • Anna

    Great Article….Forums are actually important…

    webmaster at service.ztronics.com

  • http://webdesign.about.com Jennifer Kyrnin

    You asked about forum content. My take is that no, I don’t feel that forum or QandA sites should be ranked as highly as they are. It drives me crazy to have a question, type it into Google, and have the first 8 results be 8 different forums with the same question.

    You might be thinking “yes, but if the answer is there, then…” But a large percentage of the time, the answer is not there, just the question and possibly a series of useless “why do you want to do that?” and “that’s a good question” responses. There is a slight morale boost when I see all the questions, because misery loves company, you know. But what I’m really looking for is an answer, not the same question repeated 100 ways.

    Plus, when anyone in the universe can answer a question on a forum, how do I know that the answer that is provided is actually correct?

    Forum content definitely has a place in search results, I just wish I could filter it until I’ve exhausted all other, more definitive, resources.

    I’m to the point where I’m searching more and more on Bing because at least there, I get results that are useful and not just more of the same.

  • http://www.franchisesolutions.com/ Franchise Guy

    I have to congratulate Dani on her website. It sounds like she’s done a lot of work, and has become somewhat of an SEO expert in the process!

    I want to be clear that DaniWeb did absolutely nothing wrong, but it was getting link juice it ultimately didn’t deserve. No algo update will please everyone, but Panda was a step in the right direction.

  • Cormac

    My forum lost about 1/3 of its traffic, it still hasn’t recovered, and at its current rate of increase it will take about a year to get back to where it was pre-Panda

  • http://www.cuscoviaje.com/ Shomara

    I would like to know if tag clouds are good or improve your seo or are they penalized as mentioned above… No, I really don’t think this website should have lost ranking and traffic.

  • http://xrumerblasts.in/ bedfreezxc

    Everyone involved advertising online knows that backlink building is an essential portion of success. There are numerous link building equipment available on the market, along with the list continue to grow given that incoming back links are so crucial that you the life blood vessels of an on the net presence. It is possible to build all the backlinks to your website oneself, use linking software as well as outsource your entire job.

  • http://www.webdesignghana.org Michael

    Google can really make you lose your mind and your website’s content. Do you have to get penalized just because someone used some content of your site or tacked back your post? this is really weird.

  • http://www.seothomas.com Thomas

    Any type of Duplicate content on your site should either be removed or hidden from the search engines. Google does not want to spend all day crawling Duplicate stuff all day. The other side of the coin are backlinks. If you have cut corners or bought links then you will suffer. But if you take the time to create good solid links from reputable sites then you can rest easy!