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DaniWeb Hit By Google Again, Following Multiple Panda Recoveries

Founder Dani Horowitz discusses ongoing battle with Google’s algorithm

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DaniWeb Hit By Google Again, Following Multiple Panda Recoveries
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IT discussion community site DaniWeb has had a rather hectic year or so. Hit by Google’s Panda update last year, the site has seen a series of ups and downs – hard hits from Google’s algorithm and tremendous recoveries. The site has been hit yet again, and Founder/CEO Dani Horowitz is telling us about what’s going on this time. She’s not sure if it’s the Panda update, though the whole thing just happens to coincide with a recent iteration of it.

Have you seen traffic increase or decrease since the latest known Panda update? Let us know in the comments.

DaniWeb is one of those sites, which in the heart of the mad Panda scramble of 2011, seemed to be unjustly hit. It’s a forum with a solid user base, where people can discuss issues related to hardware, software, software development, web development, Internet marketing ,etc. It’s the kind of site that often provides just the right kind of answer for a troubled searcher.

We did an interview with Horowitz last year, who told us about some of the things she was doing to help the site recover from the Panda trauma. Here’s the interview, or you can click the link for more about that.

That was in May. In July, Horowitz claimed DaniWeb had made a 110% recovery from Google. In September, Panda appeared to have slapped the site again, causing it to lose over half of its traffic. Shortly thereafter, in early October, Horowitz announced that the site had managed to recover yet again. “Clearly Google admitted they screwed up with us,” she said at the time.

Now, six months later, DaniWeb has been hit yet again, but this time, Horowitz is taking at least part of the blame.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE RETWEET … I NEED HELP :( http://t.co/asnxaqAB 12 hours ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto

The tweet links to this Google Groups forum discussion, where Horowitz describes her new issues in great depth, also noting that the site had eventually made a 130% recovery from its pre-Panda numbers. DaniWeb rolled out a new platform, coincidentally at the same time a Panda update was made in March, and she says the site’s been going downhill ever since.

Horowitz tells WebProNews she’s been “hibernating in a cave the past few months coding the new version of the site.”

“I do not believe that we were hit by Panda,” she says in the forum post. “Unlike Panda, which was an instantaneous 50-60% drop in traffic literally overnight, we’ve instead had a steady decrease in traffic every day ever since our launch. At this point, we’re down about 45%. We are using 301 redirects, but our site’s URL structure *DID* change. While we’re on an entirely new platform, the actual content is entirely the same, and there is a 1-to-1 relationship between each page in the old system and the new system (all being 301-redirected).”

Later in the post, she says, “This mess is partially my fault, I will have to admit. As mentioned, we changed our URL structure, and I am 301 redirecting the old URLs to the new URLs. However, we also changed our URL structure last February, right after Panda originally hit. I have to admit that when we first went live, I completely forgot about that. While I was 301 redirecting the old version to the new, I was *NOT* redirecting the old old version to the new for about 72 hours, until I remembered! However, by that time, it was too late, and we ended up with over 500,000 404 errors in Google Webmaster Tools. That has been fixed for quite a few weeks already though.”

In between those two quotes, she details the observations in Google’s behavior with her site she’s not happy with. The first one:

If you visit a page such as: http://www.daniweb.com/web-development/php/17 you will see that the article titles have URLs in the format http://www.daniweb.com/web-development/php/threads/420572/php-apotrophe-issue … However, you can also click on the timestamp of the last post to jump to the last post in the article (a url such as http://www.daniweb.com/posts/jump/1794174)

The /posts/jump/ URLs will 301 redirect you to the full article pages. For example, in this specific example, to http://www.daniweb.com/web-development/php/threads/420572/php-apotrophe-issue/1#post1794174 (the first page of the thread, with an anchor to the specific post).

The page specifies rel=”canonical” pointing to http://www.daniweb.com/web-development/php/threads/420572/php-apotrophe-issue

Why then, does the /posts/jump/ URL show up in the Google search results instead of my preferred URL?? Not only am I doing a 301 redirect away from the /posts/jump/ format, but I am also specifying a rel=”canonical” of my preferred URL.

“I don’t like this at all for a few reasons,” she continues. “Firstly, the breadcrumb trail doesn’t show up in the SERPS. Secondly, there is no reason for Google to be sending everyone to shortened URLs, because now nearly every visitor coming in from Google has to go through a 301 redirect before seeing any content, which causes an unnecessary delay in page load time. Thirdly, the /posts/jump/ URLs all tack on a #post123 anchor to the end, meaning that everyone is being instantaneously jumped halfway down the page to a specific post, instead of getting the complete picture, where they can start reading from the beginning. This certainly isn’t desirable behavior!”

You can read the post for further elaboration.

Dani’s second observation:

After skimming the first 40 or 50 pages of the Google search results for site:daniweb.com, it’s essentially entirely a mix of two types of URLs. Those in the /posts/jump/ format, and links to member profiles. Essentially, two types of pages which are both not what I would consider putting our best foot forward.

We currently have nearly one million members, and therefore nearly one million member profiles. However, we choose to use the rel=”noindex” meta tag directive on about 850,000 of the member profiles, only allowing those by good contributors to be indexed. I think it’s a happy medium between allowing our good contributors to have their profiles found in Google by prospective employers and clients searching for their name, and not having one million member profiles saturate our search results. We allow just under 100,000 of our 950,000+ member profiles to be indexed.

However, as mentioned, it just seems as if member profiles are being ranked too high up and just way too abundant when doing a site:daniweb.com, overshadowing our content. This was no the case before the relaunch, and nothing changed in terms of our noindex approach.

Based on prior experience, the quality of the results when I do a site:daniweb.com has a direct correlation to whether Google has a strong grasp of our navigation structure and is indexing our site the way that I want them to. I noticed when I was going through my Panda ordeal that, at the beginning, doing a site: query gave very random results, listing our non-important pages first and really giving very messy, non-quality results. Towards the end of our recovery, the results were really high quality, with our best content being shown on the first chunk of pages.

The bottom line, it seems, according to Horowitz, is that Google has “no grasp on the structure” of the site. Once again, you can read her post in its entirety for further details and explanation from Horowitz herself.

Until the most recent issue, DaniWeb was clearly having a lot of success in the post-Panda world. When asked what she attributes this success to, Horowitz tells WebProNews, “We were at an all-time high in terms of traffic, and there was still constant growth. I definitely don’t think it was just the Panda recovery but all of the other positive SEO changes I made when we were being Pandalized that contributed to our post-Panda success.”

It goes to show, Panda is just one of many signals Google has (over 200, in fact).

“I’ve already documented just about everything that I did along the way, so there’s not much that I can think of adding,” she says. You can go back through the other links in these articles for more discussion with Dani about all of that. “At the end of the day, I think it just comes down to Google having a really good grasp of your entire site structure.”

“Taking yet another massive hit was completely unexpected for us,” she says. “We launched at the exact same time as Panda rolled out (completely not planned), and therefore I don’t know which to attribute our latest round of issues to. It might be Panda, it might be issues with our new version, it might be a little of both, or it might be new signals that Google is now factoring into their algorithm.”

Google has, of course, been providing monthly updates on many of the new changes it has been making. You can see the list for March here.

There’s no question that search engines, including Google, are putting a lot more emphasis on social media these days. We asked Horowitz if she believes social media played a significant role in DaniWeb’s search visibility.

“Absolutely,” she says. “I can definitely see the value in Twitter and Facebook likes, recommendations, and mentions. I think it just all goes into building a solid brand on the web. I forget where I read somewhere recently about how Google is favoring big brands. I don’t think you need to be a fortune 500 company to have earned a reputation for yourself on the web.”

“While I personally still haven’t quite found the value in Google+, I’m not going to discount it for its part in building brand equity in the eyes of Google, either.”

When asked if Google’s “Search Plus Your World” has been a positive thing for Daniweb, and/or the Google user experience (it’s received a lot of criticism), she says, “I happen to be a fan of personalized search results. Am I the only one?”

Do you think Google’s results are better now in the post-Panda, “Search Plus Your World” era? Let us know what you think in the comments.

DaniWeb Hit By Google Again, Following Multiple Panda Recoveries
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  • http://Wredlich.com Warren Redlich

    This is why I’m scared of redirects and like keeping site structure simple.

    Don’t expect Google to figure out your site. Design your site so it makes sense to Google.

  • http://www.sem-advance.com Clint Dixon

    Now if she only understood Google is database driven and needs to drop old data to trtrieve new data, evaluate, and score,…. This will take a while…google did nothing wrong!!

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      I think she is realizing it now.

      301 redirects work but they do take time. :-(

      Especially for a site as large as Daniweb.

      I wish Daniweb a speedy recovery!

    • http://www.cxinteractive.com/ Brian R

      I don’t think it’s just a database update/refresh issue. I think Google has some bugs in this area and has had them for a long time. Google still hasn’t properly updated their 301 redirect table for redirects that have been in place for 3 months now in several cases. They’ve changed the landing page several times but still don’t show the one being 301 redirected to in the SERPs which is only one step removed. In contrast, Bing/Yahoo! has been showing the correct landing page for a long time now.

      There could be some other signals getting in the way of showing the correct page or they still have some bugs in this area. A 301 redirect is a pretty strong directive since that’s what users see and Google is always trying to emulate the user experience in their SERPs so I think it must be a bug.

  • Craig Burr

    I had quite a rapid decrease in visitors but after making some changes I have it pretty much back to normal

  • http://www.bizwaremagic.com Titus

    While webmasters (myself included) try to adjust their sites to the constant Panda Updates… has it occured to anyone besides me, that Panda may have nothing to do with your site but it is just Google switching/favoring many of its valuable high-paying keyword traffic to its brand name corporate Adwords clients in organic search. Has anyone made a full-scale study of this issue… I realize it is foolish to make a judgment just based on the handful of keyword phrases you’re ranking for but enquiring minds want to know.

    • http://www.cxinteractive.com/ Brian R

      With all the anti-trust cases already on the go, especially since Search Plus Your World, there’s no way Google would take this risk. People have been theorizing this for years: maybe if I add Adsense to my site my rankings will increase because Google wants to make more money. No one’s been able to prove this and University Professors often study Google’s results for errors and wrong-doings and have never found this happening.

      We have evidence that content farms have been hit as they should have been if Panda was doing it’s job and this has nothing to do with whether these sites have Adsense on their pages or not. If Google favored Adsense sites, their results would become less relevant and be more vulnerable to spam. This would be bad for Google’s bottom line and goes against what the Panda updates are all about: prevent low-quality sites from showing up high in the search results.

  • http://www.idealarticles.info IdealArticles

    I wonder what is going to happen to us little ones when sites like DaniWeb get hit by Google. I have frequented the site in question and have learned great stuff. Why it was slapped? Only Google knows and they are not disclosing any clues. Has Dani offended any Google engineer? Is she a target of some sort? I guess we shall never know.

  • IdealArticles

    She recovered before, we will recover again. I wish she does and comes back ever stronger.

  • Mike Bee

    Google became what it is because they went out and indexed the web that was there, and could show it to people.

    Now, they are doing the opposite – they are so big, they think they own the web – who are they to tell everyone what a good website is?

    They are not doing the exact opposite of what made them succesful – instead of figuring out what is there, now they want to dictate so they don’t have to.

    Sorry Google, you do not own the web. People can put whatever they like. Just DaniWeb alone, Google has affected 1 million users. How many other sites are like this? In other words, they are losing their grip – if more and more sites are disappearing like this, how good are those Google results?

  • Bob

    This article not about panda, but about girl who was lucky to get google trafic because builded site when was not so many of competition, now she make lot of errors with redirection/etc and cry now about it.

    Yes, google panda is real trouble born by google to try adsense sites method (no info in organic results to get most of ad clicks)).

    tbut please bring real panda cases, not just one women forget to do stories.
    Just look ino serp right now, 3+ keyword queriea only broad match, that serp is just not usable!

  • http://www.airportbycoach.co.uk/ Stewart

    “Do you think Google’s results are better now in the post-Panda?”

    If you mean, do I want a load of ads, image ads and shopping results, eventually followed lower down the page (below the fold!!) by some “real” search results which invariably have Amazon or Wiki first, then no, not really…

  • http://cozumelmexico.net Bob Rodriguez

    I’ve always generated my own content. I never relied on forums, backlinks, or having other people write content for me.

    I have a niche market (Cozumel Island) and I’ve made it my business over the last 15 years, to be the foremost expert in everything that is Cozumel Mexico.

    I’ve seen how many of my competing portals are growing by getting others to write their content. And as was so eloquently pointed out in this article. Spelling and grammar is of the utmost importance.

    In short: I believe that panda is more concerned with quality and not quantity. These growing communities are full of people writing content that (if I were a spider) would penalize as well.

    “OMG, this is such a cooooool foum!” I so glad that I can right whatever I want so every body can reed what I think (or is it thought)”….Great content isn’t it?

    OK, I’m exaggerating, but I’m certain that you get the point. If you DON’T get the point, you should find another line of work.

  • http://tryworkfromhome.com Tony Rehor

    To tell you the truth, Results seem to be worse than before Panda. I get more terrible affiliate sites no then 2 years ago.

  • http://xcelplus.com.au Michael Czajka

    I seem to have lost traffic on my site… hits, files, pages and visits are all down. However what I’m noticing most is sales down.

    :-(

  • http://www.resume-resource.com Dsource

    We have observed a slow slip in traffic lately, but only in the 8-12% range. After being hit by this last year and surrendering a vast amount of traffic and revenue we have put hundreds of hours into the site. The website however, has made only small “update” gains or jumps that were noticeably an algorithm update. At about 90% recovery from last year, we attribute much of the rebound to the same organic growth pattern we can recognize going back 7 or 8 years. Only about a third of the recovery could be attributed to a Google update here and there.

    Something we notice from time to time is a dramatic fluctuation in long-tail searches. Top ten searches remain in the top ten but might slip a few positions, but the number of keyword searches finding our site in total decrease dramatically when we see a tail-off in traffic.

    From my podium if I may say so – the best bet is to fix any problems on existing pages and check them very carefully. At this time I will strongly recommend not changing any content, images, or links unless any of them are problematic. As far as a content site is concerned, if you have updates and new information, we’re no longer updating pages. We’re adding new ones with the updated information.

    This “playing around” with the algorithm is nonsense. Popular pages should rank well and that’s how it should be. We have pages on our career-related website that were created in 2005. Some of the content is universal and some aspects of the material should be updated. WE made a considerable investment in developing up-to-date content, resume examples and more useful information than before. We worked on well-ranking pages with over 1,500 visits per day. Journalistic integrity tells us to update them. Google disagreed. Once we changed these pages – every one of them fell to under 300 visits. We gave them a chance to come back but they never did UNTIL we put the 6-year old information back up exactly as it was before. Traffic returned within two weeks.

    The complexity of the changes that are being made at this point are a crapshoot. Just build a good site and leave it alone if you did it right. Serve your constituency well and you’ll be rewarded eventually. If you’re not a bad guy – at some point you’ll be recognized for your integrity.

  • http://ephedrinewheretobuy.com Mike Budd

    First, I’ve been impressed by the success of DaniWeb, I didn’t know: nearly one million members, congrats!

    Then by the number of “404 Page not found” errors in Google Webmaster Tools: 500,000! Again, congrats :-) You can guess what Google thinks about it, Panda or not ;-)

    I’m sure that Dani will take it again to another level.

    Cheers,
    Mike

  • Shadow

    Seriously, I am currently banking 140K monthly and none of the updates over the years have ever really affected any of my sites. My point is that my formula has changed very little since 2003. So ask yourself what have you been doing wrong? Google is sending out these notices about unnatural links detected on sites right? And when you respond you have to check boxes saying you understand their policies and agree to abide etc, etc. So what do you think will happen the NEXT time you try some gray hat strategy and get popped by Panda? Do you honestly think Google intends to keep giving you the benefit of the doubt? People need to stop worrying about how to rank websites and more about how to differentiate their business from competitors through branding and truly unique, useful content. Do that and you win.

  • http://www.technize.net Usman

    That’s really sad to know. I have been a member of Daniweb for quite sometime and have to say that daniweb is a very energetic and loving community and if one stays there for sometime, he’s just glued up there. I hope they’ll find a fix for this problem too.

  • http://www.captaincyberzone.com Cap’n Cyberzone

    Thanks for the story/awareness. DaniWeb just gained a new hitter and perhaps more if I like what I find.

  • Adnan

    What I have learned is to build your business in a way that it will not rely on search engines.

    The search engines nowadays are mainly competing each other, trying out other things and have other interests rather then showing the best results.

    Promote your brand and make your customers bookmark it, type in the url etc.

    I have never searched for WebProNews on any search engine and have never arrived here from any search engine.

  • Adnan Faridi

    Build a site which doesn’t rely on search engines.

    That is the best way to go.

    I don’t remember ever searching for WebProNews on search engines, but I do come here frequently.

    Look at some of the strongest sites on the internet.

  • http://www.webpix.eu/ Webpix

    I have recognized 3 days ago, that google cut off (deindexed them) the chart and user URL from some german bookmarking sites. One had about 60.000 indexed pages before, suddenly it drops down to about 2.000 pages (only tag pages) in the google index. – My first thought was, that google wants to destruct these bookmark pages… One day later I checked it again and I saw all these pages (users+charts) came back again in the google index with about 60.000. I think google is experimenting a lot…

  • http://www.tipsinablog.com Daniel

    There has been some changes in the way sites perform, due to the recent Algorithm updates.

    As far as having broken link structures(returning 404′s) this can have a noticeable affect on a site.

    I had this happen last year when after doing a number of page edits, my url structure on those pages was broken.

    So pages that were ranked very well(and on the rise) were now unacceptable and returning 404 errors, and soon dropped off in the rankings.

    Though, on the other hand there is what is referred to in Google Webmaster tools as ” Soft 404′s) which I would say are just old pages that have not been DE-indexed from the search engines yet.

  • http://www.way2makemoneyeasy.com/internet-marketing-tools/ Hamilton marketing

    It’s all about playing ball with Google…if they can’t categorize a website as spam, they will try to hit it (play with its ranking) until the owner of the website give up on the battle.

    I am telling you, big brother always watching us, and if we are not strong enough to stand in front of them…they don’t need to count on us

    So much too learn, and we come a long way to give up…I’ll bet you, if we still do the exact thing that we suppose to do, Google won’t worry about us anymore:(

    Regards,
    Hamilton

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

    301′s can be a nightmare. Good luck to daniweb.

  • http://www.dlysen.com dlysen

    Basically I do SEO but I don’t know much about Panda… I experienced up and down of the traffic but I don’t know if the Panda thing has something to do with my traffic.

  • http://nitrofatburners.com Rick

    I can relate so much to this article and what Dani is going thru because I did the exact same thing! I wanted to make my site more user friendly by shortening my link structure and changing the categories, layout, and navigation of my site. I have also been adding more content to make it a more robust site. I used 301 redirects and rel=canocial commands for all of the links. I did this in late March because I have had a 2/3 drop in traffic and sales. I know that its been these panda updates and I have been frantically trying to adhere to the algorithm changes but its been very slow going and im still down about 50% in traffic. I have also been getting a lot of 404′s for no-existent pages in Webmaster tools and its very frustrating. I hope that this is a matter of google not updating the SERPs with the new links and you get a case of URLs being double indexed.
    The thing that really bugs me is that google states that its trying to “level the playing field” and allow the “little guy” to gain just as much viability as the large authority sites, but I have seen the exact opposite happen to me in my niche. The authority sites are literally dominating my niche for all of the keywords that I was #1-3 for for over 2 years. No matter what I do, I can’t seem to get to #1 again and my revenue has greatly suffered because of it.

  • http://accountantlist.info Marshall

    I’ve always been worried about making any structural changes to my best websites for this very reason. I have some older sites that were built a page at a time with html and it took me a long time just to get up the nerve to convert them to php even though they are still rendered as html pages. Of course, nothing changed but I am still reluctant to take the next step and actually change the structure.

  • http://www.lerentech.com Lerentech

    The latest updates by Google are causing more harm than good. Black hatters are taking advantage of the opportunity and buying crappy link spam with bad keywords for their competitors and knocking them down in rankings significantly. This is a serious issue that Google needs to address.

  • http://www.xininvoice.com invoice software

    An informative website like daniweb also hit by google panda update. Our company’s small website cannot run away from there. The recent update cause our website’s visitor decrease about 30%. It’s give us the hugh impact in terms of daily transaction and sales.

  • http://publicrecords.searchsystems.net/ Tim Koster

    We’re the original public records site. 16 years online and ranked #1 for public records by Google since Google’s inception. Yet we got hit incredibly hard by Panda– first by eliminating our ranking for property, court, criminal, marriage, and divorce records; then later in the year blocking us ranking for every county in the U.S. and significantly dropping every state. We’ve worked for over a year to fix every issue that we can find that might have caused this– to no avail. Every time we see some progress we get hit again. Our suspicion is that we are being “allocated” a certain number of visitors per week and our rankings are adjusted to make sure that we don’t go above our allocation.

    It’s like playing chess against a grandmaster– only you only get to see your pieces, not your opponents. And when you do get to move a piece you have to use one of those fun-house cranes.

    I think what they’re doing is criminal.

  • http://publicrecords.searchsystems.net/ Tim Koster

    This morning we went from 12 years of ranking #1 for “public records” on Google to not ranking at all. Panda has effectively murdered us.

    • http://ca.linkedin.com/in/brianpr Brian Robinson

      This sounds more like a penalty.
      Have you checked Google Webmaster Tools for any messages from Google about “artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site”? Seems like you have a lot of links with “public records” as the anchor text and Google may have seen this as unnatural and hit this keyword.

      A lot of these links point to http://www.searchsystems.net/ which go through a 301 redirect to http://publicrecords.searchsystems.net/ and link juice degrades slightly across redirects so you may want to reach out to some of the top sites and ask them to update the link to the subdomain to get the maximum link juice to that page. This shouldn’t cause the types of drops you are seeing, however. Often these penalties are keyword-specific which is why you may drop on “public records” but not on “free public records”.

      One tool I looked at indicated that there was a big spike in backlinks last month but another didn’t show this. If you had a lot of links built last month then that could cause a keyword-specific penalty. These penalties can stick around for a few months sometimes or longer if the links remain.

      It seems like you have a canonical issue as well. Google thinks that your canonical URL is http://www.pac-info.com/ instead of http://publicrecords.searchsystems.net/. You should try to resolve this in case it’s causing problems. You should specify http://publicrecords.searchsystems.net/ in the canonical tag on http://publicrecords.searchsystems.net/ (as long as you’re redirecting here) to send another directive to G that this is the canonical version and not pac-info.com. Google seems to have some bugs returning the proper page even though there’s a 301 redirect as you can see from my comment above.

      I tried checking your sitemap file for the URLs you were specifying but couldn’t open it properly after unzipping with WinRAR so there may be problems with the file http://publicrecords.searchsystems.net/sitemap.xml.gz that you may want to look into. I doubt this is the problem but it may cause other canonical or indexing issues.

      It’s hard to tell what’s happening without knowing all the changes that have happened recently on site and off site and without analytics or webmaster tools access but this is what I can see from here.

    • http://goan.com Mark

      It is obvious to work out how to get around the supposed “PANDA UPGRADE”.

      DONT USE GOOGLE ANALYTICS!!!

      This is where Google gets the link info on your site and screws you!

      If you need to know where your visitor are coming from, just use the tools that are already installed on your web server.

      Sorry if this is too obvious??