In a recent article, we looked at some efforts by EzineArticles to get its users improving the quality of links in articles, which could in turn help the site perform better in Google. This wasn't the way the topic was approached by EzineArticles itself, but as a site that was hit hard by the Panda update, it's not hard to put the pieces together.
CEO Chris Knight chimed in on the subject in the comments of the article. "We’re convinced that landing page quality scoring (something we’ve been doing for years) is as important to the trust relationship being built with our users as the content by itself," Knight tells WebProNews.
"Last month, we made a huge crack down by rejecting all content where the link in the resource box wasn’t relevant enough to the article topic (we call it a link-relevancy-rejection) and we’re continuing to sweep our history to isolate articles that were written about one topic and then link to a completely unrelated topic (this causes a trust violation with our users and therefore must be a practice that ends)," he adds "It was our fault for accepting this type of content because we had previously only focused on the quality merits of the article alone with only mechanical formatting QC on the links themselves. This is a new era though and what was ok last year, isn’t ok any more this year."
"It makes sense that the bar should be raised so that when our users leave EzineArticles.com to surf your website, that you continue to deliver them a quality experience," Knight says. "If our user hates your website because it’s an MFA or you’ve got multiple exit-pops or you’re an affiliate marketer with no intention to build an on-going relationship with your client base…this reflects poorly on us."
Knight also put a positive spin on the whole loss of search traffic thing - a survivor's stance, if you will.
"You’ve called us a 'Panda victim' but I see Panda as the greatest wakeup call that has ever happened to us," he says. "No doubt we’d prefer to have been giving better guidance from Google, but over-time, the best sites with the best quality end-to-end user experience will rise up and I’m confident we’ll rebuild market trust."
After the Panda update first rolled out, EzineArticles announced it was reducing the number of article submissions accepted by over 10%, particularly articles that "are not unique enough". The company also said it would no longer accept article submissions through a WordPress Plugin, that it would reduce the number of ads per page., that it would raise the minimum article word count to 400, that it would "raising the bar" on keyword density limits, that it would remove articles considered "thin and spammy", and that it would put greater focus on rejection of advertorial articles.
That was apparently just the beginning.
"We’re a radically different company today because of the 125+ quality changes we’ve made in the past 2 months that normally would have been made over a longer period of time…and there’s several hundred more quality control mods on deck for both us and to help our members meet the new standards," Knight tells us.
Knight raised a fair point about monitor size and perception of ads, after we pointed out that the site was running articles with what seem like an excessive amount of ads, especially compared to the article's content. We looked at this example, with not a great deal of article length, but with four Google ads at the very top, three above the content body, six other ads below it, two more Google ads below those ads, some "related" links, five more ads below those, then ten Google ads to the right.
I had written that the ads on the right stretched a vertical length twice the amount of the body itself. "We did remove 40% of the ads above the article body (there used to be 5 ads above the body and now there are 3) but I get your point," he said. "We’re also split-testing ad layout changes constantly via different segments."
"As for the example article you used, you must have a monitor and resolution that only a minority of our users have," he added. "Majority of our users see an article body that is bigger than the ads because their resolution and monitor size isn’t as big as yours. In addition, lower word count articles have less ads. Our solution to your perception that our ad density is too high or wraps the length of the body (only on 24-30″ wide monitors running double the resolution that the majority of folks have or use) is to move to a fixed width layout."
He linked to a new layout template, and said, "And very soon, the article view template will have the new fixed width template plus several new major modifications to assist us with delivering a higher numerically-qualified positive user experience."
Either way, it seems like there are still quite a few ads on most of the articles I've looked at. In a list of "questions that one could use to assess the 'quality' of a page or an article" recently released by Google, there is one that says, "Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?"
As Knight said, EzineArticles has reduced the number of ads, and I believe articles used to have more ads within the article bodies, which they no longer do. Certainly a step in the right direction.