Hitwise released some new data (we looked at the bigger picture here) obtained by Forbes, related to Google's Panda Update. It has a list of sites that have experienced drastic changes in Google traffic since before the initial launch of the U.S. Panda update - loooking at patterns from the beginning of the year until 3 days ago.
Most of the list looks pretty familiar, but we couldn't help but notice that Mashable was on the list, registering a -40% hit in downstream traffic from Google in the U.S. At a quick glance, it would seem to indicate that Mashable was lumped in with sites like eHow, EzineArticles, and Associated Content. However, Mashable is a different breed of site, which makes us very skeptical that Google is actually looking at Mashable's content in any different and significant way.
The fact is that Mashable is a news site. Most of the sites affected negatively are more focused on evergreen content. News and evergreen content simply work in different ways when it comes to search. That's not to say that Mashable doesn't have evergreen content. It does. But when you're primarily a news-oriented site, your search traffic is not always going to be consistent. We know. We're in this business too.
You can have a big hit in Google one day, then not as much the next. You can have a good week of lots of good news-based search traffic. Then not have as much luck the next. This can fluctuate all the time. I suspect this is more the reason Mashable is on that list, rather than the Panda update having a significantly negative impact on the site.
Mashable almost certainly gets a lot more traffic from other sources (besides Google) than a lot of the other sites on the list do. Mashable undoubtedly gets tons of traffic from social sites like Facebook and Twitter, not to mention links from other news sites, as it's one of the most prominent sites in the social media/tech news space. By nature, Mashable is much less dependent on Google for traffic than a site like eHow or EzineArticles (though these sites are making efforts to become less dependent on Google).
The data Hitwise/Forbes has provided shows (allegedly) what percentage of outgoing Google traffic has been going to pages from the sites listed. As Jeff Bercovici of Forbes writes, "Hitwise looked at downstream traffic from Google — ie. what sites do users surf to next after visiting Google.com. In the first two weeks of January, 0.57 percent of those who departed Google next visited a site operated by Demand Media, the best known of the content farms."
As I'm still seeing Mashable consistently show up on the first page of Google results, I don't imagine any significant loss is a permanent change, if the data is even accurate. It's worth noting that in recent data from SearchMetrics, Mashable was one of the top post-Panda winners in the UK, with a 22.61% visibility increase.