Many sites are still wondering how they can come back from being hit by the Google Panda update. Google has certainly stressed quality, and victims of the update have been striving to improve it, but have had little luck in terms of boosting their rankings for the most part.
Have you been able to recover any search traffic after being hit by the Panda update? Let us know.
When we talked to Dani Horowitz of DaniWeb, she told us about some other things she was doing that seemed to be helping content rank better, but it was hardly a full recovery in search referrals.
An article ran at WSJ.com about HubPages, one of the victims that we've written about a handful of times. CEO Paul Edmondson is claiming that the use of sub-domains is helping its content work its way back up in Google - something he stumbled upon by accident, but also something Google has talked about in the past.
The article quotes him as saying that he's seen "early evidence" that dividing the site into thousands of subdomains may help it "lift the Google Panda death grip." Amir Efrati reports:
In June, a top Google search engineer, Matt Cutts, wrote to Edmondson that he might want to try subdomains, among other things.
The HubPages subdomain testing began in late June and already has shown positive results. Edmondson’s own articles on HubPages, which saw a 50% drop in page views after Google’s Panda updates, have returned to pre-Panda levels in the first three weeks since he activated subdomains for himself and several other authors. The other authors saw significant, if not full, recoveries of Web traffic.
The piece also points to a blog post Cutts wrote all the way back in 2007 about subdomains. In that, Cutts wrote, "A subdomain can be useful to separate out content that is completely different. Google uses subdomains for distinct products such news.google.com or maps.google.com, for example."
HubPages is rolling out subdomains for all authors, which in theory, should help the site's performance remain tied to the quality of the output by specific authors. This is also interesting given that Google recently launched a new authorship markup, putting more emphasis on authors in search results.
When that was launched, Google said in the Webmaster Central Help Center, “When Google has information about who wrote a piece of content on the web, we may look at it as a signal to help us determine the relevance of that page to a user’s query. This is just one of many signals Google may use to determine a page’s relevance and ranking, though, and we’re constantly tweaking and improving our algorithm to improve overall search quality.”
It may be a little early to jump to the conclusion that subdomains are the silver bullet leading to a full Panda recovery, but for those sites with a mix of great quality and poor quality content, this could very well help at least the great stuff rise. It will be interesting to see how HubPages performs over time, once the new structure has been live for a while.
Google's statement on the matter (as reported by Barry Schwartz) is: "Subdomains can be useful to separate out content that is completely different from the rest of a site — for example, on domains such as wordpress.com. However, site owners should not expect that simply adding a new subdomain on a site will trigger a boost in ranking."
To me, it sounds like if your entire site was hit by the Panda update because of some content that wasn't up to snuff in the eyes of Google, but some content is up to snuff, you may want to consider subdomain, at least on the stuff that Google doesn't like - to "separate it out". You'll have to do some content evaluation.
Edmondson's concept of doing it by author actually makes a great deal of sense. It makes the authors accountable for their own content, without dragging down those who have provided quality content (again, in theory). Not everybody hit by Panda is a "content farm" (or whatever name you want to use) though. For many, it won't be so much about who's writing content.
Content creators will still do well to consider Google's lists of questions and focus on creating content that is actually good. I case you need a recap on those questions, they are as follows:
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
- Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
- Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
- Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
- Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
- Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- How much quality control is done on content?
- Does the article describe both sides of a story?
- Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
- Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
- Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
- For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
- Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
- Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
- Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
- Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
- Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
- Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
- Would users complain when they see pages from this site?
Those are, by the way, “questions that one could use to assess the ‘quality’ of a page or an article," according to the company.
What do you think of the subdomain theory? Tell us in the comments.