I’m having a little trouble separating out Squidoo’s Happy Traffic Season from impacts by the latest Google Panda update (rolled out on September 27 and the following 3 days), but I think this may be indicative of a Panda blessing on top of the usual seasonal traffic patterns:
Squidoo: “W00t, thanks for sending us more traffic for the holiday shopping season!”
Hubpages: “Why so mean, Google, WHY?”
(Note that it is normal for traffic to rise mid-week and tail off on Friday-Saturday-Sunday; it’s a web-wide pattern.)
Two possible reasons for Hubpages’ Sep. 28 traffic crash were discussed by Paul Edmondson, head of HP, in this announcement post: (1) they’d added a “buy on Amazon” button to the Amazon capsule to try and tweak its utterly ineffective conversions and (2) they just entirely revamped Hubpages’ profile page, adding a “Hubpages activity” section at the bottom that might be diluting the SEO value of the profile by linking to a lot of spammy social chitchat. (1) is unlikely — I get plenty of Google traffic to pages like this with lots of nofollowed Amazon links — but (2) might be so.
Paul says HP has rolled back these two changes:
We believe it’s possible that one of these two changes started impacting traffic late last week, but aren’t sure which one, or if it’s the cause at all, but to be sure we are going to make some changes to test.
Translation: “We’re flailing, but we’ll test this and that until we find something that seems to help.” (Site outages on Friday and Sunday didn’t help either, but Squidoo has outages now and then and doesn’t show traffic dips). Hub traffic is starting to recover on my own account, but is still off by about 20%.
This was an interesting Panda update. Google was extremely cagey about it as SearchEngineLand’s write-up of Google Panda 20 explains.
On Friday, September 28, Matt Cutts announced a separate EMD Google algorithm update, which removes the advantage the Google algorithm used to give to low-quality websites using an exact match domain name that fit a popular search query. (www.teethwhitening.com took a rankings dive, for example).
Many people without exact-match domain names were noticing significant traffic changes over the weekend, during which time Matt Cutts resisted answering questions, but eventually SearchEngineLand called up Google and got a confirmation that yes, it was a Panda algorithm update.
An algorithm update.
During a regular Panda update, the Panda algorithm evaluates all websites (i.e. domains like Squidoo.com), and then uses the overall Panda rating of the website as one big factor in determining how high or low to list pages from that website in search results. This is like colleges getting evaluated annually, after which employers use the college’s rating as one big factor in deciding whether to hire particular job applicants from that college.
However, this was more than a regular Panda data refresh, in which it reevaluates all the colleges, er, websites. Instead, this was an algorithm refresh, which means Panda adjusted/tweaked the criteria it uses to evaluate websites. We don’t yet know what those criteria are— although at least some of them are listed in Google’s Inside Search blog post on Oct 4 (which unfortunately covers dozens of Google’s algorithm changes for the last two months, not just the Panda component).
At any rate, it appears that the new algorithm rewarded Squidoo and punched Hubpages. As usual, my chief reason for comparing these two websites’ Panda fortunes is that I keep hoping I’ll detect differences between the two websites — and how Panda treats them — that shed light on what Panda actually is looking for.
I still believe it was not a wise SEO move to noindex Pending Hubs. “Yo, Panda: from now on, Hubpages will not show search engines any fresh content until it’s stale, and we’re going to expect your searchbots to keep coming back to see when, randomly, we release new content from the noindex penalty box!” Maybe I’m crazy, but that just doesn’t seem like it would earn high marks from Panda. Again, stay tuned.