I have an associate that runs a very large and heretofore successful content site. He’s an experienced and competent entrepreneur and CEO. For several years, everything came together, according to plan, as his website and traffic grew exponentially. He was adding staff and negotiating a move to new offices. The future seemed bright, sunglasses and all, until an unexpected and unwelcome visitor stopped by to visit last April: Panda.
Like many content based websites, his was hit HARD. At the time, he told me that he wasn’t sure if Panda had dealt his company a body blow or a career ending knockout. It was time to put away the shades and get to work. It was time to rescind those job offers. It was time to contact the new landlord and tell him that he wasn’t coming.
Of course, his story isn’t unique. Thousands of companies, both large and small found themselves in the same position. So… like the rest of us, he read up on all things Panda. He ran every piece of content through grammar tools, re-wrote the work that didn’t make the grade and fired writers that didn’t make the cut. He took into consideration all of the quality signals cited right here in SEJ: “Why the Pandobsession Has to Stop” among countless other articles written about Panda. He even followed the sub-domain advice given by Matt Cutts to HubPages.
One would think that after all of that work and presumably doing everything in accordance with Google’s
demands guidelines that he would be rewarded for his efforts – right? Well of course, you know better. Instead he sits in the modern day version of the sandbox – only now it’s the Panda Box aka penalty box.
This hasn’t prevented him from putting out new content every month – around 2,000 pages. The “funny” thing is that scrapers find this content within minutes and consistently outrank my colleague’s website with materials that they STOLE from him – OUCH. If there is silver lining to this, he did add a new employee. The new hire spends his entire day filing DMCAs (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) against the websites that are ripping him off. No kidding.
As with any penalty, the worst part is “not knowing”. I wrote a blog post in 2009 that offered up some of my own suggested guidelines for Google in handling reconsideration requests. I’m still convinced this could work:
- The penalized Webmaster fully and truthfully completes a reconsideration request Wizard, which walks you through the Google webmaster guidelines & identifies compliance issues.
- Google immediately acknowledges receipt of the request and has 10 business days to respond.
- The response, at minimum, informs the webmaster what areas of his site do not conform to the guidelines and what penalty has been assessed.
- Google informs the webmaster that his penalty will be removed within X days/weeks/months after coming into compliance.
Is that really too much to ask? I don’t think so.
Black Hats have co-opted Panda. They are filling the search results with scrapers. They build ‘em big and build ‘em fast. They use the list of websites that have been Pandalized & scrape the hell out of them. Unfortunately, the current Google also rewards these scrapers.
Here’s a novel idea: Perhaps the answer to the “Scraper Problem” is to release from Panda’s grip all of the websites that have worked so hard to come into compliance? What do you think?