There are literally hundreds of factors that affect a site’s ranking on search engines. Dealing with Google’s algorithms can be an exercise in frustration, especially if you are attempting to find answers as to why your site is getting hit by either Panda or Penguin. The effects of both can be devastating and leave you searching for answers. Ignoring SEO is no longer an option. I’ve been reaching out to fellow site owners, forum owners specifically, who have been hit by Panda, many of whom I’ve found posting stories of desperation in Google’s Product forums. Some have seen steep drops and other’s a slow, gradual decline. I’m not sure which is worse. Last night, I read a story that started in September of 2012. It read like so many I’ve read before. The owner runs a forum and has seen a decline in traffic. In his case, he had lost 50 percent of his search engine traffic. Of the posts I’ve read, his managed to get the attention of Google’s John Mueller who offered this bit of advice.
Finally, given that your site has a very strong focus on UGC, I’d recommend working to try to find ways to make sure that the content which you’re providing is of the highest quality possible, unique, and compelling to your users. Users may be generating this content, but you as the owner of the site are publishing it, so when our algorithms review a site overall, they will also be reviewing content like that.
The discussion continued for a day or two, where it ended without any definitive conclusion. Having moderated forums for over 10 years, my initial assumption was that the problem was solved. The original poster followed the suggestions of John Mueller and the site had recovered, leaving him no reason to return to the discussion. Eager to find clues as to how he might have recovered from Panda, I reached out to find out what’s happened since his last post in November, 2012. I was rooting for him, as if his recovery would somehow be a win for the UGC team. One more forum owner lives to tell their heroic story of how Panda struck his site, but with hard work and patience, has seen a return to glory.
I received an update from him earlier this morning. His community is still in tact, filled with vibrant discussion from ardent supporters. But it’s not all good news. He’s no longer worries about algorithms or making changes to appease Google. As a result, a recovery from Panda still nowhere in sight.
“My life’s become better and more focused ever since I stopped dancing to please Google.”
I’m happy for him, happy that a fellow member of the UGC team has found happiness in a sea of changing SERPs. As for me, I’ve got my tap shoes on and dancing like Fred Astaire.