Panda … holding your nerve

I have now got over the shock of the October 13th hit … in fact I have spent a lot of time on Webmaster Forum and decided that the hit to me was no worse than to many people … I’m still cross that I was hit, but probably more cross at myself than at anyone else .. well, expect for one website which got a Panda boost and yet I know it has not been updated in two years and currently claims that there is only 1 show on in London which it also claims, incorrectly, ends this month …. useful? I think not 😉

So, what have I been doing about it?

Well, I decided that we were potentially approaching the end game so there was no point in holding back. This time I have gone for a wholesale 301 redirection of UKTW what’s on listings to SeatChoice. Some may think this foolish as UKTW had seen a slow decline where SeatChoice had hit a brick wall, perhaps I should have made the call to move everything the other way? We shall see. I needed to remove the last vestiges of duplication within my own stable so that’s the call I made … from now, UKTW is responsible for the archive and for theatre users (notices, links, etc) and SeatChoice is the What’s On and ticketing service.

The move didn’t go as we ll as I expected in some ways. I was always told that 301 carried all the “link juice” with it so I expected a decline in UKTW to be matched by a growth in SeatChoice .. I got the decline but precious little of the growth. So back to the forum with one further plea for help .. this time I was picked up by someone really helpful, someone who, it would seem, is fairly local and actually cared whether I got it right or not … very, very helpful in that he undid a few misconceptions for me and pointed to some reasonably obvious issues that I couldn’t spot … when you work 8 hours a day on the same site you sometimes fail to see the obvious!

Basically though, I am coming to see that there’s a toolkit that you can use to get just some of the basics right, or at least help you to understand things that might be getting in the way. For me this has come down to

  • .. make sure that your website delivers quickly as its an important part of user satisfaction
  • .. are you copying someone else? is someone copying you? Do you simply have the same content as other people? Well worth checking …
  • … can Google make sense of your html
  • Zenu – a link checking tool – no point in sending Google broken links
  • Webmaster tools … check and recheck the error reports in here and make sure you fix them .. if google is reporting errors then its not getting the information you think it is!
  • Google Analytics … make sure a drop in traffic is not caused by keyword shifts .. for us it can be, an important show ends and so does searching for it … check also where your traffic comes from but very importantly, how long it stays, whether it returns and how much it looks at!
  • Webmaster Forum .. read, read and read some more, compare the advice to your own situation and see if it applies (be honest!), ask direct, simple questions yourself and take note of the replies
  • AdSense .. if you use it check that it really is earning you, remove any Adsense blocks that are not worth it and remember, as AdSense gets better at delivering targetted customers you will lose more and more traffic 😉
  • Google .. sounds daft but search for your site and see how it looks on the result page … is it a “more desirable click” than any other result? Does your title and description draw the user in and encourage them to click? If you appear in the results and no one clicks on you Google will mark you down, if you appear in the results and people love to click on you then Google will mark you up … user behaviour is a part of the Google Machinery

Finally, make some changes, fix what’s wrong BUT don’t tinker for the sake of it … Google takes time to notice changes and also only runs the Panda every now and then (4-6 week cycle?) so don’t expect a change to work overnight – the only thing that will work overnight is a sudden influx of traffic because you got such a great piece of content that people started linking to you … the first article I put up about The River Line (with Charlie and Lydia Rose Bewley) got picked up by the Bewley fans – traffic went through the roof in a couple of hours and stayed high for days … it fell off, of course, and few (if any) of the fans bought tickets, but the links and retweets will be good for me longer term.

And rest …. be patient, if you perpetually tinker you will have no idea what it was that fixed your problem .. and if you do have a clue what worked you can then make it part of ongoing site philosophy … but remember, the days of stability are probably gone, you will need to keep an eye on this in the future