What Hit Me? Did Google’s Panda or Penguin update tank my blog from search results?

By , May 22, 2012

OK, experts: what hit my other blog? Was it one of Google’s Panda updates, or the Penguin update?

Here’s a graph of Google’s search-results display volume (blue) and clickthroughs (red) to the two “sides” of my LessonIndex.com web site (the blog and the directory):

Note that the LessonIndex blog draws only a small fraction of the traffic seen by the main (www) LessonIndex web site (that’s why I didn’t try to create a single graph showing both: the search-display graph for the blog would drop to nearly a flatline at the bottom). FYI, the graphs are from the free Google Webmaster Tools service.  For these sites, there’s a very clear and consistent weekly cycle, with Saturdays the low point each week.

 Answer: Surprise, it was a trick question: the LessonIndex Blog was apparently hit by a separate “search quality” update, which SearchEngineLand calls the “March 50-Pack Update.”

What happened? Looking at the graph of blog traffic, it appears that Google was displaying results from blog.LessonIndex.com which visitors simply weren’t clicking, so it was probably displaying the links in the results for search phrases which weren’t relevant to the blog’s content.

While the blog traffic graph initially looked quite scary, I don’t view this as a serious issue: unlike most blogs which accompany other web sites, the LessonIndex blog isn’t designed to draw search engine traffic, but instead to provide update information for users (including teachers, administrators, ed tech staff, publishers, content providers, and prospective advertisers — and sometimes to remind me what’s happened in the past), along with links that don’t currently fit anywhere on the www.LessonIndex.com web site.

Note that the gradual decline in search volume, search displays, and traffic for the main site is expected, and will decline even more sharply at the end of May, as the end of the school year approaches; traffic will stay low during June and July before (I hope) surging again in mid-August and climbing to new peaks in September.

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