Site Traffic Crash by Google Layout / Panda Update

Our site traffic crashed over the week by 50%, closely after Google Page Layout Algo update was announced which was meant to penalize Google search traffic to sites with heavy ads above the fold. Now site traffic seems to have affected all pages across the site as traffic hits new lows.

Google Page Layout Update

We had only one 336×280 ad unit aligned right and only one 160x90px adlink unit aligned left above the main content. There are few 125×125 buysellads banners in the sidebar. Ironically the same day Google Adsense sent an email that we should place upto 3 Adsense ad units to monetize more. High ad to content sites were earlier penalized by the Google Panda update and reducing ads was a suggested measure for Panda recovery.

What seemed to be the problem was the 2 navigation bars on top pushing content lower and there were ads placed high. So it seemed likely that there was low content to ad ratio above the fold. Now the site traffic is down badly by 50%.

Google Panda Traffic Fall

Page Layout Changes

Some changes I quickly did to fix the site layout were as follows-

  1. Navigation bars were removed from all pages (except the homepage), as this will help to push the content upwards and expose more content above the fold
  2. The content area width was widened to allow more content to rise above the fold.
  3. Breadcrumbs were made smaller and their high navigation was significantly narrowed
  4. Reduced the size of the large rectangle from 336x280px to 300x250px and continued to retain it right aligned. That still retains the single Adsense unit.
  5. Removed the 160px wide ad link unit, so that removes the sole ad link unit.
  6. Pushed down the Buysellads in the sidebar, from the middle right position to a much lower position. This brings it below the fold mostly and now we need to reduce the ad pricing significantly. We also plan to reduce the number of 125×125 ads from max 4 to 2 in number soon.
  7. Used the browser size tool to ensure there was only 1 ad visibile on majority of our pages for maximum users
  8. We also removed the excellent related posts widget by Outbrain, the amazing Sharebar plugin, several other sidebar plugins and scripts to reduce confusion with ad scripts, which in turn made site faster and reduced page load time significantly
  9. Removed repeated several links for popular posts etc, which might be interpreted wrongly as duplicate content.

Site Traffic Recovery?

Now as mentioned in the Google article, sites affected by page layout algo will be fixed when Googlebot recrawls affected sites, which should restore the search engine rankings, and it might take weeks. But reports are coming in that this was the Google Panda 3.2 update, which might suggest need to fix some other issues and may complicate traffic recovery.

The good part about the strong QOT community is that despite the search engine traffic drop, we will continue to publish great content and every new QOT article will continue to reach 25000 RSS readers, 8700 Facebook fans, 3900 Twitter fans and 1900 Google+ followers.

It has been a learning experience and indeed the site loads much faster, has much lesser ads, much cleaner design and definitely a better user experience… which Google aims for. Please see if any of these issues affect your site and fix them as soon as possible.

Any advice from the readers which might help site traffic recover is most welcome.