HubPages is one of the many websites that experienced a dramatic traffic loss after Google Panda. As a user-generated article website, HubPages features both high- and low-quality content. Before Google Panda, it generated about $10 million from AdSense alone. But when the algorithm changes went live, HubPages lost 50% of its traffic.
The company tried to raise the editorial standards, but could not recover. HubPages website’s CEO Paul Edmondson then thought about dividing the website into thousands of subdomains, giving every author its own web page.
Subdomains – A Google Panda Recovery Tale
Edmondson contacted Google and asked whether dividing the HubPages website into subdomains could do any good. One’s of Google’s top engineers, Matt Cutts, told Edmondson that he might want to try. Edmondson tested out his strategy late in June. Soon after, his own articles returned to previous page view levels.
The reason behind this move is simple. When high-quality authors are separated from weak authors, Google can accurately differentiate between good and bad content. Edmondson has separated the website based on author, i.e. using the rel=author Meta tag and then implemented 301 redirects. These sent visitors from the landing page to the author subpage.
Most websites use subdomains to separate content that differs in terms of format (videos vs. music), or topic (fishing gear vs. cat food). Google itself uses subdomains, i.e. news.google.com and maps.google.com. Still, subdomains are not usually built into a site from the start. Most webmasters stick to subdirectories until they sort their content, and only later move to subdomains, and that only when necessary. Having many subdomains usually requires extra work.
Quality – The Only Solution?
As of mid July, there are no other serious Google Panda recovery tales. Even HubSpot’s subdomain strategy doesn’t seem to work for all websites affected by the change. SEO expert Mark Jackson of Vizion Interactive has said that it’s far better to improve the quality of the content first, before trying anything else. He added that only websites with plenty of content should consider using subdomains.