We at Review Centre pride ourselves on giving a voice to consumers – a voice that consumers may not have otherwise. We provide a forum for people to leave reviews of products and services, be they good, or bad. We don’t incentivise reviews, we don’t pay for reviews. People write reviews on our website because they want to. We often get told by consumers what a great service we provide, and how we’ve helped people to narrowly avert a major purchasing crisis because of our reviews.
BUT, at the end of the day, we’re a business. Running a website that regularly receives over 4 million visits a month isn’t trivial, nor cheap. We need to monetise our content to pay the wages of the staff that help to maintain this service. People visit our website, more often than not from search engines (most likely Google), and some of those people will click on adverts on our site. That’s how we manage to maintain Review Centre.
On Monday of this week, the ongoing upkeep of Review Centre suddenly became a lot more difficult. Google rolled out a major algorithmic shift (nicknamed the Panda Update), that was apparently an attempt to remove low quality websites from its search index. It affected Review Centre, and has resulted in a significant drop to our Google traffic. We weren’t the only ones – apparently several other high profile consumer review sites have been effected – Ciao, Qype, Dooyoo, and Reevoo.
We knew that today was coming. Panda was released in the US in late February. We saw our US traffic drop, and we knew it was only a matter of weeks until it reached the UK. It’s too early to say precisely what kind of a drop we’ve seen in the UK, but it is likely to be on a par with what we’ve seen in the US. We’ve been frantically trying to work out what’s been going on ever since, and have already taken actions that fit with the advice given by Matt Cutts, and filed for reinclusion. We hope that somewhere within the raft of changes we’ve made, we’ve done something to appease Google. As we learn more about Panda, we will continue to make more changes to move us in the right direction.
Like any enterprise level website, we have problems – I’ll hold our hands up to that. Fixing something over here breaks something over there. There have been occasions where a change has gone live that has had unintentional ramifications elsewhere, but as soon as we’ve spotted the issue we’ve always corrected it.
We’ve stayed on the right side of Google’s guidelines, while at the same time we’ve witnessed so many others show a blatant disregard for them – and continue to perform well. That’s a huge frustration for ourselves, and the reason why views such as this continue to perpetuate. It’s also ironic that although Google have deemed our content not fit for their organic SERPs, they’re still happy to publish our review content within their own vertical search products.
We will continue to work hard to fix this. But for now, those of you wondering why you can’t find us in Google know why.