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Was DaniWeb hit by the Google Ghost Update?

 
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First there was Panda, and then there was Penguin, but is there now Ghost as well? Webmasters will immediately know what I'm talking about as far as Penguin and Panda are concerned: updates to the Google search results ranking algorithm designed to make the search experience more relevant for end users by lowering the rank of 'low quality' sites such as content farms and those who use black-hat SEO techniques. Ghost, however, is not only rather spooky but also remains unconfirmed by Google itself.

cce295ab242bb97981926f91d9f48fb7While anything that makes search better for the user has to be a good thing generally speaking, when you get down to the specifics of Panda there has been a lot of collateral damage to sites such as DaniWeb. There's not a lot of point covering old ground here in too much detail, save to say that a couple of years ago DaniWeb founder and CEO Dani Horowitz became something of a poster girl for the SEO world when she managed to recover from the Panda effect.

Google has already made it clear that Panda will no longer be pushed out manually, instead it will be integrated into the general Google algorithm and therefore become in effect a rolling update. That doesn't mean that sites which are primarily forum-based with mainly User Generated Content (UGC) such as DaniWeb, which have managed to rebuild themselves (in SEO terms) to remain Google friendly are in the clear. In fact, DaniWeb was hit hard by Google in November and is still to recover the lost traffic. At first it was assumed that this was a result of the Panda #22 update which hit on 21st November, but a closer examination of the analytics data reveals that actually DaniWeb traffic was decimated the day before on 20th November. This was, perhaps, no strike by the Kung-Fu Panda after all; maybe DaniWeb traffic was spirited away by the Google Ghost instead?

According to webmaster Brian Wozeniak, writing right here on DaniWeb a "bunch of forums and UGC type websites were hit hard" between November 16th and 18th. Brian continues "I believe you got affected by the same update that many of us UGC type websites got hit by. As far as I know Google has not publicly identified any update that took place during this time, but there are many of us who were hit on these dates before Panda #22 actually really occurred". Brian has a theory that 'medium quality' content was targeted by this unofficial update.

Medium quality content might be thought of as that which is still useful to readers, and isn't thin (scraped and non-original content in other words), but isn't exactly fantastic either. Medium content is par for the course at pretty much every site where the majority of content is user generated. Poor grammar and spelling mistakes from users whose first language isn't English might be considered medium quality in this context. Some forum sites actively moderate and correct (or delete) such posts, whereas DaniWeb doesn't. Penalising members for not speaking English as well as a native seems a tad harsh, especially when the actual meaning of the post is clear enough. Where the meaning isn't clear, then the community will ask for clarification and the thread will effectively be self-corrected. That's what a community of users is all about, and it works well at DaniWeb.

Sure, content that makes no sense or is just too hard to read can be problematical. Which is why a team of DaniWeb volunteer moderators spent many hours per day, for weeks on end, manually correcting no less than 80,000 posts made across a period of ten years which were incorrectly formatted using the old BBCode system that was replaced by a new Markdown system last year. The readability, and hence quality, of the DaniWeb archive has dramatically increased as a direct result. At least it has if you are human, and not an algorithm. Since March 2012, when DaniWeb moved to an entirely new platform that was coded from the ground up in-house, there has been just about no botspam, and a much reduced occurrence of any spam at all in fact.

Others have also noticed the Google Ghost effect, and a discussion is underway on the Google webmaster support forums. Of those taking part, perhaps the most telling is John Mueller, a 'Webmaster Trends Analyst' based at Google in Zurich, Switzerland who states: "One of the difficulties of running a great website that focuses on UGC is keeping the overall quality upright. Without some level of policing and evaluating the content, most sites are overrun by spam and low-quality content. This is less of a technical issue than a general quality one, and in my opinion, not something that's limited to Google's algorithms".

While not confirming, or denying for that matter, the existence of the Google Ghost update, Mueller does insist "making sure that all of the initially visible pages of your site are of the highest quality possible isn't something that a site-owner would do just for Google, it's really something that they'd probably want to do for all users" and goes on to hint that perhaps there is an algorithm policing UGC forums after all when he says that "putting your best foot forward there is something that - imo - isn't just done for the 'algorithm' but really primarily for your new users".

However, as Dani Horowitz points out "It's one thing to figure out how to recover from Panda (at least you know what you're dealing with) but it's a different animal altogether when you don't even know what you're up against". And while the Google Ghost continues to haunt UGC forums, without any actual proof that it exists, this could be impossible to counter. Even if sites such as DaniWeb manage to tweak things which, more by luck than judgement, manage to appease the Ghost algorithm there's no guarantee of a quick fix to the decreased traffic issues as Mueller confirms. "Significantly improving the quality of a website will take time" he says "on your side, as well as on our side when our algorithms work to understand the changes that you've made".

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Davey Winder

I'm a hacker turned writer and consultant, specialising in IT security. I've been a freelance word punk for over 20 years and along the way I have seen 23 of my books published, produced and presented programmes for TV and radio, picked up a bunch of awards and continue being a contributing editor with PC Pro - the best selling IT magazine in the UK .

 
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I couldn't understand the role of Google ghost , how it works and what should be its Job desciptions, can you please explain it..

 
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It's a potential Google Algorithm, or so it's been dubbed.

 
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Panda and penguin are already scaring a lot more people, know is this thing i really can't understand why google is doing to us. what we have done

 
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i don't understood about this google ghost. could you please describe me in short. i what basis google ghost getting penalized sites. if that so then what is the solution?

I am wating for your reply.

Thanks In advance

 
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Quality, unique, well-written content will always rank better than replicated, mistranslated jibberish. The search engine seeks intelligent, evolving content. I frequently wish I could rephrase some of the original postings I've been seeing around here lately, that the "new-to-english" members offer up for discussion. I'd love to tweak their titles, tag them ... in hope to better attract an interested reader; and thus intrigue a search engine spider.

 
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Fred, we're currently in the midst of a major site overhaul (screenshots available in area 51 forum since you're a moderator), and after that, getting us really squared away is going to be a super top priority.

 
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Just thought that I'd inject another thought in this ... I would think increasing the quantity of new original postings and new original follow-up discussions does not have as much of a positive effect as eliminating redundant postings by morphing them together. This would be helpful for visitors whenever a forum has three or four recently similarily worded postings/responses. These half-### pages actually dilute each other's importance. I would think it way better to have one really well optimized and condensed posting of three almost identical topics rather than three poorly written and poorly optimized mediocrities to offer the visitor and the spider.

 
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Like to Spell Google Ghost as a Google Dance. Google dance with its ranking some time you may thrown to 12 15 50 th page and then after you rise to nearer to former position.

 
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We can follow better and quality content marketing strategy so there will not be any need for being scared of those updates. Those updates are frequently done so we can't do anything that but we can follow some quality strategies.

 
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I don't think it was that worse as how other websites faced it. But still we should be very careful about making it to be the quality links.

 
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no never, can you provide me a source for Google Ghost Update. I'm waiting for your reply.

 
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The links are in the story...

 
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I visited the links you provided in story but i want know Google Ghost Update. Have u any source for it where i know about Google Ghost Update?

 
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Was DaniWeb hit by the Google Ghost Update? 10 replies in the Search Engine Optimization forum What is google last update.

 
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Yes I am Agree with Google Ghost update .

 
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Nilesh, as the story makes quite clear, the whole 'Ghost' notion is simply that; a notion. Google neither confirm nor deny it. Others continue to speculate that it occured. However, it remains just that - speculation.

 
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First time I heard about the Google Ghost update.. Anyway, I believe we should focus more on the Hummingbird update. Since Daniweb has user-generated content, I believe this will work for the website's advantage.

Nothing much to be scared of, unless you are using paid links or link farms.

 
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there was never a algorithn called google ghost

 
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There is no Google ghost officially but it exists. Google algorithm got updated but this time it was not publically, ghost is referred to that updated algorithms as it acts as a ghost for sites with low quality.

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