A Panda has torched the Internet.

Yes, over the last three months a panda bear has taken a torch to the Internet in an attempt to make things better. In February Google announced a change to the way they rank sites. Later they announced another roll out of the change worldwide. Here is a full rundown of the timeline of changes.

The name of the change was The Panda Update or simply just Panda.

I’ve been following the official Google blogs along with coverage by Aaron Wall of SEOBook and Search Engine Land.

With the changes, Google is attempting to clean up their search results and probably on a larger scale clean up the Internet. They even released a guide to writing what they consider to be good content.

It seems like good intentions, but deep down this is really another declaration of war by Google – a war on content. And as always is always the case with war, there is death.

It’s been about three months since the first roll out of Panda. For me it’s been about a month since one of my sites was torched by Panda.

Here’s the story…

Playing Out Like a Country Song

Country Music Life is one of my personal websites and blogs.

The goal of the site has always been interpretation. With the posts I and a few others try to provide a little understanding into the world of country music. Mostly I listen to new music. I share my thoughts about the song. I try to find an understanding of what the song is about and how it may be received in the country music world. I also create a few lists of favorite country songs. Readers seemed to like these lists. Most people like the format of a list and some even used the lists to download their favorite country songs.

That’s the goal of CML, anyway. It’s up to you and the readers to decide if we’re achieving the goal.

The first post on the blog was posted back on April 19th, 2010. From that point on things grew. Traffic increased. Comments increased. People shared the posts on their favorite channels like Twitter and Facebook. Artists themselves even shared the posts.

It was fun.

Then on April 7th, 2011 Google provided a little early birthday present for CML and it came in the form of a torch carrying panda bear.

Sometime around 1pm central time the traffic to CML from Google was cut by about 80%.

click for larger image

Google Panda CML

The change confused me. Obviously my expectations for traffic from Google had increased over the year as Google continued providing traffic. I figured I was doing something right. That assumption turned out to be incorrect.

So what exactly was impacted?

Starting back in the summer of 2010 I noticed I was starting to rank in the top five for keyword phrases that followed the formula ‘[country artist name] [song title]‘. An example was Darius Rucker Come Back Song, Aaron Lewis Country Boy, Chris Young Tomorrow, and many others.

Once April 7th, 2011 hit those rankings disappeared. CML was not longer valuable in Google’s eyes.

Also impacted by the change was country songs lists on CML like Sad Country Songs and Funny Country Songs. These too were knocked off the first page by the Panda and shunned into oblivion.

Ok, I can accept if someone calls my site crap. I can live with that. I don’t write the posts for everybody. I write them for country music fans. Some people seem to enjoy what I write.

The loss of traffic hurt, but you can’t let it get to you. I did want to see what Google thought was good content as compared to crap content. I thought maybe this would give me insight into what I could change on CML to maybe get some respect back from Google.

For the term Chris Young Tomorrow it looks like Google values a lyrics site as the top site (at least as of this posting). A few other lyrics sites are listed. Ok. Also listed are sites I consider competitors like Roughstock and Taste of Country. Both good sites. I enjoy reading them. They write unique reviews. They share their opinion and I share mine. That’s where I think there’s room for more than one review site. People have different opinions. Readers can like the opinions they like best.

The current results are interesting to me. I’m not really sure what I do different from the review sites. I’m also confused by the lyric site results. I’m also surprised the own artist’s website doesn’t rank for the term, but that’s another story.

The other result is for Sad Country Songs. Again, ouch. Here we have a couple of Q+A sites, lyric sites, and review sites. I figured my five part, 10,000 word list would fit well here. I researched to provide a valuable list for country fans looking for sad country songs.

Oh well. I can take it if people don’t like my crap.

Time to move on.

The Lesson

Blogging is not about Google.

Blogging is about community. Blogging is about providing value to readers and for businesses blogging is about providing value in exchange for trusted sales.

I think as Country Music Life grew and grew I became addicted to the traffic coming in from Google. I never set out to attract all that traffic. The traffic just kind of showed up. It hurt when the traffic was taken away mostly because it had been coming so fast and continuous for so long.

Oh well. Diversification of traffic was always a goal. Now it’s even more of the goal.

Getting traffic from a variety of sources is the name of the game for any blog including a business blog. It’s about building a following of trusted readers that are also customers.

The stats on CML are still not too shabby. There are people that really enjoy the site.

Even though Google unleashed their Panda on CML and torched the traffic, they weren’t able to torch the community.

And that’s the lesson – build you business blog around community. Focus on the people. Focus on building value and trust.

That will lead to sales.

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