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Jignesh Gohel

The Real-World Impact of Panda 4.0: A Case Study of RetailMeNot

Jignesh Gohel

The 4.0 version of Google’s Panda Algorithm Update impacted many sites. There have been hundreds, maybe thousands of articles about why and how Panda affected those sites in the context of the SERPs. But how do falling SERPs impact a company’s bottom-line? Jignesh Gohel steps outside of the warm confines of the internet to show us the real-world impact a dramatic loss in the SERPs can have on a company’s bottom line when they rely almost exclusively on organic search results for their traffic.

If you were under the impression that the Google Panda updates only affected small businesses, you are in for a rude awakening. A big brand like RetailMeNot is one of the best examples of a large business that lost huge traffic after the latest round of Google Panda updates.

Before I share my in-depth research about RetailMeNot and other coupon websites’ plummeting stock prices, let’s make sure we have a basic understanding of the Panda 4.0 updates first.

Enter the Panda 4.0

While it is true that search engine rankings (SERPs) are highly dependent on a myriad of different SEO strategies such as onsite optimization, back linking, and social media marketing; it is also important to remember that it hasn’t always been that diverse of a criteria. The ranking algorithms have changed drastically over the years, and will continue to do so regularly.

The latest change has come with the Google Panda update that targets websites with poor quality and inorganic content. Google has confirmed that Panda 4.0 was rolled out in May. Since May 19th, 2014, many websites have found their traffic drop by more than 50%. The update has also been reported to have severely affected more than 7.5% of international queries, overall.

Depending upon the source, various reports have shown that many of the top-ranking websites prior to the release of Panda 4.0 have dropped between the 4th and the 20th position. It is believed that the new Panda update encourages the creation of new websites with fresh content as opposed to legacy websites filled with inorganic content. The Panda 4.0 algorithm has surely made things harder for Search Engine marketers who got lazy with their content creation strategies.

How Google Panda affected RetailMeNot.com

To get the answer to this question, I used SEMRush; my all time favorite tool to analyze website performance. I like using the tool to identify the way that the traffic follows to my competitors’ sites. SEMrush also offers various unique features that make my job as an online marketer easier. For this article, I used the SEMRush organic research tool to research the organic search positions of RetailMeNot.com in Google.com over the past six months.

RetailMeNot Organic SERPs

Surprised? Me too! RetailMeNot.com has lost rankings for MILLIONS of their relevant keywords. RetailMeNot Inc. runs the one of the largest marketplaces in the world for digital discount/offer coupons. The company issues a huge range of coupons from hundreds of different brands and retailers, which in turn allows them to boost website traffic and sales.

In 2013, RetailMeNot estimated that around $3.5 billion in retailer sales came via digital coupons. In the last year, the website has had more than 590 million visitors and the strength of their model allowed the website to join NASDAQ under the “SALE” stock symbol.

However, since Google Panda 4.0 rolled out,, the figures seem to be dwindling for RetailMeNot. See the below screen shot of RetailMeNot stock price performance from MarketWatch during the same time frame as above. The company’s stock value decreased dramatically in conjunction with the traffic losses as a result of the Panda Update.

RetailMeNot NASDAQ Price

The reason?

We can infer that a big portion of organic traffic for RetailMeNot was lost around the time that Panda 4.0 went live. Prior to the algorithmic update, organic search accounted for more than 64% of the traffic for RetailMeNot which left them especially vulnerable to fluctuations in the SERPs.. Between May 2014 and June 2014, the SERPs for RetailMeNot fell from 22,024,704 keywords to 13,887,991 keywords (accounted by around 269K keywords in top 20 search position in Google.com).

Competitors report for RetailMeNot

While the stock prices and SERPs for RetailMeNot tumbled, many of the company’s competitors seized on their misfortune and acted. . Coupons.com, the closest competitor of RetailMeNot has seen huge jumps in traffic during specified time. Based on the information below, it looks like Coupons.com was better prepared for Panda than RetailMeNot.

Coupons.com NASDAQ

Organic Search Traffic of Coupons.com

Coupons.com Organic SERPs

The same could be said of some of RetailMeNot’s other, smaller competitors including BradsDeals.com, Goodsearch.com and CouponCabin.com. For BradsBeals.com, their traffic rose by 1.6 million, which is worth $1.3 million and aggregated by 121K keywords.

Goodsearch.com received a boost of 6.4 million in traffic since Panda 4.0 with its traffic cost totaling $3.7 million.

Competitors SERPs

Couponcabin.com, for instance, generated more traffic after May 19th, clearly triggered by the more highly valued organic content favored by Panda. Comparing the traffic volume of May 2014 and June 2014, the growth was from a low 127,121 to a surprising 1,894,553 in June 2014.

CouponCabin.com SERPs

 Conclusion

So now we see how Google’s updates can impact the “real world.” RetailMeNot’s precipitous falling stock prices put the power of Google in making or breaking an online business under the microscope. If you don’t deliver content that Google favors, you could wind up in the poor house.

Don’t be the next RetailMeNot.

Reference links:

Jignesh Gohel is a Founder & CEO of an online business consulting agency OLBUZ specializing in eCommerce, products and small business marketing. In his minuscule spare time, Jignesh enjoys nature photography and yoga. You can follow him on Twitter or reach out to him via Linkedin.

Comments

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Jennie Bob
Jennie Bob
Well articulated I must say.. But BradsDelas and Coupon Cabin are not small competitors I guess. But yes the growing coupon sites like CouponerStore can be small as small competitor, may be.
Patricia Williams
Jennie Bob
CouponerStore is not that small website. I really like that. It always provide great codes But I must say that it has great potential to grow more.
Satish Singh
Satish Singh
Thanks for sharing this information, we were really thinking that Panda4.0 only affected Small Business.
Can you also share your views why retailmenow lost rankings for so many keywords ? Is it because of the onsite content or bad quality links?
Jignesh Gohel
Satish Singh
Nice question Satish,
Panda updates was aimed to penalize low quality content, scrapping or duplicate content websites. As you might have observed that, most of the coupon websites allow users to publish coupons and content that is being spread over hundreds of other websites. According to me, this might be one of the reason they lost organic rankings on hundreds of keywords.
Satish Singh
Satish Singh
Jignesh Gohel
Thanks for your reply Jignesh.
I have a website www.exaalgia.com and if i will try to attract visitors via coupons will it affect my rankings too?
Satish Singh
Satish Singh
Jignesh Gohel
Thanks again for your reply Jignesh.
Can you please share your views regarding the new update of google on guest blog posting, what would you recommend for it?
And also i want to know that for link building people usually write 1 content and distribute it to 5-10 websites, what will you recommend, like if i have written a new blog and i want to share it on few good blog sites, how can i do it? Do i need to write different blog for all sites or its okay if i submit my blog to 3-4 sites.

Waiting for your reply.
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