There are 8 “specific guidelines”. They are:
1. Avoid hidden text or hidden links.
2. Don’t use cloaking or sneaky redirects.
3. Don’t send automated queries to Google.
4. Don’t load pages with irrelevant keywords.
5. Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.
6. Don’t create pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans, or other badware.
7. Avoid “doorway” pages created just for search engines, or other “cookie cutter” approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.
8. If your site participates in an affiliate program, make sure that your site adds value. Provide unique and relevant content that gives users a reason to visit your site first.
I'm not sure what it meant by "substantially duplicate content". If I wrote a piece, and then wrote another piece from a different angle would that constitute duplicate content? I know that some of the unhealthy affiliates uses spin software to create new content which are of no use to the visitors, but actually writing it yourself to give a new angle takes time to do and trying to add value to visitors.
Anyway, seeing the traffic drops from a poorer SERP is reducing my enthusiasm for having an online presence to make some passive side income as well as to draw in real customers from online marketing. After putting in so much effort to create one of the best sites online just to see it pummel down is seeing all my efforts going down to waste.
I have tried to clean up as best I can to keep within the guidelines but it seems like it was never enough for Google. How can a small guy cope with all the dwindling income and inflation flying all around?
My authoritative travel website traffic has dropped 50% to 60% from 24th April, and a further 50% from that on 28th April. OMG! This was just too much. I use to have about 6,000 daily visits before the Panda update. Dropping to about below 3,000 visits average, and then with the Penguin update it dropped to 1,500 and a further reduction to 800 visits. Then means altogether from 6,000 of last till now to about 800 is a whopping 86% drop! Likewise my adsense earnings is going to drop just as much meaning it would no longer be viable for me to rely on CTR earnings to keep my site afloat.
Google is also going for "freshness" too and want websites to be regularly updated with new content. Some algorithm changes include detection of old pages and giving it a poorer SERP. That means more hard work from webmaster who must find time to constantly post fresh content to keep their site up-to-date with information and may also include re-writing and modifying and updating existing pages to stay relevant. Mind you, I got hundreds of pages in my authority site alone and hundreds more in this personal blog of mine. Crazy!
Despite being an authoritative site, it takes a lot of real effort with such limited resources and budget to do research and so time consuming to write, edit photos, etc to provide good information to the general masses. Google may be trying to weed out web spam and looking for "fresh" content to keep site relevant and up to date but they are also killing legitimate sites that are run by individuals who need to divide the time between content creating and running day job and many day to day task. I know this is a lot of work, there internet marketers out there who hires out the writing process, but doing so cost money. Besides I prefer my own writing over paying others writing on my behalf.
As some people as has said, Google don't owe you anything, it is after all their search engine and if you want to stay relevant you have to keep up with their rules or do something else offline instead. I do find using website to canvass for sales is rather effective. Much better than me making cold calls ending up with very cold customers! Better they warm up to me than getting the cold shoulder.
I did noticed the Penguin update didn't affect this blog though. Since I hardly do any optimization for this blog, the update didn't affect it much. ie, nether up nor down in the website traffic. However the Panda update did kill 50% of my blog traffic probably due to thin pages, ie short blog blasts in my tumblr, posterous and blogspot posts. I have removed quite a number of them and will use Twitter or Facebook or another domain that is less important for me instead for short blasts. I guess I shouldn't plug in other services into my main domain for testing. But I like the idea of poking the DNS to attached it other services that allows it! Unfortunately it won't do well for SEO.