How to Recover from Panda

Has your site taken a dive in Google’s SERPs?

If your website experience a sudden drop in Google’s Search Engine Results pages for your main keyword terms, it could be due to a number of issues.

But chances are if your decrease in your websites ranking has happened within the past six months the likely culprit is Panda.

First, here is the current timeline of the Panda updates.

Panda 1.0 – 2/23/2011

Also called the “Farmer Update” Google’s first Panda update went live on February 23, 2011 within the U.S.A. and Google related that this algorithm change impacted over 12% of the results in their SERPS.

Google began this release of the Panda to address complaints of low-quality websites (commonly referred to as content farms), which were ranking higher than higher quality sites.

Panda 2.0 – 4/11/2011

On April 11th, Google went live with their Panda update for all English language queries worldwide.

This included both English-speaking countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia, but also non-English countries that had chosen English-language results.

Panda 2.1 – 5/9/2011

On May 9th, Google rolled out Panda 2.1, which was a minor update to their algorithm, which only affected a small number of sites.

Panda 2.2 – 7/23/2011

Google related that this update was to address “some new signals that help us differentiate between higher and lower quality sites

Vanessa Fox, author of Marketing in the Age of Google commented, “Panda isn’t simply an algorithm update. It’s a platform for new ways to understand the web and understand the user experience”.

Panda 2.3 – 7/23/2011

Another small update to Panda.

According to Matt Cutts from Google Panda is a manual update to their index, not automatic, causing many to speculate that Panda is a secondary filter that is not included in Google’s main algorithm.

Panda 2.4 – Goes Global – 8/12/2011

Google rolls out internationally to include non-English sites, impacting 6 to 9% of global search.

Excluded from the update Chinese, Japanese and Korean websites.

Panda 2.5 – 9/28/2011

Google has declined to reveal any specifics regarding sites, pages or content regarding this update.

How to Recover from Panda

Having worked with a number of clients who have been impacted by Panda first let me say this; there is no quick fix.

Google is a business and as in any business it must be proactive to its customers needs to grow, thus Panda is Google’s answer to filter out spammy sites and to identify quality sites and push them to the top of their SERPS.

This is why today you’ll see sites with virtually no page rank at all out ranking sites with high page rank.

Panda Action Plan

1: Review Your Analytics:

A: Check Your Dates: Your first plan of action should be reviewing your analytics and identifying the date of your sites decline to the dates above to see if there is any relationship.

B: Check Your Sources of Traffic: Confirm that your drop of traffic is in Google organic and not from Yahoo, Bing or PPC.

In this example from a client’s website, Google Panda 1.0 actually caused a spike of almost 60% in traffic.

However when Panda 2.0 was released the client’s traffic crashed to where they were only getting 2 to 3 users a day!

The clients daily income plummeted from $20,000 a day to ZERO!

If the dates do not match up as they do in the this image or to the other Panda releases dates you may have something else wrong with your site such as a misconfigured robots.txt file or a paused PPC campaign.

If it is decided that Panda is to blame, move on to step 2.

2: Isolate the Problem

Referring back to your analytics isolate the pages of your site that were most affected and what areas, if any, came away unscathed.

The 2 main items that the Panda update target are:

  • Pages that contain more advertising than content (Google AdSense included)
  • Pages that have low value content such as scrapped, duplicate or spun.

Next go to your site and go through it as a visitor (or even better, get someone you know to go through the site and get their reaction) and ask yourself:

  • What is your 1st impression of the site?
  • Does the content provide visitor with unique, engaging content that the visitor is searching for?
  • Does the site have too many banners, ads and affiliate links?
  • Do you trust the site?
  • Would you pull out your credit card and buy something?

3: Make a Plan

At this stage you should have a pretty good idea of what areas of your site you need to fix, what areas to delete and if it’s worth your time, money and other resources.

If sections of your site were only affected in Google and not Yahoo and Bing, consider blocking those pages to the Google bot in your Robots.txt file until you make the necessary changes to those areas.

If sections of your site were unaffected by Panda you will want to make any necessary changes to those pages first, before the next Panda update rolls in and knocks those pages out of their index too.

Next determine what sections of your site that would be the easiest to improve, so you can start getting back your traffic.

If sections of your site have no value consider deleting them entirely from your site and removing those pages from Google’s index through Google Webmaster Tools.

4: Dump the Ads

I know that you’re cringing right now seeing this recommendation if you’re an affiliate advertiser and the only way you have been monetizing your site is through affiliate links and paid advertising.

However, if you want to get back into Google’s SERPs this is something that you may have to consider, or at the very least cut back.

Think of other ways that you can monetize your website.

As an example, one of my Radar Detector affiliate websites that has done extremely well during the Panda update, I have been able to build out a list containing tens of thousands of subscribers.

5: Develop Great Content

  • Develop great content using your own, original research. This basically means that aggregated, syndicated or spun content from other sources is NOT GOOD.
  • Become an authority in your niche by developing content that answers people’s questions and solves people’s problems.
  • Engaging content that your audience will share.
  • Develop content that ads value to your entire website

6: The Hard Part – Waiting

Next comes the hard part, waiting…..

Some have asked if filing a Google Reconsideration Request would speed things up, the short answer, no.

Since Panda is an algorithm update and not a penalty for violating one of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines a Google Reconsideration Request wouldn’t apply.

As you start making improvements to your site you should start seeing small, incremental changes in your rankings along with an increase of traffic in your analytics.

As you start improving the content and architecture of your site don’t forget to reach out to your existing fan and customer base, giving them an incentive to revisit your site and to engage with you.

Certified Master SEO Instructor by the Search Engine Academy and CEO and founder of SEO Training SW.
Roy Reyer
Roy Reyer
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14th September 2011 4 Comments

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