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[CASE STUDY] How I Recovered from Google Panda - Pictures included

Discussion in 'Black Hat SEO' started by Windmill, Jan 2, 2013.

  1. Windmill

    Windmill Supreme Member

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    On the 27th of September, my client website got hit by the Google Panda refresh. Previously, it had avoided a (obvious) penalty from any of the updates, including penguin. The slap was not a huge one. The loss in traffic was about 15%. The website recovered in the next Google Panda refresh on the 5th of November. It is a strong brand that is an authority in its niche. The website is 5+ years old. During my recovery, I actually had no link building going on (but have since - focused on building qualiy links). This post takes you through the steps of the recovery.

    View from Google Analytics

    [​IMG]
    (Red arrows show updates)

    Previous to the panda update on the 27th of September, this website had been steadily increasing in traffic, and was reaching about 750-800 search engine hits each week. After the update, it went down to about 630-700. The red arrows show the different panda updates. This website's traffic dips dramatically on weekends; as you can see all of the updates have happened around the weekend. When the website recovered, it went back to around 750-800 hits each week. In the next update it did even better, and we were pulling in about 780-850 hits each month. Post the latest update, despite it being a holiday weekend, we're getting 1000+ hits from search engines. This is hugely significant for the website. The google analytics data from a glance doesn't look significant; but the lows were lower, the peaks were smaller and while there were spikes - they were spikes, rather than constant day-to-day numbers.

    Conclusion: In this case study, a recovery from Google Panda had dramatic consequences. It resulted in the website being rewarded, and all SEO efforts became magnified afterwards.

    View from Google Webmaster

    [​IMG]

    This snapshot starts in early October and goes forward into the following months. As you can see, the search engine views have dramatically increased. In the past, the low was always 1,000-1,300. Now the low never goes below 1,600.

    What I did to recover

    Website Audit


    • I went and did a website audit of all of the pages on the website. This was hundreds of pages. I went and put "site:http://websiteurl.com" into Google and I scraped all of the pages indexed from there.
    • I identified pages that were low quality. I narrowed in on 3 types of low-quality content; pages with no content, pages with duplicate content and pages with low-quality content clearly written by someone with little knowledge on the subject.
    • I went and checked the speed of the pages. I checked for major bugs such as http:// not redirecting to http://www and things like that. In terms of that, the website came up clean.
    • I identified pages that, while they included good content, were sort of "over the place". They weren't targeted towards good keywords, or the keywords overlapped with other pages.

    Once I identified these, I discovered the website had the following faults:

    • A very low-quality blog. It had like, 50+ posts of 400 word articles. These were literally unreadable (yet written by humans). The person who organized this clearly thought that unreadable articles stuffed (and I mean beyond stuffed) with the same keywords each, INTERLINKED, was the best idea in the world.
    • Each blog post had 10+ tags that, again, were keyword stuffed.
    • Some pictures had their own pages that had been indexed into Google, creating their own non-content page.
    • On the main website, there was a lot of duplicate meta data (titles and descriptions).
    • There were a handful of non-content pages.
    • There were about 10 core pages that, while they had good content, were not optimized for particular keywords. Instead, a lot of the focus overlapped between pages. Think of it like this. The website was about "spotted widget". So, each page was about a unique spotted widget. Instead of each page being like "zebra widget" they all just talked about being a variation of a spotted widget.
    • Some pages were over-optimised.

    Once I identified these faults, I quickly went to work with the intention of fixing this mess up before the next refresh. Luckily for me, this was one of the biggest waits between refreshes, like 6 weeks or something.

    Fixing the Problems

    Low Quality Content


    • I went through and mass deleted almost all of the blog articles. Boom, hundreds of dollars deleted in one swoop. I then went and deleted all of the tags. I went and deleted all of the images that had their own pages. I then went to work MANUALLY writing my own articles. I got about 20-25 in before the next update. These were a minimum of 600 words each. Most had a minimum of 3 pictures in each one, several have a relevant video. They all looked nice with pleasent formating, and they all read nice. For each article I picked a niche subject and made that the focus of the article. I used my knowledge of the subject and wrote authorative articles. I didn't have time to mass-write 25 fresh articles so I came up with a solution to get content fast; something I won't share here. But obviously, you could just purchase articles from a legit writer. The algorithum seems to be able to detect when articles use lots of verbs and empty words; it looks for LSI keywords.
    • On the main website I rewrote those pages to be about completely different things and added new content to those pages in the same manner.
    • Where possible, I made sure each page has 500+ words.
    • I add about 5-10 blog posts each month. Since I understand this niche, I usually pull on topics that I know personally about. This makes them much higher quality. These articles rank very well in Google.

    Duplicate Meta Data

    • I discovered that my meta descriptions that were duplicates were always attached to pages with duplicate meta titles. Clearly that unique data just never got entered. So I scraped my pages with duplicate meta titles in Microsoft Excel and I manually went through and edited each one. A lot of work but it was worth it. I stayed away from reusing same/similar content to other pages.

    Overlapping Content
    • I picked a phrase for each page. So, the website is about spotted widgets. I couldn't get around reusing the word widget, but I did everything I could to use the word "spotted" as little as possible on these pages. So instead I focusd on their particular variation; so say, "Zebra Widgets", "Pink Circle Widget" etc etc.
    • In some cases that was tricky. Say I had two pages relevant to Zebra Widgets - one is a page about the small version, the other is about the big version. In this case I came up with a solution; I picked a different keyword altogether for the less popular page. So, lets say the large widget was the most popular. I then did talk about it being a Zebra widget on the small one, but I emphasized and optimised it for "Unique Widget" instead.
    • One great thing about this was I was able to increase my long-tail keyword traffic from these extra keywords that were highly relevant.

    Over-optimized Content
    • I went and removed as many instances of the over-optimized keyword that I could. For instance, my homepage was about "Spotted Widgets". So, I removed as many instances of that as I could. I was still left with a lot, but there was nothing I could do about that.
    • In some cases, the only way to remove it was to replace it. So I used lots and lots of variations of "spotted widgets".
    • I had 2 H1 headers in the past. I removed one and kept one.
    • In the past I used the word "Widgets" 3 times in my title and description. So I instead varied it up to use different but similar keywords and made sure to use the word "Widgets" only a maximum of 2 times.

    Social Media
    • As a bonus to this, this website has an active social media presence.
    • I leveraged it more and included the URL to the website in many posts designed to get likes and shares. We had some big posts that got 200+ likes and 40+ shares.

    Results

    • In each Google update, the website goes from strength-to-strength. I have link building going in the background (lots of variations of keywords for the anchor text) and the website is benefting greatly from this (no I will NOT go into my backlink strategy).
    • How long will this last? Hard to say. I am nervous about a penguin refresh. This website has spammy links created by the same guys that created the spammy blog (they get paid a tonne; go figure). So it could be slapped again - we will see. For now it is doing good.
    • The website got slapped in its major keywords, particularly in one country. Interestingly, those major keywords are still slapped; but the website is pulling in tonnes of traffic from other keywords, it gets traffic from like 50-100 keywords a day.

    Conclusions
    • Quick recoveries are possible.
    • In this case, the website recovered from removing low-quality pages, changing duplicate meta titles, de-optimizing pages and optimizing non-optimized pages.
    • Fresh, varied content in this case worked very well.
    • Each time there is a panda update, this website does better and better.

    I hope this has been of some help to people! :)
     
    • Thanks Thanks x 22
  2. Sanguin

    Sanguin Registered Member

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    CTRL + S, very useful and congratz for your come back !
     
  3. Windmill

    Windmill Supreme Member

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    Thank you, it was quite a relief at the time ;) :)
     
  4. tnhomestead

    tnhomestead Regular Member

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    Thanks for the info, you r posts are usually pretty informative and helpful to me!
     
  5. thetermy

    thetermy Regular Member

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    I am not sure what the actionable takeaway is.

    You give a lot of basic overview but anything that would be extremely helpful you mentioned that you cannot share.

    Thanks otherwise :p
     
  6. Windmill

    Windmill Supreme Member

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    I don't understand. This is a CASE STUDY. I presented a lot of important information which can be used by people to see what the projectory of a relatively quick recovery looks like. I point out ALL of the steps I took and I present it in a fair amount of detail. The only thing I don't share is the post-recovery link building - something that wasn't part of my recovery in the first place?

    This isn't about giving people actions, its about spreading experience. But if people want takeaway actions, then they can see what they've done and compare it to me. If they have missed any of the things I've done, then they can go and take those steps. E.g. I do suspect that people have posts that are under-optimized and that is an issue not addressed.
     
  7. michaelshezzer

    michaelshezzer Junior Member

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    extremely informative (+REP) this is going to be printed and put on the fridge :D

    Awesome research...
     
  8. Windmill

    Windmill Supreme Member

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    Thanks mate :)
     
  9. rdx_karan

    rdx_karan Registered Member

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    Sounds good...made a checklist for my onsite optimization .:)
     
  10. zacksbored

    zacksbored Newbie

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    My question is why are you giving recovery tips for an update that happened several months ago? You have good advice here and I appreciate your post but how about the most recent update, the Google Panda 23 Refresh. We need to hear about a recovery story from this update not the September 27th one :-( As nice as your post is, I'm afraid its useless to anyone who's site was effected by the Dec. 21st 2013 update.

    Does anyone have any information about this? My site has already lost about 50,000 clicks per day and we don't have even 1 black-hat link no do we engage in bh link building so I think this update focuses on On-Page attributes instead.
     
  11. sathyavcs

    sathyavcs Regular Member

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    Great! Explained deeply.

    Have you also included General keywords like click here, get info, etc ? Penguin Safe
    Have you also diversified your variety of links ? Panda Safe.

    Thanks
     
  12. DamageX

    DamageX Elite Member

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    I had a site get hit at the same time and recover at the same time. Thing is, I did NOTHING and it still recovered. Chances are all the work you did was really pointless and the hit on the 27th was just a false positive.
     
  13. Bragah

    Bragah Regular Member

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    Honestly I don`t think you were hit by panda or penguin updates..
    It was more likely a poorly optimized site that has been step by step privileged from traffic based on user experience. When Google had enough data, they started punishing you on some of your pages..

    If you were hit by Penguin, you wouldnt have lost just 100 hits / week..
    I have had sites that dropped from 3000 hits a week to 400.. That`s Penguin ^^
     
  14. frazgta

    frazgta Power Member

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    Hmm some nice pointers there. Will try some of these things out on a website that was recently hit and lost rank for all keywords. It was a small website with 5 pages. If i see some improvement i'll write here. Thanks. +rep
     
  15. regme

    regme Newbie

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    nice article, but 15% loss could be forced not by PANDA. Going down in serp for few links can cause such temporary problems. But article how improve content is grate.
     
  16. JaredOnTop

    JaredOnTop Junior Member

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    Many of the replies are suffering from "title myopia" and missing out on a lot of great information in this post.

    Regardless of whether or not the drop was panda, the post is a perfect illustration of the importance of onsite SEO and good content. It contains a ton of valuable tips for any new IM'er and is a good reminder to the rest of us.

    Nice job OP.
     
  17. masterjani

    masterjani Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    onsite optimization and removing duplicate tags and organizing webpages again are the important issues to be look after. Nice post op.
     
  18. Windmill

    Windmill Supreme Member

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    In regards to the "ITS NOT PANDA" comments - it is very easy to tell if it was panda. How? If your website traffic tanks and stays consistantly tanked (in my case slowly getting worse) until the day of the next update, where it shoots back up again - then you know that it was panda, lol :) that is what happened; 15% drop isn't much compared to some people. But the drop in traffic for people was normally between 15-100%. It just so happened that this website wasn't hit as badly as some; it doesn't mean it wasn't hit.

    Because someone asked for it, and this information is still useful to anyone recently hit. The panda refreshes largely target the same thing. So the same things I did in this post would apply to other websites too.

    Yes! But that doesn't change the link history profile, which is really bad. So I'm not looking forward to a penguin refresh, I'm really not.

    Tbh I doubt that. I think the biggest change I made was getting rid of the terrible blog. Our traffic has gone from height-to-height in subsequent updates, which makes me think we aren't just not being penalised - we are being rewarded.
     
  19. Mattie

    Mattie Newbie

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    What a great article you've posted. Thank you for a detailed opinion and tips. It is really an additional help after a bad Google Panda slap.


    Apparently, after the Google Panda update there was a sudden dropped of ranking and traffic on my main competitive keywords. Indeed, I've done a bunch of changes. The changes I've made was based on the guidelines of Panda Breakthrough course just like:


    - adding more elements for the visitors
    - modifying its navigation
    - changing its design
    - altering my content


    The following listed above are just few of the numerous adjustments I've done. Despite of it the end result is worth it. My site recovered from a bad Google Panda slap. It is because my site is ranking again and now my site is on page one of Google search result on my competitive keywords.
     
  20. Windmill

    Windmill Supreme Member

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    I know this was posted by you awhile ago, but just incase you are here; I am curious about how you updated your navigation. What was wrong with it? I am wondering if keyword-stuffed navigations get slapped by google, and so perhaps image-based navigations would be the way to go. I assume that Google understand and add into their algorithum allowances for navigations and don't take them into account. But I am concerned about more primative forms of navigations, and whether the bot accidentally mistakes these navigations for duplicate content.