I Got Smacked By A Panda

This used to be a very popular blog. It’s hard to get people to believe that unless they were a part of this blog years ago, but it was actually ranked in the top 100K blogs in the United States at some point. I was flying pretty high.

Google Panda Slaughter

Then came the Google updates of both Penguin and Panda, which were supposed to do… something nasty to sites that it determined weren’t up to snuff, or had links that weren’t organic, or sites that they determined didn’t have content that it considered worthless to a degree.

I have to admit that I felt immune to both of these. After all, my blog was about blogging and writing and social media, and my articles were about the same thing. I’ve never conducted a link building scheme; all I did was comment on a lot of other blogs. Sounds pretty good so far, right?

You see that graph above? You can ignore all the straight blue lines, which represents Penguin. It seems that Penguin had nothing to do with my dropping in what they call the SERPs (search engine results page). It’s those straight red lines you want to pay attention to.

As you see, for a while there it looks like Panda was my friend. My blog started shooting up and all seemed right with the world. I figured I’d been doing all the right things with it, as well as my other blogs, so I stopped paying attention and got on with life.

And then… something bad happened in July of 2012; that’s when I was at the top of my popularity; I was flying high and loving life. But time wasn’t on my side. Google said “This update “noticeably affects only 1% of queries worldwide”; it was the beginning of my downfall.

By September it had fallen, then adjusted a little bit. They’d come out with another update that said they pushed out a Panda refresh that impacted fewer than 0.7% of queries. Yet I took a major hit; guess I was “special” in some way. I fell some more until February 2013, when it was barely above the zero line; yeow! After that point it didn’t matter what Google did; except for a brief uptick I was done with true organic traffic… with no real reason why.

we all want content that is gay, tired, and hungry
Topher McCulloch via Compfight

You know why I say that? I went back and took a look at the content I was putting out between July 2012 and September 2012. I was writing a lot more then than I do now. If that 3-month period I wrote 37 articles. Fourteen of those articles were specifically on blogging; 8 were on social media, and 3 were on writing. The rest were a mixed bag, but 2 of the articles resulted in the two of the 3 most commented posts I’ve ever had on this blog, both of those in August. Only 6 of those posts had fewer than 30 comments; that shows how well IJS was doing… even as I was losing ground in the SERPs.

There is one possible thing though. It’s possible that what got me is that for a short period of time I was writing a few articles that were shorter than my norm. For instance, in July 2012 I wrote a series of blog posts on blogging tips, 8 in all. Yet, only one of those posts was more than 500 words. That could have been considered as “thin content”, which is one of the things Google was looking at during this time period. Yet, even if that was the case, I also had a bunch of posts in August that were over 1,000 words, including one that was over 2,000.

Maybe the die was cast by that point; I have no real idea. At this juncture I’m thinking that most of my posts end up being close to or more than 1,000 words, and that’s not with me keyword stuffing.

It’s time to stop whining. Truthfully, I just discovered this issue last week after my friend Chuck shared a link to an article titled Penguin Recovery Case Study –How we stopped the bleeding and Increased Organic Search Traffic for an Ecommerce Client by 125.66%, which was a pretty interesting read. In the header there’s a tool his company is sponsoring that allows you to pop your domain name into to see if you were affected by either Panda or Penguin updates. That’s when I realized I’d been smacked in the head by Panda; sigh…

It seems all is not lost, but to do it right will take a while… if I decide to do it.

The first step is to go back and look through all the content that I believe could be considered weak and either punch it up or eliminate it. As I looked at my blogging series from that period, I realize that each article really needs to be beefed up. I also know that some of my earliest articles are pretty weak, but at this juncture going back to 2007 isn’t in the cards. Still, if I look at a lot of that older content, I know I can do some good stuff with it if I want to.

The second step is something I’ve talked about in the past, that being to look at links on your blog to see if any are either broken or going to sites you don’t want being shown on your blog. This one I do about every 3 or 4 months, but mainly to see what’s broken. It might be a labor of love that will take a bit of time but I might have to go back to see if there are any links I’d rather not be associated with, which I wasn’t as careful to check back then.

If you have a lot of ads, you might want to work on that. If you have paid for links… well, you might be in bigger trouble than you can fix.

If you think you’re good at some point, you’re going to want to test your domain name to see if there’s a manual action against your website or blog. If you don’t see it on their list, they’ll tell you how to add a code to the header of your site so that you can check that out. By the way, once you add that code you’re going to want to leave it there; I’ve removed the code here and there, forgetting what it is, and suddenly finding that they’re not seeing my site there any longer.

If you don’t have any manual actions (which I don’t), then supposedly cleaning up your dodgy posts and links will eventually get your rankings to improve. If you do have manual actions, you’ll see something telling you how to request a reconsideration of your site.

These things are never easy, but they can drastically improve your blog or website. I’m going to work on it slowly since I don’t have a manual action against me. What about you?

16 thoughts on “I Got Smacked By A Panda”

  1. The good news is that both of these algorithms now run in real time. You will be rewarded for cleanup much faster than in the past. Not too long ago, you had to wait for a Google refresh / Re-run of the algorithm in order to recover. That said, there is rarely, if ever, a fast and full recovery.

    Good Luck

    1. Well, at least that’s something. I may need to go back to the beginning to either update or remove a lot of posts, but almost 1,750 posts is an awful lot! Still, thanks for sharing that article and that link. 🙂

  2. Bloody hell Mitch all this stuff just takes the fun out of blogging.;)

    You know though, I couldn’t be stuffed going back and fixing things. Still, I reckon I’ll go have a look to see how some of my blogs fared.

    1. Pete, I think that’s at least taking a look at to see if, and when, this sucker might have affected you. That’s always the most intriguing part, whether or not you decide to do something with it.

  3. Hey Mitch,

    I’m starting to feel like a slave to Google’s Algorithm now. I lost a lot of traffic myself since December.

    So it looks like you and me are in the same boat.

    But one thing you suggest about updating and revamping old posts are in my plans too.

    Besides that, I’m going to focus more on my bounce rate and do a little tweaking to reduce it.

    So far it went down 5 percent since Sunday Feb 5th, so that’s a good sign.

    But for now, Im just going to focus more on my target audience instead of being so docile to the google updates.

    Thanks for the share! Have a good one!

    1. Sherm, my issue is that I have over 1,700 posts on this blog. Many post are pretty good, but there was a time when I was reaching for just 400 words, which was recommended at the time. Still, I want this blog to sparkle and shine, and I know there are a lot of posts that either got minimal comments or none at all that will be perfect for repurposing and re-dating. 🙂

  4. Google’s algorithm is still a mysterious thing. Many SEO experts claim that their techniques can help you in ranking but for me, there is no one who can explain the Search Engine behavior because it is never the same.

    1. You’re right in saying that no one knows everything about Google’s algorithms, but there are some things that are pretty standard it seems. Google themselves tells us about content and what they consider as low or high quality and for the most part they’re considering high quality content as being longer than shorter… or at least as definitive as the content can be for particular subjects. Since I can trace back to when things started going bad for me and relate it to lots of short articles, I know that’s an issue I suffered from at the wrong time.

  5. I agree with Jayant Bro. Many SEO companies claims but no one really knows all of the factors that Google uses in determining the quality of your site through the eyes of Panda.

    1. I agreed with Jayant on that one but further research says that one major factor is related to what they consider as low quality, or insufficient content on too many pages.

  6. Hi Mitchell,

    Due to the Google Panda Algo, I lost almost 60% of my search traffic. You are not only the person affected by this algorithm, I am also one of the blogger who got affected by this algorithm

    1. I knew I couldn’t be the only one, but at least now I know how I can address the issue. It should be interesting to see if what I work on actually changes things in a positive way.

  7. This is one of the biggest problems in SEO, that some of things are pretty unclear. Good quality and long form of contents work good and relevant links from authoritative sites enhance the ranking. Targeting more than 1000 words per post or landing page is recommended and it has to be fresh and unique.
    But the problem is that everything is not in your hand. Your content may get copied without your knowledge, you may have a very low budget for promotion and marketing your blog or business site.
    Diversify the marketing. Depending only on one online channel may not be sufficient. Build a brand (it’s difficult, needs time, consistency, lots of efforts and contacts).
    These are my thoughts on your post. Would like to hear back from you, Mitch.

    1. Good stuff Soumya. Actually, I figure a part of this is my fault because I didn’t keep up with all my numbers regarding the Panda stuff. I started traveling for my business and really let my guard down. Now I’m going to work on getting some of that prominence and traffic back because… well, I need to work on generating a bit of income and have a bit more fun 🙂

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