Panda or Penguin Slapped? Here’s the Cure for an Ugly Slap
The now infamous Panda and Penguin updates were released by Google in April 2012. Actually this was Panda 3.5 and 3.6 and the first Penguin update and while there have been other Panda updates dating back to 2011, these seem to have had the most dramatic impact on websites.
Panda and Penguin are intended to target Spammy websites, low quality content, and link farms and in fact they did just that. These updates also affected a significant number of websites that not really were spammers or link farms, but through poor website design and worse SEO practices they looked that way to Google after these updates. One thing you must understand about Google search results, it is an algorithm. It plays no favorites, has no discretion, it is a huge array of computers crunching numbers to a set formula and out pops the search rankings, end of story.
So what do you do if your website has been Panda-Penguin slapped and how do you do SEO in the Post Panda-Penguin era? Below we outline some steps you can take to identify possible problems on your site. If you website has been penalized it is not a simple process to restore your rankings but it can be done.
What to do if Your Website has been Panda-Penguin Slapped
Fixing the issues that caused your site to get penalized by Panda or Penguin can be complicated as there is generally no single problem and thus no single solution. Most sites that have been penalized have a number of problems and red flags that resulted in a rankings drop. Here are some things to do and look for:
- Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools: start with this, you can look for the problem if you don’t have the tools to deliver the data. Make sure both are installed and working on your site.
- Webmaster Tools Warnings, Crawl Errors, etc.: Go through Webmaster tools and look for Crawl errors and any warnings from Google. In some (rare) cases Google will issue warnings about bad links via Webmaster Tools.
- Google Analytics: check your bounce rate, average time on site, and visitor flow. While these aren’t necessarily a primary cause for a penalty, but they can point to other problems on the website.
- SEOMoz: this is a very powerful tool SEO professionals (us included) use to analyze the internal workings of a website. It’s a great tool, and of course it is not free, you will need to subscribe to use it. SEOMoz or an equivalent tool is the only way you will be able to dig into what is going on with your website. Once you subscribe and set up your website analysis it will take a couple of days for it to be completed so let it run and work on the things above while it is running.
Finding the Problems
- Webmaster Tools will give you a basic list of things to fix. Start with cleaning up the basic problems.
- Bounce Rate, Average Time on Site, and Visitor Flow: If your bounce rate is higher than 40% and your average time on site is low, say less than a minute, then your website has poor engagement with the users. This does affect search rankings to a degree and while it probably was not a significant factor in your rankings drop you should address this at the same time.
- SEOMoz: the SEOMoz analysis will give you a crawl diagnostics summary listing Errors, Warnings, and Notices. The Errors and Warnings are the places that your Panda and Penguin problems may lurk and there could be hundreds, even thousands of them. This seems overwhelming, but often these Errors are the result of poor design or website structure and can be fixed by an experienced SEO Tech or website developer.
- Duplicate Content: The SEOMoz analysis will point this out and if you have duplicate content within your own site (duplicate pages) or from other websites this is certainly a major factor and must be resolved. This may turn into a page by page rewrite.
Fixing the Problems
There is no simple list we provide on how to fix the problems. You will have to address each on case by case. By the way, if you are thinking of nuking the site and replacing it with a new one on the same domain name, that may fix some of the problems and it will create others and leave some lingering problems too. So before you nuke the old site, which is an option, make sure you have a plan to fix any problems that may follow the domain. Oh, and if you are thinking of just tossing the domain and starting with a brand new domain name, consider this first; a significant factor in search rankings and domain authority is the age of the domain name. So your old domain name is worth fixing and a new domain name is starting from scratch with zero authority.
As you can see from the list of how to find the problem you quickly go down a rabbit hole deep into SEO and website design wonderland and it takes a very experience SEO tech or website developer to fix these problems.