20 SEO Strategies for Sites Affected By Google Panda

The Google Panda Update – sounds harmless, but it’s not. It has recently slapped a lot of huge sites and even the tGoogle Panda Slaprusted/reputable ones (globally) off the Google’s search result pages. The known major signals and basis of this update mostly targeted sites that contained poor quality of content, pages that have external duplicates and dormant behavior of users once they are on the page.

I have been receiving a lot of inquiries from big websites about this specific fixes recently through my link marketing services page, which made me decide to create this post. The strategies listed below are mostly based on my own research through various web sources, actual analysis/auditing of prospected clients’ sites and personal observations.

On-site and Content Management:

  • Identify weak inner pages of the site by tracking each page’s mozrank and page authority. List them all in an excel spreadsheet, which should include the necessary data (Pagerank, mozrank, page authority, quality of content and if it has a duplicate). You can also speed up this process by exporting these data in an excel spreadsheet via Open Site Explorer’s pro version, which will already contain information such as each page’s Page Authority and number of linking domains. Prioritize in tracking pages that have duplicates that can be manually tracked through Copyscape.
  • Remove low quality inner pages of the site from Google’s index by temporarily tagging them to noindex (or by excluding them via Robots.txt), as these pages affect and pull the search rankings of the site’s important/strong landing pages. You can then improve these low quality pages by further optimizing each page’s content while they are inaccessible to search engines, for them to regain their rankings (especially for long-tails) once it’s ready to be republished and be indexed again.
  • Track crawl errors of the site via Google Webmaster Tool and fix 404 errors by employing 301 redirects.
  • Identify high quality inner pages of the site that have strong mozrank, Pagerank (optional), page authority and good amount of incoming links. Make these authority pages internally link (within the content) to the site’s important pages using the targeted keywords as anchor texts (depending on the page’s relevance to the destination page).
  • Identify pages that have consistently brought substantial traffic to the site by tracking its performance (number of monthly visitors, low bounce rates, etc…) in the past few months (before the Google Panda update) via Google Analytics. Set these pages as high priority, wherein you’ll have to preserve and improve its content as well as to acquire links from authority websites directing to it. It’s best to list the pages that will be highly prioritized and the actions that need to be implemented to each page on an excel spreadsheet, to be able to monitor its performance upon executing necessary changes.
  • Optimize the content of the site’s important landing pages (pages that aim to rank on SERPs – homepage/site description, category page, product pages, etc…) by adding/improving its useful sections such as comprehensive product or category descriptions (make them as unique as possible).
  • Leverage browser caching and reduce disruptive elements (such as ads or slow loading opt-in) to the site’s important landing pages, as this are signals of poor quality content and/or page usability.
  • Integrate the blog of the site (especially for large ecommerce sites), and utilize its full potential by taking advantage of strategic internal linking structure through blog posts, wherein you can use your blog posts to support the important pages of the site and in generating more leads through the use of exceptionally written content and strong calls to action. It’s also a good channel in generating high quality and natural incoming links to the site. You can also use the blog in publishing link baits (highly linkable content) and in enriching the campaign’s social media marketing efforts and in emphasizing importance/authority of the site.
  • Create high quality support pages for each targeted keyword (could be a blog post or an individual page that links to each important page). These support pages will be targeting the same keyword as the targeted destination pages to help them regain their search rankings.

Link Prospecting and Competitor Analysis

  • Extract link data and link opportunities from top competitors who were not affected by the Google Panda update.
  • Track relevant authority sites/blogs linking to them and try to acquire links from those sites.
  • Check your competitors’ Robots.txt file (ex. theirwebsite.com/robots.txt) and observe how well their changes have worked for them.
  • Find their best pages via Open Site Explorer, and see if those pages have duplicate copies through Copyscape. Examine how they have managed to re-optimize those top pages and note them down, to have better ideas on how you can fix your own content.
  • Identify the top keywords sending traffic to the site’s competitors through SEMrush and study the site’s anchor text distribution through Open Site Explorer.
  • Continuously find for link opportunities through other sources such as manual Google search, vertical sites or directory listings.
  • List all the prospected sites on an excel sheet, which will include information such as the site’s Pagerank, name of webmaster, contact details (email, twitter, etc…).
  • Compare the site’s important pages to top competitors’ ranking pages (for each targeted keyword) and determine sections and aspects that make those pages rank highly on SERPs. Improve the site’s important pages by basing changes from the aspects that those top ranking pages contain (in-depth content delivery, socially engaging, number of incoming authoritative links, etc…).

Link Building

  • Produce high quality contextual links through guest blogging (on relevant blogs), in which links generated will use keyword-rich anchor texts directing to the site’s important pages. It’s important to produce high quality and trusted links to each important page of the site at this time to consistently improve and sustain its search rankings.
  • Produce high-utility and highly linkable content that will be published within the site or link bait. Consistently promote these extremely resourceful pages (as well as the site’s existing high quality pages) through content outreach such as email requests, social media/networking, Q&A sites, etc. These pages can also serve as a strong support for the site’s important keywords in obtaining/regaining its high rankings.
  • Make use of social sharing buttons (or make them very visible) and leverage social sharing to weak inner pages of the site, as you can use signals coming from social media/networking sites to hint search engines that these inner pages with poor content are already well optimized and updated.

Other Notable Sources:

Core Principle:

  • Weed out all of the site’s poor-content pages, particularly those that have duplicates (that have no proper link attribution to your site) first, because these pages are pulling your important keywords’ rankings off the SERPs.
  • For ecommerce sites, you don’t actually need to make those thin pages provide long descriptions; you’ll just need to make them as unique as you can and perhaps better than the manufacturers’ descriptions.
  • Focus on generating high quality links (content-driven links, through guest blogs, networking, and social media efforts) to support and push back the site’s important keywords’ rankings.
  • Re-optimize the site’s important pages by improving its content, internal links directing to it from other authority pages of the site, and by building links from authority websites.
  • Only present pages on your site that are genuinely offering value to users. Produce more high quality content to backup your previously harmed pages.

More Hints from Google

Amit Singhal recently wrote on Google Webmaster Central Blog more hints on how they try to write algorithms that are more focused on segregating trustworthy content from not:

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • How much quality control is done on content?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?

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Image Credit: CoolSurface

Jason Acidre

Jason Acidre is Co-Founder and CEO of Xight Interactive, marketing consultant for Affilorama and Traffic Travis, and also the sole author of this SEO blog. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonacidre and on Google+.

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67 replies
    • Kaiserthesage
      Kaiserthesage says:

      I’ve also spoke with a lot of website owners (mostly big ecommerce and resource sites) who are really hurt by the Panda Update. It really sucks that Google has also punished sites that are really offering real value and quality to their visitors.

      Thanks in advance Kristi (for sharing this to those who have been looking for this sort of post) 😀

      Reply
  1. Peter Bird
    Peter Bird says:

    As there has been no verified recovery of rankings by any site affected by the Panda update, how do you actually know that any of this is actually going to work?

    Reply
  2. Peter Bird
    Peter Bird says:

    The site was NOT affected by Panda! Its traffic loss was gradual. Panda was an immediate effect. They lost traffic gradually for other reasons.

    I ask again – how do you know what you are suggesting will actually work? A lot of sites have already done most of that. Can you explain why they have not got their rankings back?

    Reply
    • Kaiserthesage
      Kaiserthesage says:

      There are also other sites that have been affected with only gradual loss in traffic, as most that I have spoke with shown results of 30 – 50% loss in search engine traffic after the actual update, perhaps the effect of the subsequent improvements of the update on other search queries.

      I know that there was another recent changes on Google SERPs (last April 29 – 30 and not related to Panda) that caused sites to drop most of their major keywords’ rankings again – http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4306638.htm

      Immediate recovery from these changes would take time (months I believe), given that most affected sites have thousands of pages that need to be cleared off the recent update’s said factors that have caused their rankings to drop. However, Google had mainly suggested to affected companies to focus on adding high quality content on their sites and to prevent questionable pages from getting indexed. And in my opinion, pushing quality content in front is the best way to recover from this. And in this case, massive fixes are needed for large websites, which I think would really take time to getting those rankings back.

      Reply
  3. Aybi@social media marketing
    Aybi@social media marketing says:

    Though my sites were not greatly affected by the Google Panda update, I still wonder what could be the best steps in order to regain the lost ranking aside from producing quality information. And I think all the needed information are already mentioned here. Thanks a lot!

    Reply
  4. Ruud@sim only abonnementen
    Ruud@sim only abonnementen says:

    When talking about quality content I am wondering what is the best way to go. Because you can add a piece of body text to all product/category pages, but also add reviews and the like. What would you recommend, and would it actually make a difference what you add (as long as it’s unique)?

    Reply
  5. Ryan Clark @ Linkbuildr
    Ryan Clark @ Linkbuildr says:

    @Peter since there is no 100% method to regaining, the tips here are all about improving quality and that’s what the G is saying. What we have been doing is making different sets of changes to pages that got hit and have been waiting for results. Test test test and improve is all you can really do!

    We’ve also noticed that links perhaps played a decent sized role within the Panda update. Although I know a big link algo change is coming, I strongly believe it’s having an impact. Especially from the clients coming to us with who’ve had just about everything done right on page for the most part, but over anchor text abuse had seemed to sting for the pages dropped around the same time.

    Reply
  6. ery@panda update google
    ery@panda update google says:

    Hey Jason
    I have heard so much about google panda which make so many big or even authority site lost their traffic. I think to survive fro google panda, we need quality content and also quality backlink. But thanks for sharing.
    Regards
    Ery

    Reply
  7. James @Web Design India
    James @Web Design India says:

    Jason, Thanks for sharing useful information about panda update and how to get ranking back as there are around 12% of sites infected with the new updates. Google is doing frequent changes in the algorithm to produce best search engine results and that’s why its number #1 search engine.

    From long time I have found that Google is giving high priority to the site that has unique content and good amount of relevant backlinks.

    Reply
  8. lawmacs
    lawmacs says:

    Lots of people get affected by the panda update but i believe that Google is more about protecting its own advertising program adwords by affecting other sites traffic then advertisers will be thinking twice to advertise on them that is my opinion no solid proof here but some smaller blogs and website benefits from the recent panda update some wonderful tips here Jason.

    Reply
  9. stan@r4 ds
    stan@r4 ds says:

    I wish there were some concrete answers on what to do in order to regain rankings. Seeing so much fluctuation. Too much. And spam sites reaching #1 in the serps, while good sites have gone down. Makes no sense. Something is definitely wrong with Google right now, but unfortunately, I do see an end/fix in sight.

    Reply
  10. hyderali@seoblogger
    hyderali@seoblogger says:

    Hey jason,

    First time commenter.

    Really, like the way you’ve distinguished all the points & explain profoundly how could we regain lost rankings from the affect of google panda. But honestly these panda update hurt more to SMB as they were largely rely on google for their business.

    Those tactics you’ve shown are awesome but one needs to check as you said step by step & it could be done only by a full time blogger who don’t have any job but only to try these methods to know whether he get his ranking back after applying your methods.

    But you showd some good points, will come back for your next post.

    Reply
  11. kirapermunian
    kirapermunian says:

    Completely. I have seen the seobook infographic and it was alarming for me as seo specialist. But you know we always find ways to make better. Thank God I’ve found another innovative resources here. I am sure this will help A LOT. Whether poeple like SEO or not, it still through SEO that we could get long termed traafic and sales. Regards, Kira

    Reply
  12. Felicia @ No Deposit Poker
    Felicia @ No Deposit Poker says:

    I’ve been hearing about Google Panda for some time now and haven’t really taken time to learn what it does. However, after hearing that it can greatly affect the traffic on your site, it really had me worried. Fortunately, I heard that this only involves low-quality content sites.

    Reply
  13. Wayne Barker@Hallam
    Wayne Barker@Hallam says:

    Google have been saying it for years – concentrate on the quality! Great post Kaiser. Essentially what it boils down to is creating great, accesible, spam free, user firendly sites with great content . Am I wrong? Offline businesses survive by being great at what you do. Why shouldn’t that apply online too – if two grocery shops have the same price stock and one is beautifully clean with great staff and the other is a dive run by bath dodging and rude people – which do you choose? That was rhetorical by the way!!

    Reply
  14. Jonathan Sparco
    Jonathan Sparco says:

    I’ve read somewhere that Google Panda only targets ranked low quality websites and that you have nothing to worry about if your site provides excellent quality and content. Then again, there is a chance that their algorithm may provide drawbacks for reputable websites which can be very damaging.

    Reply
  15. BingoBabe
    BingoBabe says:

    WOW! I cant believe I’ve never been at this blog before. Its definitely one of the most legit SEO blogs i have read. How could you stay hidden for so long 🙂 Bookmarked!

    Reply
  16. Matt @ Qubok
    Matt @ Qubok says:

    Some genuinely great ideas here, particularly when it comes to improving ALL inner pages to ensure the entire site is valuable. But it’s so damn tough to achieve, especially if your industry is not so tech savvy (i.e. it’s hard to get people tweet, it’s hard to find blogs to guest post on). There seems to be something a little unfair about this update, some of my blogs have improved in the rankings where others have fallen – I have yet to work out any real differences between them however, which just makes me suspicious of how GOOD this updated has been implemented…

    Reply
  17. Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2
    Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2 says:

    I appreciate the part about integrating the blog into your main site! And even more I liked the core principles at the end. Now, to quit being lazy and learn how to do all of this stuff on my own so I don’t have to rely on someone else to do it for me or I don’t get the glazed over, deer in the headlights look on my face when someone’s really getting all geek with this stuff. 🙂

    Reply
  18. stevenpapas@MicfoDiscount
    stevenpapas@MicfoDiscount says:

    Jason, you rule man! That’s the most completed post Panda SEO guide I’ve read. I am building my new blog now and I really have to follow these tips one by one. I see that I ‘ve made mistakes in my old blog and I started fixing some faults. I also used Google’s webmaster tool to search for errors in that blog. Too many! I will have to fix them now. Anyway, thanks a lot dude.

    Reply
  19. Amy
    Amy says:

    One of my sites is affected by google panda update, maybe from my old posts when the blog is just starting. Googling how to regain serps rank pointed me to this great posts. I actually took some notes and will apply these suggestions

    Reply
  20. Valerie
    Valerie says:

    Hey Kaiserthesage this is the type of article I have been looking for I write SEO content for people and I have been curious to the changes that Google has put into effect. This will help me when I am writing new web pages for my customers!! Thanks!!

    Reply
  21. eugene
    eugene says:

    Guys have you read this:
    In the Wired.com Q&A with Amit Singhal
    and Matt Cutts, the Google reps revealed
    that they told their “outside testers” or
    raters to ask themselves questions like this:

    Would you be comfortable giving this site
    your credit card?
    Would you be comfortable giving medicine
    prescribed by this site to your kids?
    Do you consider this site to be
    authoritative?
    Would it be okay if this was in a
    magazine?
    Does this site have excessive ads?
    Then Amit Singhal stated, “…based on
    that, we basically formed some definition of
    what could be considered low quality.”

    This are the clues for Panda update SEO Stategy

    Reply
  22. Sid
    Sid says:

    You have some great tips, but I stopped at this point: “Track crawl errors of the site via Google Webmaster Tool and fix 404 errors by employing 301 redirects.” — Can you enlighten me why would one do this?

    As far as I remember, Matt said that is it better to have 404 as 404 pages, and webmasters shouldn’t direct them to any page; instead, make the 404 error pages useful by adding navigational link.

    I hope I could hear something promising from your side…

    Reply
  23. Andrew Walker
    Andrew Walker says:

    Kaiserthesage,

    I think the only way is just concentrating on the quality of the contents. The maintenance of good quality backlink is also important. Thanks for sharing. I extremely appreciate it. Keep up the spirit!

    Reply
  24. kaye
    kaye says:

    These signals are basically retrieved from popular social networks such as Facebook, now a days facebook getting bad even small kids are learning about facebook and its not good coz kids dont know about privacy…

    Reply
  25. Colin
    Colin says:

    Hello Kaiserthesage,
    What you have written is a great guide to internet marketing as a whole but until we start to see results after G has run Panda again then all this has to be guess work. For me the real issue comes when you have to think is it just better to start a new site rather than be in the same position in 12 months time.

    So you do all the obvious things in the hope that you will get a reprieve some time in the future and then start to work on your insurance policy – a new site from scratch.

    Reply
  26. MMJ@Internet Marketing Blog
    MMJ@Internet Marketing Blog says:

    I just tried some of these ideas (specifically using robots.txt to disallow my unfinished pages…) on a site that had severe Google ranking drops and it seems to have worked… quite quickly too.

    In the past I’ve always created blank pages .. sort of placeholder pages to get them “aged” in Google.. now I’m not going to do that anymore. I am only going to put a page up when it’s got unique content on it.

    Reply
  27. Rose
    Rose says:

    I Tried many ideas from so many website but still got nothing . google panda kick my website from search engines now there is any other way to save your website ? and also google panda drop ranking these sites who have duplicate content . i have many website . News blogs , Gossips , Mobile blogs .. but all website working fine but my only one website is affected from Google Panda . Its really so pain full me i worked very hard on my websites and google kick out them in a hour …

    Reply
  28. Daan
    Daan says:

    I think that panda was a good move by Google. Everyone was spamming like crazy on sites like squidoo and mixx. This is over now. I think we should all go with quality content. The only think is that it is difficult to determine what is quality. If I have a site about housecleaning for people with down syndrome the quality is much lower than other sites. And i also think that Google should devaluate the wikipedia pages.

    Reply
  29. Noel Addison
    Noel Addison says:

    I’ve always thought of the Internet as a level playing field where smaller companies can compete with larger ones with huge financial resources. With plenty of these large sites having been taken down a peg or two, I think it is better in the long run for SMEs.

    Reply
  30. Mara
    Mara says:

    Thank you for the very specific and detailed post. My website has definitely been bitten by Panda and I’ve been doing a lot of research and hard work to regain my traffic, which is particularly difficult because I’m a children’s clothing designer, not an SEO pro. But your post was very informative and I’m going to follow your instructions carefully.

    Reply
  31. Shadab
    Shadab says:

    I really appreciate your work. You have listed mostly importing things for those who are affected by Panda. I follow your points and lets re-comment here for our result.

    Reply
  32. Tina Tina
    Tina Tina says:

    If someone was not commanding 80% of search market these updates wont matter. People would move on and do something else. There are no laws on the Internet if you are a complete Monopoly, it is still like Wild Wild West.

    Meanwhile Congress and FTC people are asleep at the wheel and the carnage and misery continues at the hands of a single landowner.

    Reply
  33. Tina Tina
    Tina Tina says:

    The amazing thing is no one raises a voice when they are punished by some unknown metrics by some Gigantic Monopoly.

    If your Utility company cut off 80 percent of your heating or power would you sit there and sulk in isolation? The worst thing would be you don’t even know how you can get back your heat and power.

    One more thing about this article. Its so complex that very few people and endure that kind of effort to bring back their sites. Some of the stuff can be implemented but lots of too deep.

    Reply
  34. John Slocum
    John Slocum says:

    I have a question about the last sentence in your first paragraph with respect to the “dormant behavior of users once on a page.” For the bulk of my real estate site I must iframe in the data feed from the company providing the home listings and map searches. My users can be on a single page for a long time interacting with the iframe portion only. Will the Panda update now be penalizing my site (or, not giving me reasonable credit) for this configuration (this is a common configuration in the real estate industry)? Thanks!

    Reply
  35. Donah Zetlos
    Donah Zetlos says:

    I’ve read the latest Google updates and they are suffering to 40 changes. Well, the changes are focused on on-site optimization and the importance of CONTENT. Google will love fresh and unique content, thus to rank up on SE, content is still the Key.

    Reply
  36. eeZ
    eeZ says:

    My forum site also got affected. Before this we are PR 3 forum. Then after this update, it’s decreased to PR 1. 🙁 I think maybe because our forum articles almost same with other blog/forum articles.

    Reply
  37. Nick Eubanks
    Nick Eubanks says:

    Hey Jason – Thanks for the post, lots of really helpful and actionable information in here. I wanted to see if you’ve done any specific testing with any of your sites? Specifically I was able to have my personal blog ‘hit’ for over optimization (not on purpose the first time) make some changes to external inbound links, recover, and then intentionally get the site hit again to gain some insight into the potential threshold for over optimization… I would love to get you input if you’re interested, you can check out the test here: http://www.seomoz.org/ugc/recovering-from-the-penguin-update-a-true-story Cheers!

    Reply
  38. Delila@anuncios clasificados gratis
    Delila@anuncios clasificados gratis says:

    It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this outstanding blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for
    book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.

    I look forward to fresh updates and will share this
    website with my Facebook group. Chat soon!

    Reply
  39. Kari@juice recipes
    Kari@juice recipes says:

    Hello, Neat post. There’s a problem together with your site in web explorer, might test this? IE nonetheless is the marketplace leader and a big component of other people will leave out your excellent writing due to this problem.

    Reply
  40. Abhijit Gupta
    Abhijit Gupta says:

    Your blog is playing a very important part to overcome my mistakes. I agree with you, new Google panda update help me to find good ranking. Now my website having good organic traffic.

    Reply
  41. shafique
    shafique says:

    Nice Post Google policies has changed a lot which has effected search ranking of many websites.

    You provide a good tutorial how to overcome these problems.

    Thanks

    Reply

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  1. […] 1. 20 SEO Strategies for Sites Affected By Google Panda – Google Panda update was a hard slap for many bloggers. If you are among those who got the Panda slap then this is a must read post for you. Jason Acidre lists 20 SEO strategies to fight your way back to the top. […]

  2. […] How to Regain Search Rankings After Google Panda Update | Kaiserthesage The Google Panda Update – sounds harmless, but it’s not. It has recently slapped a lot of huge sites and even the trusted/reputable ones (globally) off the Google’s search result pages. Source: kaiserthesage.com […]

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