Google Panda Update Recovery

Many websites that depend on Google for an income saw their traffic cut by anywhere from 20 to 80 percent when Google's Panda algorithm update rolled out in February. Now there are reports that at least two websites have finally started to see more search traffic and higher Google rankings. How did they do it?

Google's Panda Update Revisited

Google Panda Update Logo

The arrival of a then-unnamed Google algorithm was officially announced Feb. 25, with the goal of lowering rankings for "low-quality sites" and affecting 11.8 percent of Google's queries. Despite widespread hype that this would eliminate high rankings for content farms, this update, later revealed to be code-named Panda, mainly hit article sites, blogs, online retailers, and health sites.

Google rolled out a second wave of Panda for all English Google users while adding user signals in the form of sites blocked by Google users and causing big upheavals to rankings in the UK, where price comparison sites were especially hard hit.

Earlier this month there was also much speculation about another Panda aftershock, which seems to be have become dubbed Google 2.1.

Google's has offered little advice beyond removing low-quality content and listing 23 questions you should ask yourself if your rankings dropped. There have been few reports of websites that were hammered by Google finally reporting positive news until this week.

Case 1: Furniture E-tailer

When Google hit the button on Panda, several of the rankings of sites linking to OneWayFurniture.com were suddenly downgraded, dragging down OneWayFurniture.com in the process. This is something SEW contributor Josh McCoy also found in the early days of Panda and wrote about in "The Slippery Slope of SEO."

Another contributing factor was that the site used manufacturer-supplied descriptions with little original content.

The company's founder and CEO told Internet Retailer about three big changes:

  • Firing one SEO firm and hiring another company to acquire backlinks. We now know that low quality links can hurt your rankings.
  • Hiring four copywriters to write original, SEO-friendly product descriptions. Websites must decide what keywords they want to rank for, and write copy around those keywords that is unique, topic-focused, well-written, and checked for spelling and grammar.
  • Restructuring bloated pages to increase page load speed. Google has been preaching about making the web faster for two years, most recently in April releasing Page Speed Online.

After making their site better for users and Google, OneWayFurniture.com still isn't reporting a full recovery, but it is now seeing higher organic rankings and search referrals of late - and we've documented the value of ranking on Page 1 Google.

Case 2: Discussion Community

We're previously reported on the fall of DaniWeb.com. When the Panda Update rolled out, DaniWeb's U.S. traffic was cut in half, a drop of about a million visits per day and begged for help on Google's Webmaster Central.

Finally, Dani Horowitz has declared a recovery. Sort of. This chart shows a slight uptick in traffic:

DaniWeb Traffic

Among the changes made to the website:

  • Duplicate content has been removed.
  • Using the canonical tag to return one preferred URL location (e.g.,www.example.com vs. example.com/ vs. www.example.com/index.html vs. example.com/home.asp.
  • Making "better use" of 301 redirects (moved permanently).
  • Adding noindex meta tags to SERP-like pages and tag clouds.
  • Improving page load times (just like OneWayFurniture.com).

She also suspects a lack of quality backlinks combined with scraping issues contributed to the traffic hit.

In her post, she also notes that it's possible one of the dozen algorithmic adjustments Google has made since Panda could have contributed to the recovery.

If you were hit by Panda, what have you done to try and recover your rankings/traffic? Let us know in the comments.