The last few weeks have been a little tough for Digital Inspiration as the site got caught in the battle between Google and content farms against low-quality content. As a result, the site witnessed a massive decline in organic traffic coming from Google starting February 24th, the day when the Farmer (Panda) update went live in Google US.
Since the immediate reaction was that the site may have been incorrectly penalized, I did a reconsideration request with Google. Over time, it became clear that a reconsideration request may not work in this case as it was not a site-specific penalty but an algorithmic change affecting a large number of sites. Google must have included new signals in their search algorithms to determine ‘low-quality’ content and those may have triggered the drop.
Web search forums and search blogs (see the SEO category under recommended websites) have since been abuzz with advice on what webmasters may do to pull their sites out of the Panda change. There’s a general consensus that even if majority of your site has original and useful content, pages that are not so useful may impact the trust level of the entire site.
I have therefore made a few changes to my site this month. These include:
#1. I have added a NOINDEX, FOLLOW meta tag to all the tags and category pages except the first ones. For instance, the first page of the Google Docs tag doesn’t have the NOINDEX meta tag but you can find it on the second page of that same tag.
#2. When I moved to Blogger to WordPress some four years ago, I was not very clear of the ‘tagging’ concept and created several useless tags in the process. I have deleted all these tags now and the clean-up continues. Tags add new pages to your blog that aren’t any useful to the reader.
#3. I have used the excellent Xenu tool to discover and fix of all the broken links as well as the 404 pages on this site. If there were 404 links that I cannot fix, like if an external site is linking to a page that doesn’t exist, I used redirection if possible.
#4. I have also made certain changes to my robots.txt file to prevent Google from indexing content like WordPress files, themes and other machine-generated stuff that’s part of the blogging platform.
#5. My Google Webmaster Tools dashboard had certain HTML Suggestions for pages with short meta descriptions or duplicate title tags. I have fixed them as well.
What I didn’t do? Some sites suggested that having too many ads above the fold may be a factor in Panda but after discussing this with the right people, I decided against altering the layout of ad units for now.
Also, I am not too worried of site scrapers since all posts in my RSS Feed links back to the original post and thus Google should have little trouble determining the original source.
I am not sure if any of the above changes have helped, or if Google has pushed new updates to the Panda algorithm, but I do see an improvement in traffic coming from Google (US).
The organic traffic plummeted after February 24th but it again picked up after March 10th. See this detailed Google Analytics chart for the exact traffic pattern. This has been consistent for almost a week now.
As you may have noticed, there isn’t much that I have done those small changes mentioned above might have helped. If you think your website has high-quality and original content but is still affected by the Farmer /Panda update, the best option is that you go back to the drawing board, look at your site structure carefully and do some clean-up. As Google’s Wysz remarked:
If you believe you’ve been impacted by this change you should evaluate all the content on your site and do your best to improve the overall quality of the pages on your domain. Removing low quality pages or moving them to a different domain could help your rankings for the higher quality content.
I also recommend these well-researched posts from Vanessa Fox, Rand Fishkin, Danny Sullivan and Barry Schwartz for advice on what you do to regain your lost Google Search rankings because of the Panda change.
Should you have any questions or comments, please share in this Facebook thread.