If your organic traffic hit a dive once or repeatedly in the last couple of years, your site might have been hit by Panda.
Panda is an update to Google algorithm. First Panda update was released in February 2011. The purpose of the update was to devalue sites with little content or a lot of advertising. As a result, many sites dropped in ranking and experienced drop in traffic. There were several Panda updates since then.
The main thing about Panda is that you can see the problems when you look at the page. What we are trying to do is find those pages quickly to look at them and improve.
Did Panda update affected my website?
First, it is important to diagnose why your traffic took a hit.
Go to Analytics and look at your organic traffic for 2 years. Find the dips. Record the dates. Compare the dips to the known Panda updates.
If your organic traffic graph looks like this after one of the updates, Panda might have marked your website.
Still not sure? Here is a very detailed description of how to find out if you were hit by Panda.
Google has not set Panda off to clean up the Internet all alone. There have been several Penguin updates as well. Learn the difference and find out if you were hit by Penguin or Panda.
Once you determined that your site had been affected by a Panda update, not all is lost. Panda is algorithmic. It runs every so often and if the problems get corrected, your ranking and traffic will improve.
How do I correct the problems?
Your first step in correcting the situation will be to march straight to your analytics software of choice. Mine is Google Analytics and I will be using it in this post.
1. Landing pages. Discover landing pages that were hit by Panda. In Google Analytics, Go to Content -> Landing Pages. Segment by Non-paid SEO traffic.
Remember that list of dates with traffic dips? You will be using it now. In the date range in Google Analytics, set the start date as the first day of the dip. Set the end date right before the up trend in traffic. If the traffic has not recovered, set the end date as a month out from start date.
Click "compare to previous period". Sort by Absolute Change.
Look at numbers for landing pages – difference in visits, difference in new visitors.
2. Keywords. Click on one of the landing pages and add second dimension – keyword.
Sort by Absolute Change. Ignore 'non-provided' and look at your main keywords. If they dipped, start changing your content to be more relevant to those keywords.
If you see decrease in your brand keywords – consider an SEO audit – you might have bigger problems.
Action list. Now that you have your list of affected pages, you can start improving them. Use the list of keywords as a relevance guide. Re-write the content of the pages to be more relevant to the topic. Most importantly, be helpful to the searcher. Learn what their intent is when they search for the keyword you are targeting. Meet their expectations and interest with your page.
What to do to avoid getting hit?
Panda is all about promoting quality. It was implemented to improve user experience. Google is striving to show only relevant and high quality results for the searcher. If your site is compelling, informative, and relevant to the searcher's query, you won't need to worry about future Panda updates.
1. Content. Create quality content. Each page on your website should be good enough to rank for something. It should be unique and highly relevant to some topic, to major content category on your website. There should be text, not just media. Don't make these 5 content mistakes.
2. Links. There should be appropriate number of links on your page – less than 150, for sure. My advice is to minimize your footer and navigation links. Get an SEO audit done with focus on site architecture. Get rid of the maze, improve usability.
3. Ads. Reconsider ads on your pages. Make them less annoying. Check your stats. If people do not click on your ads, change their location. By re-arranging your pages you might help usability and your revenue.
Do you think your website was hit by Panda? Did you recover?
If you liked this post, you might also enjoy How to Recover After the Google Panda and Penguin Update?
As Director of Search for Milestone Internet Marketing, I am leading the SEO and analytics teams providing strategy and overseeing processes. I facilitate and carry out training and testing latest strategies to improve conversion and revenue.