How I Recovered From The Google Panda Update

The initial Google Panda update hit at the end of February and it took out tons of websites. Luckily, my websites escaped unscathed, and I breathed a huge sign of relief.

Unfortunately, this was just the first of many Google Panda updates. In April, when Panda Update 2.0 struck, I was not so lucky. One of my most profitable sites got hit hard, which put a big dent in my earnings.

Which was surprising, since it was an aged site, with all unique and quality content. Plus, it had good user engagement with lots of real, blog comments.

Take a look my Clicky traffic stats from that time period:
"Google

April 10th: 508 visitors
April 11th: 181 visitors
April 12th: 69 visitors

Basically, I had just lost 86% of my traffic overnight. The site was earning around $200-$250 a day so it really hurt to lose a good chunk of this income. I was still ranked decently for quite a few of my keywords. It was just that the keywords that were driving the majority of traffic to my site had dropped out of the top 100 completely.

I did a variety of things to attempt to recover from the loss. I started added new content to the site, I removed my Google Adsense Ads, and I tried fixing broken links on the site.

And it worked…kind of. My four highest traffic keywords had returned to their original rankings, and traffic increased accordingly. (Note: I now attribute most of this to the newly added content as I later put back my Adsense ads with no negative effect)

"Google

Unfortunately, my two most important money keywords did not return. So while my traffic was almost back to normal, my earnings from the site were still way lower than before.

I went into link building mode and built hundreds of additional backlinks for these keywords, but nothing seemed to help. After a couple of weeks, these two keywords continued to remain outside of the Top 100 search results.

I felt defeated by Google Panda, and I pretty much gave up. Why keep building backlinks if I wasn’t seeing any results?

Here were my rankings for keyword 1 from January till the beginning of August. My rankings for this keyword ranged from a high of #4 to a low of #12 before dropping out of the top 100. You’ll notice that it did randomly return for a week or so before it dropped off again for good.

Google Panda Update Keyword 1 Rankings Pre-Panda

And here were the rankings for keyword 2 from the same time period. For this keyword, my rankings ranged from #5 to #15 before disappearing.

Google Panda Update Keyword 2 Rankings Pre-Panda

Panda Update Recovery

Fast forward to a month ago, when I decided to rekindle my efforts and try to get these two keywords ranking again. I did some research on some other Google Panda articles to see if there were any Panda update recovery strategies I could try. One common theme that I got from my research was that Google was placing an increasing emphasis on ranking quality content.

Of course, the term quality content is pretty subjective. But Google did publish their guidelines awhile back on building high quality sites. So I took some notes from this article, and started evaluating of my own content.

If you look at the two pages that I was trying to rank for, they were pretty decent quality wise. Both were review articles about major brands in my niche’s space. Each had around 500 words of original content and written by a native English speaker.

But, there was definitely room for improvement.

First I started with keyword 1. I went back and revised my review article and updated it to be more current. This resulted in the addition of a couple of new paragraphs to the article and bumped up the word count to 750 words or so. I’m not talking about fluff content to pad my word count either, but good high quality work that added value to my review.

In addition, I added 3-4 screenshots to my review, while also making sure to include my keyword in the ALT tag of each image. Adding these extra images really helped I think. Not only does Google love content like images (and video), but your readers will as well. Win-win, right?

Lastly, I spent a couple of days doing some link building to my new, improved content.

And guess what? Just 2 weeks later, my rankings for keyword 1 reappeared.

Google Panda Update Keyword 1 Rankings Post-Panda

With the added confidence that I might be on to something, I repeated the same process for keyword 2 and improved the quality of the second review article as well. This time I saw results even faster as it took only 3 days for my rankings to reappear after my changes.

Google Panda Update Keyword 2 Rankings Post-Panda

After more than 3 months out of the top 100, both keywords are now back in top 20. So far the rankings have held steady for now, so I’m reasonably confident at this point they are back to stay. And most importantly, my income from these keywords has returned as well.

Final Thoughts

While it’s hard to draw conclusions from a small sample size like this, I hope you guys got some value out of this case study. Personally, I’m very excited with these results I got, and it’s great to know that it is possible to recover from the Google Panda update.

In this post Panda world, quality content does matter. Combine solid link building strategies with good quality content and I’m convinced that your rankings will start to improve.

What do you think of my results? Please leave your comments below.

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Comments

  1. says

    That’s an amazing case study you’ve shared with us Chris! I had a similar experience where one of my high ranking posts disappeared from Google after Google Panda update hit. I’ve been searching for a long time for a “solution”, but yours is the first post I’ve found that gives me some hope that my rankings can come back.

    I’m going do some revisions to my post like you suggested and see how it goes. Wish me luck!

    • Chris says

      That’s great Kinley. Let us know how it goes. I don’t know which specific post of yours dropped out, but taking a quick look at your site, I would definitely try adding some more images to your content. And maybe even some videos if you can. I think that will help quite a bit.

  2. says

    Great post. I try to simply evaluate the content for the current top few listings on Google for the keyword I’m targeting, and then simply improve on that. Content quality is relative to the competition, so not all content has to be stellar to rank well. So if the top listings don’t have images or video, then it’s probably not necessary. Maybe your post assumes this, but a LOT of people don’t realize this simple fact.

    • Chris says

      Good point Liz! The two keywords in the post I’m talking about though are highly competitive. Which might of been the reason why they were specifically affected by the Panda update in the first place, while the countless other keywords I rank for were not.

  3. says

    I think it’s important to note that Google sets a certain crawl schedule (up to 30 days) for sites that you really have no control over. It may be days or weeks before positive changes you might have made get noticed. Link-building and pinging and whatnot doesn’t seem to ‘force’ a recrawl, regardless.

    Best not to over-work or over-think things during the crawl lag. Move onto other content, improve and beef it up – so that when Google does come around again it has more to work with and gets a sense of ‘freshness’ about your content.

    • Chris says

      Hi Glenn. Good point, but this is an aged, reputable site and new content that I post to it gets crawled in minutes usually.

  4. says

    Very interesting! I’m writing a post just now about some of my best-ranking content and “more content” as well as “add images” are on my list of recommendations as well. :)

    I also have a suspicion that if the Google-bot sees additional content being added between two visits, that also helps. Congrats on getting your rankings back!

    • Chris says

      Hey Shane! I was also going to add a video to my post as well to see if would help. But my rankings came back before I finished creating it.

      But since I know you do a lot of video content, I was wondering if you had some opinion on whether that would provide a good boost as well?

  5. says

    hi Chris,

    Brilliant Google Panda case study there. Being a newbie your sharing is valuable to me.

    I also have the same question there about boosting your ranking by using video content as opposed to quality written content? Can the bot see and assess these videos? Opinions anyone?

    Susie

    • Chris says

      Hi Susie. Although I haven’t done extensive testing with video yet, my gut feeling is that adding video content will help your rankings. I’ve noticed more and more that Google is often showing videos in the search results when it can. Plus, it differentiates your content from the crowd and there’s not as much competition so I would definitely add video to your content if you can.

  6. says

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for sharing. My site also got hit in the May Google Panda update after I got greedy and added 100k thin content pages….yes in hindsight it is idiotic, but I kind of wanted to see if I can get away with it, and guess what – I got hit, and can’t recover.

    I am currently de-indexing a bunch of the pages, and have been adding new content. But my site has not come back. :( I am not sure what to do. I added lots of new, good content, and I am de-indexing the old bad pages. But still no recovery. Any ideas on what else to possibly do?

    • Chris says

      Hi Alex. Is that 100k of auto generated and perhaps duplicate content? And how are you de-indexing your pages? I would definitely get rid of all the thin content as soon as you can. Other than that, I would try and beef up your new content with maybe some more images, and possibly even videos.

  7. says

    Chris,

    Thanks for sharing genuine ideas unlike many others who just share for the heck of it. I’m into this “Content is the king” thing, and we all know good content — not made for Search but for readers — is what the loyal Google bots are after.

    My website, usually covering tech news, happen to be affected by Panda. As it goes, I have done a couple of changes to the content and things are picking up. However, one thing I never tried was to add images and videos to the older posts that were once ranking pretty high. I might give this a try.

    Also, I am assuming you are using a plugin to display “Incoming search terms.” Have you implemented this to your Panda-affected website? I’m curiously looking forward to hear your say. :)

    • Chris says

      Hi Sid, Yeah, I’m using SEO SearchTerms Tagging 2 plugin on this blog. However on the blog I’m referring to in this post, I am not using this plugin, although I do think it helps your on page SEO a bit.

  8. says

    Chris, thank you so much for your information, it a thread of hope for those who were affected by Google. Although I am biased by being affected, Panda didn’t show much improvement overall, I am just seeing more niche blogs and sites showing upfront instead of big sites.

    Could you share with us the site or tool you use to track you rank in Google? Thanks!

    • Chris says

      Hi Felipe,

      Sorry to hear you were affected by the Google panda update too. It definitely hurts.

      In regards to your question, I’m using the app Rank Tracker to track my keyword rankings. I like it quite a bit and it works very well.

  9. says

    Hey Chris,

    Awesome update. I stumbled across your blog from a comment you made on Ana’s site. I know quite a few people really took a smacking after Google Panda. I agree you are definitely on to something with the content. Google has made it very clear that they are about user experience. Thinks like page speed, quality of information, natural backlinks, social media shares etc are the future of Google. Marketers can either embrace and adjust accordingly or get left in the dust.

    • Chris says

      No doubt! One aspect of being a successful marketer is the ability to adjust to the constant change. The Google Panda update is just another one of those things we have to adapt to.

  10. says

    This is useful information. I have some Swedish sites and Google Panda is here now.

    It just dropped a few of my sites, but gained on others. There’s no logic here in Seden at the moment.

    Big quality sites are loosing traffic and small MFA sites are gaining…

  11. says

    Many thanks for sharing. We’ll try to add more quality content to our pages to recover from the Google Panda Update… If our firm don’t die before. We have no more money to pay employees.

  12. says

    Thanks for sharing. So you mean that you have just added 250 words to your original pandalized page and some backlinks and you recovered from Google Panda ?

    I have rewrited 100% of my articles, with two more words, more BL, more external links, … and it did nothing :(

    • Chris says

      Well besides making my content better and longer, I also added some additional images to my post as well. Try doing that too (or adding video) to your articles to see if that helps.

  13. says

    Hi thanks for sharing information with me. Recently i was hit by this Google Panda.
    Kindly take a look at my websites and tell me what to do.
    i cant change or increase the content of every post as there are hundreds of posts.

    My articles are unique but i use images from google search. Is there any impact due to usage of these images?

    • Chris says

      Hi Jibran,

      Well, it’s hard to say without knowing what kind of keywords you are trying to rank for and what kind of link building you are doing. Are you trying to rank each individual post for certain keywords? The one thing I notice is that your posts are pretty short, around ~250 words. I usually have better luck with longer posts > 500 words.

      Also, I doubt using images from Google search will affect your rankings. Though you may run into issues from people who own the copyrights to those images if they happen to find your site.

  14. says

    Chris, is there any in depth study from a group of websites that have recovered? That is, yours is an example of one site that did well?

    Further, do you think having tag pages hurts a website in terms of duplicate content? or do they help with search engines find deeper pages, a kind of a site map if you will?

    • Chris says

      Hi Adam,

      I’m not aware of any. I only had this one site affected by Google Panda so that is what this post is based on.

      Personally, I don’t like to have my tag pages indexed so I like to no-index them. To help Google crawl my pages I just use a regular sitemap.

  15. says

    Very nice case study.. I have been also suffering from Google panda update.I will create some quality content to get back my lost reputation in google ranking.

    Thanks

  16. says

    I’m happy to have stumbled on to your website. I myself have experienced the same thing recently. I was not sure if it’s considered a Google Panda issue or a Google Dance which I had read about also. For about 9 or so months my website was at the #1 spot on page 1 in google for the keyword. But most likely I was in the number one spot for other keywords too as I was getting tons of sales but since the middle of September I’ve fallen down to page 5 – 7 for my main keywords as well as other keywords. I keep fluctuating back and forth from page 5 – 7.
    Here’s the other thing. I have two sites very similar different url but same keyword. Now the second less seo optimized site is up on top but that site is not making as much money as the previous site that has now fallen down to page 5 – 7.

    My question is would you focus on bringing back the site that has fallen to pages 5 – 7 or focus on making the site that is the number 1 spot more optimized for keywords?

    I have a feeling that the reason why my big site that fell has too many similar pages. Otherwise it wouldn’t have fallen and my other site that’s now at the number one spot would have fallen too plus my competitors who are trailing right behind me and nothing has been affected with them either.

    So if it’s a matter of finessing the good site and bringing it back I might be able to do it but I just don’t know what I might have to remove, rewrite etc etc. Is there anywhere I can get advice? Any help with this situation would be appreciated. I’m pretty new at this seo stuff and I was fortunate enough to end up at the number spot for so long and now I’m off of there. Help please!

    btw the site here I commented with is not the affected site. Thanks in advance.

    • Chris says

      Hi Sebastian,

      If you were in the #1 spot and making sales, then I would definitely concentrate on getting back there for your keyword. If you have a lot of duplicate content on your site, definitely try to get rid of that. And keep building links and if possible, upgrade your content as well. It’s hard to give specific advice though without actually seeing your site.

    • says

      Hi Chris thank you for the reply. Is there anywhere I can send you the link privately? I prefer to not do it publicly if that makes sense at all? If not no worries I’ll take your advice and try some.

  17. says

    Chris,

    I was going to suggest you do a post to specifically target that Google Panda update recovery phrase. But, then I checked and this post is ranking pretty well for that. So, I guess you don’t need to. I agree that longer posts work better. I have told others that in the past, but they still argue that you shouldn’t write posts over 300 words. They claim your readers don’t like that. I think readers do like it though. If they are actually interested in reading what you are writing about then 800 or even a thousand words is nothing.

    • Chris says

      I actually think it’s ok to mix and match short posts and long posts together. As long as you’re writing quality content, you should be fine really.

  18. says

    Chris, I’m enjoying the case studies you’ve been doing.

    Things often need to be broken down, tested and then analyzed in order to see what needs to be done to get back on the right track. You are doing an excellent job of that. And an excellent job of sharing it with the rest of us. Thx!

    I’ve found – for me anyway – that my longer posts, with images and video sprinkled in, do seem to be the best ranking posts on my sites.

    • Chris says

      Thanks Eric. Glad to hear you’re able to confirm some of my experiences with your own as well.

  19. says

    I was curious as to how well your sites have fared since the latest October 13th Google Panda Release 2.52. The wrath seems to be continuing in spite of tweaks to offset the big G’s search and destroy missions.

    • Chris says

      Hey Jim. The latest Panda update didn’t affect the site I talked about in this post. But it did affect one of my other sites a little bit. I noticed a bunch of keywords I was ranking for on the first page for a long time, suddenly dropped about 10 positions or so to the 2nd page.

  20. JoeM says

    Chris,

    Very nice post and good information on Panda recovery. I too had several sites get hit by the Oct. 13 update where the sites dropped from top of page 1 to bottom of page 1 or page 2.

    Have you done any adjustment for your site that got affected and have you seen any improvements in the SERPs? Have you implemented the same strategy you have talked about In this post to the recent Panda update that affected your site?

    Any insight would be very helpful?

    • Chris says

      Hi Joe,

      I have not made any adjustments yet. That’s because for this new site that got hit, the keywords that were affected targeted my homepage. So making the same types of changes to the current homepage layout is not as easy as if it were an individual post. So right now, i’m just monitoring what’s happening to my rankings and seeing if they’ll return on their own with some additional link building.

  21. says

    Wow, you’ve done a great job. Fantastic case study, congratulations! Google Panda is a great thing but negatively affected a lot of people. I am too a ‘victim’ of Google Panda’s update but I managed to fix it up. Thanks for sharing!

  22. says

    Thank you so much for your helpful tips, it a thread of hope for those who were affected by Google Panda. Although I am biased by being affected, Panda didn’t show much improvement overall. Hope this tips can help me get back my traffic.

    • Chris says

      Nice to hear from you DJ Trinity. Definitely let us know if you are able to recover from Google Panda.

  23. says

    My blog traffic dropped 50% since 18th Nov and I am sick and tired since this sets me back 5 months of blog work. I am disappointed and upset. I am glad though you found your way back on the right track.

  24. says

    This Google Panda stuff is causing a lot of stress for many website owners who have good quality websites. I have one particular site that has had a drop in traffic from 600+ a day to less than 100 and a drastic cut in income as a result. I could understand if it was full of poor quality articles and was new but it’s an aged domain which has 200 pages of good content!

    My main keyword (in the domain name) has dropped from#1 to nowhere and this has been so for at least a month. It is all very frustrating to see poorer quality sites ranking above mine for my main keywords. I have added some new articles and checked the onsite SEO. plus I am in the process of getting more backlinks so I will have to wait and see what happens. Ok, rant over, just needed to vent a little ;-)

  25. says

    Chris, great great stuff you have here. I really like your blog. It’s nice to see you recovered from Panda. What I do to get around this is develope a solid backlink program. In fact I get more traffic from links then I do Google. This way Google will never put me out of business.

    But I really enjoyed your article and will become a regular reader of your blog.

    • Chris says

      Thanks for stopping by Todd and I appreciate the kind words.

      What kind of backlink program are you using? Guest posting?

  26. says

    Chris,

    I always keep quality and traffic in mind. So, yes guest posting is one idea. It’s just a matter of knowing where to link and where to place the link and how to get it. It takes work, I am not going to lie. But it works and you get good traffic also. I’ll give you an example if you like.

  27. says

    This once happened with a site of mine years ago and I got completely demotivated by it. I was around 1000 visits / day which then dropped to 200…My site got sandboxed even though I didn’t do anything black hat or other. Until today I don’t know why this happened. Kudos to you for still being motivated to try and fight back!

    Btw, what charts or what software creates you a chart with the keyword rankings?

  28. says

    Ahh the cruel and fickle Panda (tis a nasty creature!). I am new to all this, so I am finding reading the history and comments pertaining to all this very useful and informative. Thanks!

  29. says

    I also have almost the same issue. My blog only gets around 200-300 visitors daily down from around 1k before Sept 2011. I have tried to fight back by adding more contents but it seems not too helpful. Right now I post regularly with adding more words on each post and add more backlinks.. Any suggestions?

  30. says

    Hey Chris,

    Great case study on a Panda hit website. I do agree that quality is becoming an increasingly important criteria for good rankings. But I do have something that has been bothering me a bit and that is why are keywords for some of my sites going up and down the rankings. It stays on Page 1 for a few days and then disappears for a week and then it repeats the same thing over and over again for all my top 3 keywords that I am trying to rank.

  31. says

    Hi Chris,

    The future of website marketing might just be pricing the little guy right out of the running for organic search. With the way search is changing, mostly pertaining to Google, I think what we’ll see is business owners drawing a line and opting for PPC over organic.

  32. says

    Very interesting, but you’re right that the sample size is too small to draw any meaningful conclusions from it. Definitely something for Panda sufferers to give a shot though – especially the addition of images which is easy and quick. Do you have any links to other Panda escape case studies?

  33. says

    It’s great that you finally know how to recover after the latest Google Panda update. High quality and original content and proper on-page SEO placement are two of the best reasons that your game is still safe with Google.

    Cheers!

    Dan Lew

  34. says

    Thanks for the great tips on how to recover from the Panda. I had one of my main sites get hit during the October update. I have been reworking the site some and have slowly seen an increase in traffic. I am going to follow some of the tips you have listed here, as well.

  35. says

    Thanks for sharing in so much detail about how you went about dealing with the Panda update. I am going to use some of your advice myself, starting with fixing broken links and adding more content to my sites.

    -Jean

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