How to Survive Google’s Random Acts of Kindness

Panda-lized and Penguin-whipped by Google? Again!?

It has been an unprecedentedly wild year, with Google’s Panda and Penguin updates slicing and dicing hundreds of thousands of websites left and right. In fact, in the last few weeks alone, we have witnessed a major Panda refresh, along with a new EMD update aimed at filtering out many exact match domain name websites that were guilty of being “low quality” in the eyes of Google. And, as icing on a cake, there was also a baby Penguin-is-back update, which has further instilled a sense of terror into the battle-weary hearts and minds of many webmasters and SEOs.

Google panda and penguin updates

It seems that Google has adopted a blatant “Take No Prisoners” mentality in regards to its organic search results filtering, and with a promise of a major Penguin update still looming on the horizon it does not look like things are about to change any time soon. In fact, the “best” is yet to come!

A will to Survive

So, what is it going to take for your website to really recover? Drastic changes and whole lot of will to survive!

Surviving Google Algorithm Updates Hopefully, you did not spend too much money for that sweet domain name that just got burned by the Google’s latest whim, but if you have, not all hope is lost. It is fairly certain that Google will periodically reevaluate all affected/penalized websites to see if they have made all the necessary changes for Google to restore them back to search glory, and clear their name off of the No Man’s Land list.

Whether you were stunned by Panda, EMD, Penguin, or by all three you will have to approach your quest for recovery and survival with patience and determination of a warrior like “Rocky”. For if your website crashed and burned really hard, it is going to take some real effort for it to see the light of day, again. But, never fear!

Recovery Plan – 10 step Google Whims Survival Manual

  1. Make a list of all the websites you own, and remove all the links pointing to the website that crashed and burned. – Removing your own links is important because it is likely that you have created a linking pattern that looks unnatural to Google.
  1. Use Google Webmaster Tools, and other sources to identify all the questionable links from external websites pointing to yours. – These include footer and sidebar links, links from low quality/Panda-lized and Penguin-whipped websites. And links that contain combinations of anchor-rich text for which your website is no longer visible (not in the top 50 in Google Search).
  1. Follow the steps outline in this link removal guide to see the change you want!
  1. Cleanse your website! Remove or improve all the thin-content and near-duplicate content pages on your website. This means improving titles and descriptions, on-page copy, adding good quality images and making your website pages more engaging, attractive, and last but not least, trustworthy!
  1. If you are running an E-commerce website that has been penalized or is under-performing, then it is likely a Google Panda Issue, for which you can find a very good recipe for recovery here.
  1. If you are running ads on your website, make sure they are not interfering with the user experience. A well-designed website offering an easy way to find important information presented in a consistent way, is far more likely to earn the readers’ trust, and result in better conversions, as well as repeat visits – a quality signal. Make sure that you do not turn your readers away with a poorly organized content, or with a less than glamorous content presentation. Such attributes will almost always result in lower time on site and higher bounce rates, something that Google surely takes into account.
  1. Build links from quality websites using branded and neutral anchors such as “click here”, “more info” naked URLs, etc. – This will help diversify your link profile and make it seem more natural to Search Engines. Your new links can come from a variety of diverse sources including high-quality brand-building guest posts,, Blogger, WordPress and many others. It is critical that you only use your absolute best original content when you build links using Web 2.0 properties, and guest posts. Why? At some point, your offsite articles may actually start ranking well, attracting links, and bringing in some well-qualified traffic. It is a great opportunity to tap into the spaces where your audience may be hanging out, and make that great 1st impression!
  1. Make a good use of videos and social media. Videos are fun to watch, and help your pages stand out. Properly optimized, embedded YouTube videos have a good potential to rank well in Google, and may even earn you some good social shares – a kind of quality metric.
  1. Offer stellar content, and people will not only notice, but also reward you with social media shares, a powerful social-proof signal. Social shares will also help expose your website to broader audiences, and could even help you garner a slew of natural, external links.
  1. Stop building links for the sake of building links! Instead, refocus on creating remarkable content and on exposing it to your audience. This is especially necessary if the content is meant to live off your website. Of course, you will be linking back to your website whenever you share your masterpieces with the world, but be sure that your link anchors are not overly-optimized. This way you can build that Google-proof, natural link profile that Search Engines will always love.

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Have Google’s Panda and Penguin gotten the best of you? Have you been successful in your recovery attempts? Please share your thoughts, your story and your experiences

3 thoughts on “How to Survive Google’s Random Acts of Kindness

  1. Ellen

    Maybe I am just not seeing it, but there is no date anywhere on your page!!! Dates are so necessary especially for time sensitive information like google updates!

  2. Mike Post author

    Great article Alex! All of these tips are very useful and will help someone in some way. Speaking of which, I’d like to share with you my story on how I brought my website out from the “pandalized abyss!” It was a long up-hill battle, however, at battle worth fighting for… So here goes nothing…

    Back in October of 2011, I experienced what many SEO’s would call an SEO Nightmare, lol.. I witnessed an overnight drop of 50% of my traffic within a blink of an eye — A crushing blow from the furry animal dubbed “PANDA!”

    Panda 2.5 on Oct 13, 2011 is the one that kick my arse and F me sideways! For any of you out there that have been affected by Panda, here’s a great resource to fall back on to find what Panda algo update affected your site and what filters might be at play when looking for clues to fix your site:
    SEOmoz Algorithm change history

    Now after I began researching into ways to fix my site, I found tons of helpful information through SEOmoz, Seachengineland, and various forums, etc.. A lot of the tips were so vague and extreme that I decided to take a calm, and cool-headed approach in evaluating my site.

    Here are some things I’ve tried before finding what my on-site issue’s were and what took me out of the Pandalized abyss..

    Please note — each fix I made to my site was done after each Panda refresh so I could track what worked. Either way, everything done to my site was much needed in some sort of way…

    1. Site speed – ripped my site a new arse and optimized the photo sizes and even incorporated a CDN for all of my files, scripts, etc..
    – This fix didn’t do solve my problem..

    2. Rewritten all of my meta descriptions and titles, keeping the keywords I’m going for intact.. Improved content on each page and de-optimizing a bit…
    — This didn’t help me recover..

    3. Fixed any canonical errors I had. Fixed bad redirects..
    — This didn’t do it for me either.

    4. Improved navigation — decreased my bounce rate with this one by 23%

    5. About to give up, lol..

    6. Improved my internal linking
    Still nothing…Arrrggggh! ##@! #@! F**k!!

    7. Began to wonder if I would ever get this fixed! It wasn’t until I started to think about the sort of plugins I was running – not many by the way… But rather, what administrative updates, plugins, etc., that I might have done in, or around the time before this update.

    After ripping through the Admin section of my wordpress CMS I remembered about a couple of months prior I switched from the “all-in-one-seo” plugin, to the “wordpress seo” plugin by Yoast — which is kick arse by the way. Being careless, I rushed through the settings and forgot to noindex, follow my post tags in my blog section of my website — a big NO NO if your tags show duplicate content from your post page! Bingo! I must have gotten whacked with a low-quality, duplicate filter I thought to myself…

    I never took the time to set up my tags properly with original content per each tag. Neither was I showing snippets of the tag, I was showing the full article of the original source and it was indexed.

    About 5 weeks after I fixed my on-site tag issues, panda strikes again with a major refresh, this time I’m doing cartwheels as I ended my long 8 month saga — traffic rose nearly rose 40% through out the week and has continued to rise 15-20% since each update — I’m Back!!! I’ve managed to get back nearly 80% of my traffic and rankings. I’m assuming the remainder of traffic was due to the fact that I was getting a decent amount of traffic from my tagged pages..

    If I could give some solid advice, it would be to test each move you make and don’t make to many changes that you cannot track, be rational. I learned a lot from being pandalized. I made a lot of good changes that I wouldn’t have done prior, so it was a good lesson to learn from. I hope this helps someone in some way.


    1. aleksandrb Post author

      Great comment Mike, thanks for sharing your experience successfully recovering from Google’s Panda penalty.

      I am sure a lot of webmasters and SEOs will find this very helpful!


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