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Recovering From a Panda Penalty

Recovering from a Google Panda penalty is challenging, but not impossible. If you are one of the numerous web site owners that have been tripped by the Google Panda algorithm,  it’s time to get your rankings and traffic back.

Since the initial release in February 2011, the Google Panda algorithm update has affected hundreds of thousands of websites around the globe. Google’s ranking algorithm penalizes low-quality sites that don’t provide valuable content to visitors it brings to the site.

Recovering your traffic can be a tricky journey, but you have to prove to the Panda algorithm that your website has good content and provides a good user experience now.

Identifying a Google Panda update became more difficult in 2013. That’s because Google has stopped confirming or announcing new Panda updates.

Google has incorporated Panda into their index process, and all future releases are gradual.

This is Matt Cutts announcement at SMX West conference, in 2013.




Its important to note that Google’s Panda update is fundamentally different from Google Penguin. 

While Google Penguin analyzes websites for off-page over optimization, Google Panda searches for issues in your content.

Google Panda targets websites with the following problems:

  • Duplicate content
  • Low quality and thin pages that provide no real value to users
  • Websites with a bad user experience
  • External links to bad websites
  • Sites with too many advertisements
  • Content farm sites
  • Poor grammar and spelling
  • Too many broken links

How to recover from a Google Panda penalty

Lets say your site has very short articles with lots of images. This is common as many mostly care about the domain, and not about the thin content their site dishes up to visitors.

The inevitable will happen. The Google Panda update will not find your site acceptable and is thrown way down in the search results with other ‘thin content’ sites.

Usually when your website owners gets penalized, they get into a denial about it being their fault, thinking this can’t happen to them because their content is great and they have done nothing wrong.

They forget that the length of their posts are on average about say 300 words, and in best cases it reached 400.

The same topic was covered too many times, making the website look like a content farm. One legal firm I helped had 63% duplicate content as several partners repurposed published articles again and again with just slight variations.

Remove low-quality content

It’s not just about what Google thinks of your content. You have to study and think about how users are engaging with your articles. 

To get a clearer idea about my content, I head to Google Analytics and sorted all your pages by their page views. Click on Behavior – Site Content – All Pages.

For all pages, look at the average time on page, bounce rate and exit rate. These three metrics can tell if readers like your content or not. Google looks at this for this very reason.

Create a spreadsheet with the worst performing posts and then remove the pages that are getting very little traffic and had thin content. You can cover the same topic again, in a more detailed combined article that would have more impact on your overall engagement and bounce rate.

You can also analyzed the number of comments and social media shares the content has received if you need confirmation on content not being engaging.

Remove articles from my website that are not providing anything new to the user. That’s one of the core aspects of what Google Panda is all about.

Its important to review the remaining content to ensure other issues, such as broken links are fixed.

Fix issues reported In Your Google Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools should be your best friend. No matter what penalty you are dealing with, it’s critical to be on top of all the errors and warning messages issued to you via GWT. 

Here you can identify broken links on your website, crawling or indexation errors, duplicate meta descriptions or titles and many other problems such as 404 errors.

Fix external links to pages removed

After fixing all the internal 404 errors and the other issues reports by Google Webmaster Tools, you still have to repair the external links pointing to removed pages.

To find all websites that were linking to the pages I removed, I used Monitor Backlinks. It would have been a pity not to contact the webmasters and ask them to change my links. This way I kept the link juice alive to my website, but this time linking to a page that was providing a lot more value.

Here’s how you can find third party websites linking to 404 and redirects page of your website.

Go to the ‘Backlinks’ page in Monitor Backlinks and click on ‘Filters. On the right side, Click on ‘Pages with errors/redirects’.

Find and remove duplicate content 

I still had a few things left to do on the content side.

CopyScape helped me find duplicate articles of my pages. This wasn’t a big problem in my case, as I only had a few duplicate paragraphs here and there.

I spent some time removing the parts that were similar to other articles from the web.

Note that plagiarism is one of the main Google Panda triggers.

Look for spelling and grammar mistakes

Google’s algorithm has evolved a lot lately, and now understands your content much better. If your content is full of grammar mistakes, expect Google to penalize you.

Restructure the page and remove ads above the fold

In the process of creating a better user experience, I removed most of the ads above the fold. I only left one advertisement, on the sidebar of the website.

Users don’t like being greeted with a lot of ads, and neither Google. I also added better menus and increased the overall user experience which lead to better average time on website per visitor.

Remove external links to low quality or penalized websites

Who you link to, is extremely important. Your website can lose rankings and reputation if you are linking to very bad websites. Especially if you are linking to websites that are penalized by Google. 

I manually checked all the websites I was linking to, and I found a few very bad ones. I removed those links because I didn’t want my website to be associated with low-quality sites.

Clean up backlinks profile

Because I got things started, I also had a look at my website’s backlinks profile and created a disavow report with all the bad backlinks.

Using Monitor Backlinks, I quickly sorted my links by their index status and disavowed all backlinks coming from websites that were not indexed in Google. 

After analyzing what backlinks I should disavow, I created a list of approximately 50 domains and submitted to Google Disavow Tool.

Waiting to recover from Google Panda penalty

After cleaning up the content and backlinks, I was proud of my website. I thought it’s ready to be reconsidered by Google. Unlike manual penalties where you can submit a reconsideration request, when dealing with Google Panda penalties, you have to be patient and wait for Google to make another update.

It’s not like you take your coffee and wait for results. It’s more like keep improving and the results will come in a few months.

After three months, your organic traffic should came back and the website should have regained most of its rankings.

Final thoughts 

Once Google Panda penalizes a website, its not the end f the world.

Don’t get discouraged, because you can get your traffic back.

To recover from my Google Panda penalty, Remove all the low-quality content from your website. I’ve improved the overall user experience and removed all the backlinks pointing to very bad websites.

To make sure the recovery process will succeed, create a disavow report with the backlinks you are not happy to have. They are obvious once you start looking closely at who is looking at you.

If you are a beginner and you are not sure what you are doing, it’s best to consult with an experienced SEO before starting to remove content or backlinks to avoid irreparable damage.

We are happy to help you and offer a free initial no obligation consolation by contacting our principal Tony on +61 452633970 or 1300 Page One