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How to Recover from Google Updates [Penguin, Panda, EMD…]

Earlier this year Google announced major updates of their search engine. So far, between April and October many updates were released and many websites were affected. Sometimes it’s hard to identify the problem but I think the first thing you should do is to – identify your problem. It’s hard to tell whether your site were hit by Panda, Penguin or by some other update but I’ll try to explain what could cause penalizing or devaluing your website on the SERP.


Identifying the problem

Since it’s your site, you can give best answer – whether your site were hit by Penguin, Panda or EMD update. Penguin and Panda updates are not same. By Google webmaster resources Panda is:

This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful.

and Panda update is:

In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at webspam. The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines. We’ve always targeted webspam in our rankings, and this algorithm represents another improvement in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content.


Now your site might be of high quality but reason why your website were affected by one of these updates is webspam or in other words – using link schemes  in order to gain better SERP positions or vice versa – your site might be devauled because it’s low quality and you have been used keyword stuffing methods or hosted spun content on your website.

Another reason why your website were hit is EMD update. However, in my opinon, you shouldn’t notice huge drop in rankings unless your website were hit by one of these two updates from above.

Improving user experience

In case that your website were hit by Penguin (algo update targeting low quality sites) your chances to recover from this update are quite big. Sites that were hit are mostly of the nature I will mention in those next few bullets:

  • Small websites. If your website is made of 5 or less pages, most likely your website were hit by Penguin algo update. Google is devaluing websites with small number of pages, poor content, spun content and finally, Google is devaluing websites that are custom HTML coded or in other words, Google is giving less attention to static websites, but in same time giving more attention and better rankings to blogs (such as blogs hosted on WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc. ). I know because I had a website with around 5 pages, custom coded. Its SERP positions dropped like a rock. If you are planning to make a website, make it blog-like and avoid static websites or at least – add as much content as you can – content which is in the first place valuable and well-written.
  • This update is targeting poor content websites. Many webmasters are sustaining to write posts longer than 500 words. That’s a big mistake. You should write long and valuable content.
  • Enrich your website with media such as embedded YouTube videos, add images and PDF files. On that way user will get better information on certain topic, and as a way to say thanks, Google should improve your rankings.
  • Over-optimizing is another possibly reason why your website was affected by this algorithm update. Many webmasters are trying to maximally optimize their websites in order to gain better rankings. Many webmasters are forcing optimization and stuffing keywords. You shouldn’t do that. Keyword density by my opinion at least, shouldn’t be higher than 1%.

By Rand Fishkin this is “perfectly” optimized website:

  • Title your pages properly. For example if you are targeting for “Chocolate dounuts”, title should be “How to make chocolate donuts” rather than just “Chocolate donuts”
  • Don’t sustain of linking internally and externally. Link to internal pages related to the topic you are writing about and link to externally resources such as YouTube, BBC, CNET and others resources you find valuable and useful for your readers.
  • Add Policy, Contact and Terms of Service pages to your website.
  • Don’t place too much ads above the fold. Find a balance between ads and content.
  • Implement author tag in order to get recognized and known among readers and other writers as well.
  • Implement Facebook fan page box on your website and make a Facebook fan page.
  • Make Twitter account and Google Plus as well.

Webspam & Link building

If you have used aggressive link building methods, most likely your website were hit due to link building strategies that Google doesn’t like. Here are some changes you should apply to your link building methods in order to get quality backlinks:

  • Many webmasters are applying black hat methods of gaining backlinks. Some webmasters are creating web 2.0’s in order to get backlink but on that way, they are leaving footprints.
  • Don’t leave footprints such as writing 20 spun 400-wordish articles and then spreading them all over the Internet
  • Write quality and original content for link building
  • Write articles longer than 500 words, optimally 600-1000 words
  • Many webmasters are creating one-page blogs using free services (such as WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Typepad etc.) in order to gain backlinks which is wrong. Such Web 2.0 is easy to spot since the main goal of these blogs is to provide free backlinks to money site.
  • Don’t use aggressive link building methods and don’t create backlinks a day more than you have daily unique visits on your site
  • Focus on gaining real FB likes, +1’s and tweets
  • Don’t create link wheels
  • Don’t leave thousands of comments on blogs
  • Don’t backlink from blogs that have more than 100 OBL (outbound links)
  • Don’t backlink from spammy and spunt content
  • Avoid link farms
  • Don’t buy links
  • Don’t use blog farms/networks
  • Don’t submit your website to hundreds of directories. Submit your site to eventually 10-20 quality web directories with decent PR and authority.
  • Many websites were affected by latest updates due to aggressive link building methods and link schemes.
  • And at end, don’t use risky link building strategies unless you know what you are doing.
  • Use naked and natural anchor texts. Instead of “your keyword”, as anchor use such examples: naked URL), click here, visit my page, here is my blog …. etc.

“Should I start all over again?”

In case that your website were hit by those updates, it’s not everything lost but most likely, your website will be penalized for 6 months. You have those options:

  • Buy a new domain and start all over again but hopefully, this time you are going to make it properly
  • Add content to existing website and remove spammy and fishy backlinks. However, it’s not guaranteed your website will ever gain rankings as it had before the algo update.

I’d recommend adding and improving your site in case that it has a lot of content and it’s somewhat useful for your readers. But in case your website is worthless with poor content and lack of quality backlinks, you might consider creating a new website. I’d suggest you to focus on creating quality content, gaining traffic from social networks or eventually traffic from YouTube (which is sometimes great source of traffic).

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