The site traffic crash due to Google Panda and Penguin updates continues and now the site traffic still persists 60% below what it was in January. The Google Panda update 3.2 or maybe the Google layout update which was supposed to penalise sites with heavy ads above the fold, is what hit our site traffic on January 18-19, 2012.
Although there was a bounce in site traffic in attempt at recovery for the next month but the fluctuation did not last long and traffic had stabilised at 30% of what it originally was. Then Google Penguin update 1.1 hit on May 25, 2012 and reduced the site traffic by a few more thousand visitors per day. Even the Googlebot crawl patterns have changed since traffic was hit.
Well we took a lot of measures to improve our site, to recover from Google panda, and make it useful for our visitors and readers.
Fighting Google Panda / Penguin
1. Increase Page views – Our first effort was to make the best of whatever traffic we had. We started providing many more navigation options – this was necessary to increase the page views from whatever reduced unique visitors Google search was bringing to our site.
The aim was to optimise our site and provide more navigation options so that the visitor was more engaged with our site content, in an attempt to reduce bounce rate, and to increase page views per visit (like the Facebook recommendation bar). We experimented with many different kinds of related posts over these months, and also added post thumbnails to make the layout attractive. All efforts have been made for better blog branding.
2. Faster Loading Site – The site used to load slowly previously and all our efforts to make site faster have improved site load time by 200%. Now the site loads much faster as we have done a lot of measures to reduce site load time and managed to create a faster loading site for a better user experience.
3. More content above the fold – We actively worked to improve our site design, reduce the logo size, reduce the header navigation bar, and thereby bring more content above the fold. We also widened the content area further and also added a third sidebar to bring in more content and navigation options above the fold.
4. Reduced ads – Since there is still confusion if it was panda 3.2 or the Google ad layout penalty, we have reduced ads even further. Now we host a single Google AdSense unit on each page, with a few 125×125 banners in the sidebar, though Google AdSense continues to pester the bloggers add more ad units per page. Before a Google penalty, we used only one Google AdSense unit and one ad link unit. Now the add link unit is also gone. Less ads, more content for you to read and engage.
5. Ad placement that earns – Many people noticed that the site design was changing very frequently and were surprised at what was happening. Actually what we were doing the were testing different ad placement options, which would give the best earnings. We experimented to move the main single Google AdSense unit away from the content area or side align it… But that was a high paying spot with the high CTR, and shifting it to the sidebar or below the post or using a different ad unit size simply reduced the AdSense earnings drastically. With reduced traffic it was important to maintain earnings and we decided to keep the ad unit in the current location above the main content.
6. Fix Broken links – If your blog has been around for eight years, you would be surprised how many links become outdated, redirect, convert to spam sites over the period of years. Thanks to the broken link checker we were able to find broken links and identified that 10% of outbound links on our site were broken links! This powerful plug-in was able to nofollow all these links in minutes and prevented Google bots from indexing and following through to bad neighbourhood sitess which could have affected our site rankings. We were also able to find and nofollow lots of suspicious links in older articles and lists using this very powerful outbound link manager.
7. Working Redirects – As we continue to delete a lot of old content, which was previously linked by articles elsewhere, a lot of traffic was getting 404 errors. The redirection plug-in helped us to identify broken links to our site and redirect important traffic links to new content and keep this traffic on our site. It is a good idea to review your 404 logs and find how much traffic you are losing because people wrongly link to your site with a broken URL by cut pasting the link.
8. Reduce thin content – We actually deleted over 1000 articles which might be assessed as low quality content. We might not realise it but a lot of irrelevant articles keep accumulating in the archives, especially if you are a long-time blogger. QOT has been a reputed technology resource since 2004, and to put it in perspective it is around the same time at which other top blogs like Techcrunch and Mashable came around the web.
It is necessary to find thin content and fix it or remove it. It is surprising but the blog archives tend to accumulate a lot of old content, old news reports, outdated event information, old contests, which might no longer be significant or were only written as very short pieces which were labelled by search engines as low quality content and should be removed, edited or proofread again to fix grammatical errors.
9. Great new content – With my new blogging style I continue to speak to type, which has helped me to write longer articles like this one with ease, with reduced errors and a much faster typing speed than I would have done had I been manually typing it. While I continue to delete a lot of content, you would appreciate that we have added a lot of great content over the last few months and it would have helped you have a better and more engaged reading experience on our site.
10. Fight Comment Spam – We told you before that we recently crossed 3 million spam comments which were blocked by Akismet. Comment spam has been a big issue as people continue to post spam comments, with the recent trend to buy comments on top blogs and high page rank articles. It seems the comment nofollow links no longer discourage spammers. Despite using multiple comment spam blocking plug-ins, a lot of comments over the years continue to link spam sites and it is difficult to weed them all out. Following the footsteps of several popular bloggers, we recently removed the links from comments, which removed nearly 30,000 outbound links from our site which was difficult to assess and review. Now if that makes a difference, it is to be assessed.
11. Target RSS scrapers – Many sites were republishing our fulltext RSS content. In fact after the Google panda update some are even ranking higher than our original article. We searched for them, tried to seek them out and requested them not to republish content. Some responded while others paid no heed, and it was difficult to go and file DMCA complaints for every one of them. It is difficult to stop RSS scrapers. Earlier we used our Feed Copyright WordPress Plugin, which will help to send back links to your own site if these people decide to republish your RSS content. But the RSS scrapers and auto blogs continue to get smarter, and they will republish content filtering out all the additional back links which we added to your site to deter them.
12. Guestblogging Links – It seems guest blogging is no longer about exposure of your writing skills, it is more of a way of getting free links from big sites in the garb of free content. We initiated a nofollow link policy in author bylines, so you get to read exceptional content only from people who want to expose their superior writing to the QOT readers, and who are not just looking for free dofollow links.
13. WordPress Themes Credit links – Over the years, we created some free, fast loading WordPress themes, which were listed in the official WordPress theme directory and have been downloaded thousands of times. The WordPress theme contains a single back link in the footer to the main theme page to enable people to download the theme if they like it. Since anyone can download the theme and use it on their site, assessing the back links revealed strange domain names are using the theme.
While I would believe that Google is smart enough to devalue site-wide links in the site footers directing to WordPress theme pages, the recent Google penguin attack on WPMU, a popular site which could have possibly been penalised for WordPress theme footer links is an important issue to consider (their Penguin recovery is equally educative). We have been pushing WordPress theme updates with nofollow links to our themes footer and as people update the theme, we hope these back links will disappear. But I wish there were clear Google guidelines for WordPress theme designers and theme credit links in the footer.
14. Paid advertising– This was a last ditch attempt to increase traffic to our site. We recently bought some banners on BuySellAds, revived our Google Adwords account, started exploring StumbleUpon paid discovery, and also will venture into Facebook advertising. Hopefully pushing some money this way will bring in some extra targeted traffic.
15. Google has changed – Change is inevitable and Google has changed over the years, and it is not necessarily Google Panda that is affecting many sites traffic. It is no longer easy to get a place on the first page of Google as it is now cluttered social media results, images, videos and other stuff for a more engaging experience. All of this makes Google much better, smarter and provides for a better user experience. All this while, it is pushing down more search results and now makes it more difficult for webmasters to compete for top search engine rankings.
These are a few measures they we have taken over the last few months after Google Panda and Google Penguin updates have continued to crash our site traffic. Meanwhile, social media engagement has increased significantly and the QOT community continues to grow now with nearly 10,000 Facebook followers and 4000 Twitter followers and 2000 Google+ followers. It is the constant support and engagement of the amazing QOT community that drives us to publish amazing content, and helpful advice which works for you… Keeping you posted as always since 2004!
Update: Google responded to the website reconsideration request and we have observed some signs of Google Panda recovery.