Early Signs of Google Panda Recovery

There seems to be some signs of Google Panda recovery after struggling with the Google algorithm penalty for over six months. But the traffic recovery has been slow and little compared to what it was before the Google penalties striked.

Google reconsideration request

About a month back, we  filed a long Google Webmaster reconsideration request, which was acted upon by the Google quality team in 2 weeks. We had earlier clearly highlighted the possible issues which had led to the Google Panda and Google Penguin penalties.

We received the following message in Google Webmaster tools

We received a request from a site owner to reconsider how we index the following site: http://www.quickonlinetips.com. We’ve now reviewed your site. When we review a site, we check to see if it’s in violation of our Webmaster Guidelines.

If we don’t find any problems, we’ll reconsider our indexing of your site. If your site still doesn’t appear in our search results, check our Help Center for steps you can take.

Googlebot crawl patterns

Soon after we received the message, we closely watched the Googlebot crawl patterns to see for signs of any change in the way Googlebot crawled our site. Indeed the Google bot crawl patterns showed a change, which signified that someone at Google quality search team had flipped a switch to enable re-crawling and reanalysis of our site data.

See the pages crawled per day suddenly increased.
pages crawled per day

The kilobytes downloaded per day also increased one day.
Kilobytes downloaded per day

Has Traffic Increased? well there has been a slight bounce in the site traffic from the previous lows, maybe 1000-1500 visitors more per day from the bottom marked by the red arrow. At least progressively falling traffic pattern has been blunted for short time. Will a rising traffic trend be observed, is difficult to say. But it is still far lower from what the traffic originally was.

panda traffic recovery

Unnatural inbound links

As Google continued to the recrawl our site, we got the “unnatural inbound links” warning in Google Webmaster tools. This is part of the newly announced Google link warnings to Webmasters, wherein Google clearly intimates if they are taking action on the website itself or are devaluing certain inbound links which are beyond the control of the Webmaster.

We’ve detected that some of the links pointing to your site are using techniques outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. We don’t want to put any trust in links that are artificial or unnatural. We recommend removing any unnatural links to your site.

However, we do realize that some links are outside of your control. As a result, for this specific incident we are taking very targeted action on the unnatural links instead of your site as a whole. If you are able to remove any of the links, please submit a reconsideration request, including the actions that you took.

WordPress Theme Backlinks

We analysed our inbound links profile, and found that a large number of sitewide inbound links were coming from theme footer’s of websites using our WordPress themes. These links pointed to the WordPress theme page, so that people who like the theme on other websites could also download and use these WordPress themes on their own websites. Sometimes the backlinks are also from spam sites and adult sites! I believe these are some of the unnatural links that Google has targeted and devalued as per the Webmaster tools message.

Since these WordPress themes are listed and downloaded from the WordPress theme directory – they are thoroughly evaluated by theme reviewers for quality code and links. The WordPress theme directory guidelines for credit links has changed over the years and the current guidelines allows theme designers to optionally include credit links in the footer.

  • If used, Themes are required to include no more than one such footer credit link.
  • Credit link, if used, is required to use either Theme URI or Author URI.
  • Credit link anchor text and title are required to be relevant and appropriate with respect to the linked site. Spam or SEO-seeded anchor text and titles may subject Themes to automatic rejection.
  • A second “Powered by” link for WordPress is also acceptable, with the link pointing to http://wordpress.org.

I believe that Google would devalue such sitewide footer links, and probably they do too. As anyone can download these WordPress themes, there is a high chance that you could end up with lots of bad inbound links. It would be great if Google would create a a tool similar to the Bing disavow links tool, to devalue inbound links manually – but even if there is such a tool, then how many links can WordPress theme designers devalue as hundreds of people continue to download and use their WordPress themes. It is a tough issue for Google to tackle, but a uniform policy for theme designers would be appreciated.

Understanding that these were possibly an important cause leading to the penalty, we recently updated our WordPress themes to include nofollow links in the footer. As WordPress bloggers continue to update their themes to the latest version, most of these links would become no-follow eventually.

WordPress theme update

So far, we are very happy that Google quality team had a chance to review our site, and they have recrawled our website, giving our content another chance to reach a wider audience. Its important to understand that Google search has changed and poor search traffic may not be about Google Panda any more. We will keep you posted about further Panda updates, and keep bringing you great content as always.

But it would be interesting to know how other WordPress theme designers are dealing with inbound links. WordPresss Have you nofollowed your theme footer links?

Share with friends

About the Author: P Chandra is editor of QOT, one of India's earliest tech bloggers since 2004. A tech enthusiast with expertise in coding, WordPress, web tools, SEO and DIY hacks.