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Reclaiming Your Traffic And Monetization After The Panda Update


Speakers: Shane Ketterman
Session: How To Build, Grow, and Monetize Your Own Blogging Empire
Date: Thursday, May 26
Time: 2:30PM
Location: Jacob Javits Center 1A14

Was your blog or site affected by the latest roll-out of Google’s Panda algorithm update? Mine was. And I want to share this story with you so you can understand a little of what I am doing right now. Additionally I want to share this with you if you are a site who lost revenue due to the lower traffic numbers.

On April 11, 2011, I was blissfully going through the day excited that the night before I had taken in my largest adsense day and my weekly Amazon affiliate sales were skyrocketing.

I was able to take a recent event, write a bunch of articles, and drive traffic. A lot of it.

After about 2 weeks of this, I felt good. I felt like I was really getting somewhere and I felt like Google was my new BFF (best friend forever), because it was bringing me traffic and that traffic clicked ads. And those clicked ads gave me money.

But at 4pm on April 11th, that friendship took a detour. Google and I had different ideas about the quality of my recent traffic-driving posts. And as I learned, Google wins.

Each day I would check my “impressions” on my site and it was just amazing to me at how it was going up and up. Come to think of it – it felt like 2006 when real estate values were increasing in the double-digits.

Lesson #1: When something is increasing at a rapid rate, be very aware.

So at around 4pm, I was checking my impressions and I nearly choked on my sandwich. It wasn’t the peppers. It was the traffic. “Where had it gone?” I surmised that it must just be a Monday dip.

But it wasn’t. I had been affected by the latest Google Algorithm change called Panda, or the Farmer update.

But I wasn’t an article farm. I was just blogging. I was…..well it doesn’t matter what I was or wasn’t, the fact is Google decided to get me off that pedestal a bit and show me how much power they have with their algorithms.

So I could have got angry. I could have quit and deleted the mysql database of all my posts. I could have just been complacent and ignore it.

But if you are one that blogs and depends on Adsense or other affiliate sales that are all driven by organic search traffic then you see that money literally disappear before your eyes.

Lesson #2: Do not depend purely on organic search as your sole sense of income.

So now you know what happened but now I want to help you understand what I’m doing about it because this is about not giving up and it’s about an income from a blog.

First things first. Do not panic. Do not get angry (it won’t help). Don’t do anything irrational and feel like a failure. An algorithm update hits millions of sites. So you are not the only one.

Now it’s time to get practical. When and if this happens to you, head over to the Google Webmaster forum to see what kind of messages they are posting. Read with care. Watch for articles from trusted SEO resources like the following:

Search Engine Land

Step 1. Try to see what the veterans in SEO are finding and do not follow everyone’s advice until the dust has settled. I know you will feel an urgent need to fix this but you have to be careful and make sure you are doing it right.

Step 2. Read the Google Webmaster Quality Guidelines. Believe it or not, they really do tell you exactly what Google considers quality.

Step 3.
Read what the update affected (from Google) and try to understand how this might have applied to ANY page on your blog/site. One low quality page can bring down your domain’s standing in the SERPS. Panda in particular targeted:

  • Sites and pages plastered with ads “above the fold” or ones that have a high ad to content ratio.
  • Shallow, or thin content pages that generally do not add any value
  • Pages with poorly written (grammar, spelling) content
  • Duplicate content (copying from other sites intentionally or unintentionally)
  • Add value and something unique to your articles if it is one that is covered elsewhere
  • Sites with low-quality backlinks

There are more issues that Panda targeted but you get the idea. It’s about the quality and uniqueness and in Google’s eyes, they are trying to deliver the absolute best experience that they can for searchers.

Step 4. Get into your Analytics and use the great comparison feature. When you are looking at your dashboard, you can select the dates you want to view and there is a checkbox for “compare to past” which allows you to do a great comparison.

Compare your traffic for one week prior to your loss in traffic to a week after and take note which pages took the most hits.

Step 5. Determine if you are going to get rid of those pages, update them or just put a noindex, nofollow on them. Either way, dig through and make a decision on what you are going to do with low-quality pages.

Step 6. Open Google and take the title of one of your articles within quotes and simply search for it. What do you see? Do you see your exact article on the top of the results or do you see other sites copying your content?

I was not even aware but there were 8 sites copying all my posts. Thanks to Derek Halpern of Social Triggers for giving me some pointers on this. This is all duplicate content and it can harm you. File DMCA requests with the site owners or hosting providers and get this removed right now.

There are also plugins you can get for WordPress to help with scrapers as well but it’s my belief that getting it removed entirely is best at first. RSS Footer is one such plugin that you might want to check out.

Step 7. Look at your pages from the perspective of a user. How does it feel? Does it feel spammy? Too many ads in the content? Ask others. Above all, ask the hard questions and be willing to consider some house cleaning to present a higher quality experience. This might mean taking ads out of those areas that get a ton of clicks. It might mean reducing your ads. Or it might be just fine.

Also, look for pages with more internal links than content. I had a few pages where I referenced other content but the links outweighed the actual writing so I added a lot to those pages.

Step 8. Go over to your Google Webmaster Tools page and dig in. Do you have errors? Get them corrected. Do you have duplicates meta tags or title tags? Webmaster Tools will tell you. Get that corrected also. Basically, make sure you square up with Google.

Step 9. Take a break and plan out how you will get rid of your low quality content. I have over 650 articles so It’s not like I am going to sit down and just do this on one sitting. Take it in chunks but above all, begin doing something.

These are some practical steps you can take. There is advice all over the place but there is no better advice than from those of us dealing with it and trying really hard to improve.

Here is the best advice, however, for a site that you are monetizing. Do not depend solely on organic search traffic. Do not get complacent and lazy and start posting anything less than quality and original material. Try to get other forms of traffic such as from YouTube, social media participation, RSS Syndication partners, relevant blog directories in your niche, and the occasional guest post where it fits your audience.

The best news about his is that it will really cause you do grow as a blogger and as one that is monetizing for a living. Now if you want to hear all about how to get the blog started and growing in the first place then you can see my talk at Blog World East on Thursday, May 24th at 2:30 pm. Here I will be showing you in my own unique way how to build, grow and monetize a branded affiliate blog just like I have done – even in a post-panda world.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask and please share your own story especially if you were hit by Panda.


  • brettbum

    great article, especially liked the part in step 4 that stated

    Compare your traffic for one week prior to your loss in traffic to a week after and take note which pages took the most hits.

    I’ve been deep in the anlytics on several client sites the last few weeks and there are not only many answers to fixing bad stuff there but also lots of good things that can often use some extra tuning. 🙂

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    Wow!  You give some of the best information that I have read on a post.  I am very new and was not affected by Panda but the information that you provide is great to have and some to implement to keep from being affected.  I only wish I have your knowledge.  It will come with time.  Thanks again for the great post.

  • HansH

    Hi Shane, great post. It’s good to know these points about the google panda update since I’ve just started my blog 4 months ago. I’m trying to do my best to come up with as much quality and original content as possible. My blog deals with music arranging. So often besides the writing I have to put in some graphs and pictures of scales, chords, etc. But I think all these graphs and pics are there to enhance the content. So its not spam. It’s good to keep all those points you mentioned in the back of my head, so I know where I’m heading.
    With friendly greetings,

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