SEO Tip: How To Recover From Panda

There is a lot of of advice about recovering from Panda, but I felt like this advice from Mike Gordon, the Toronto SEO Guy, was the most elegant:

In most cases, sites that have been hit with Panda were over-optimizing their on-page factors (keyword spamming) with the intention of ‘gaming’ Google while offering no additional value (or lesser value) to visitors. Other sites got hit for using link farms and other forms of paid links that are against Google’s policies, and again, are designed to manipulate the engine without offering benefit to the user.

For sites in the above scenario, it’s time to recognize that they’ve gotten away with undeserved traffic for a long time and now they’re paying the price. What they need to do is kill the link farms and paid links (which are almost always crappy links anyway) and edit their pages to remove the over-optimization.

So, for example, there’s no need for a 5-10% ‘keyword density’ (keyword density is a myth anyway). Bottom line here is to just write naturally without thinking much about keyword usage and you’ll be fine. Of course, you do need your primary keyword(s) in the title tag, body text, etc., but 2-3 instances of the keyword in the body text is all you need. More than that really doesn’t help contrary to popular belief – but it might hurt (and probably will).

Most importantly, sites need to pay more attention to structural issues (which in most cases haven’t been an issue for Panda, but having a good site structure will go a long way to helping a site prevail post Panda). For example: ensure that there are no duplicate content issues (the vast majority of sites have this problem to some degree in Google’s eyes and don’t even know it e.g. URL issues, parameter issues, etc.); ensure that there are minimal pages returning 404s or other errors; have a user friendly and consistent global navigation; remove unnecessary keyword-rich footer links sitewide; etc.

In a nutshell, site owners/webmasters need to ask themselves this question when creating/editing anything on their website: Does the change I’m about to make help Google *and* users, or just Google? If it’s the latter, you need to seriously reconsider whether it’s a wise move. Making websites easier for Google to crawl, understand the content, and index pages – and making sites more relevant for users – are still the keys.

Yes, I know, I sound soooo white hat – and I am – but I truly believe that in the long term, that’s what works best (though there will always be smart black hat guys out there who succeed for a period of time, but it’s getting *much* tougher).

Unfortunately, some legitimate sites got undeservedly Panda’d. Beyond doing all the kinds of things I’ve outlined above, they should attempt to contact Google and make their best case. For most of us, this isn’t easy as Google is not the most responsive company to the little guys (surprise surprise). If you can develop a Google contact through a friend or even via an AdWords rep, you may have a better chance of your message being responded to, and if the request is reasonable then you have a much better chance of a reversal of penalties on the SEO field.