The Hard Truth About Penguin and Panda

If your site’s ranking dropped in Google due to Panda or Penguin updates, you’ve probably been looking far and wide for advice on how to recover. Such advice exists; there are even SEOs that will take your money to do it for you. But as Michael Martinez points out, none of those will probably tell you the fastest, cheapest way to truly recover.

You can read for yourself what Martinez has to say, but I must warn you, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. The truth usually is. So, if I may mix my medical metaphors, I’ll rip off this adhesive bandage really fast: “The quickest, fastest, easiest, least disruptive way to deal with either algorithm is to abandon your current Website and start over with a clean, simple design that uses a tiered hierarchy, new copy (that does NOT beat the keywords to death), and you start acquiring links naturally,” wrote Martinez.

Yes, it sounds a little crazy. On the other hand, building a lot of spammy links to your website may not have been an entirely sane thing to do, either. Now you can try to get the links taken down. If you want to take a more extreme approach, you can do what Martinez suggests here: “John Mueller…said Google won’t slap you for just taking down the URLs to which suspicious links are pointing and letting them fall into the ‘hard 404′ category. So basically if you cannot get rid of the links you fear are destroying your business you can get rid of the content that was trying to benefit from the links, or send the link value to where the sun don’t shine.” He further notes that “In Google’s eyes, that would say much about your being willing to toe the line according to their guidelines.”

If you got a lot of spammy links pointing to your root domain, of course, it’s not that easy. There is a fix of sorts, and Martinez details it in his post. But he honestly thinks it makes much more sense to launch a new domain, leaving the old one in place – and NOT redirecting to that old domain. Instead, you start over by building your business on the new domain. Martinez doesn’t like 301-redirects for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the hit your server takes when you redirect every URL on a busy website (and that’s likely to lead to a poor visitor experience to boot).

Here’s the thing: the rules for good SEO haven’t changed because of Panda and Penguin. They’ve always been to write the best content you can and get the best, most relevant links you can. Anyone who tried to do SEO a different way is now paying the price. It’s all in Google’s Terms of Service; the Panda and Penguin updates just gave it more teeth.

Martinez finds himself scratching his head over all the people who’ve said “it would require too many resources, too much time, and therefore they don’t do anything” when he tells them to just stop doing what Panda and Penguin don’t like – thin content in the former case and spammy links in the latter. So these site owners live with reduced traffic, for months, when all they need to do is start over.

Martinez points out that by doing nothing, they’re choosing to make less money instead of trying to recover their lost revenue. And starting over, by his math, may in many cases be a lot less expensive over time than living with the reduced revenue. He goes through an admittedly concocted example, but then he points out that, truly, websites in and of themselves are not assets. Websites “do not appreciate in value except inasmuch as some damn fool is willing to pay more for a Website tomorrow than you paid for it today,” he explained.

So why do people pay a lot of money for websites – and therefore find themselves unwilling to start over? Someone else put a lot of work and content (and yes, links) into a website, and that’s what made it worth buying. But once you’ve bought a website, if you want to keep it going and bringing in the money, you need to continue to create and post high quality content, and work hard on it, and attract quality links, if you want it to remain valuable. Many people who buy sites, according to Martinez, “will screw up the Website by cranking up the monetization and turning down the quality so that he can earn back his investment as soon as possible.”

In that case, you’re much better off starting from scratch and doing it right. In fact, if you truly engage in good search engine optimization practices, not only will penguins and pandas become your friends, but you may find you don’t need to rely on Google nearly as much to attract a steady stream of visitors to your website. Good luck!

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