One of the most gut wrenching things a SEO will ever have to do, is talk to a business owner that has been hit with an algorithm update. Typically if they are contacting a SEO they have seen dramatic drops in rankings, traffic, and revenue. I have spoken to site owners that have lost substantial amounts of money when an algorithm change takes effect. Some have even had to lay off employees. Despite these being hard conversations to have, they also put you the SEO in a position to be a real hero.
When you help a site owner rebound from an algorithm change it is an awesome feeling. Because many times it means that you have saved their business. Often times the business owner will be so impressed they will most likely tell the world about you and be much more willing to use your services in the future.
But there’s one tiny problem here:
There’s no real definitive answer to rebounding from these updates. Take Panda for example. I have spent the last couple years trying to identify patterns and signs to the Panda algorithm. If I can understand exactly what triggers Panda, then I should be able to develop a sound strategy I can execute with each client. My findings? There’s no clear answer. Sure there are some things that pop up with many sites that have been affected, but by and large many sites look completely different. Same thing with Penguin. There are some similar characteristics with back links, but its still to vague to identify a clear strategy.
So instead of developing a specific strategy that can be used for everyone, I have gotten in the habit of following the below tips that help me guide my clients to success.
Panda uses a handful of machine learning algorithms to make assumptions about quality. To put things quite simply, Google is analyzing patterns found on a domain to see if a site is trying to manipulate search results. These patterns can consist of keyword repetition, repetitive URL structures, similar content, and other patterns. Remember that Panda was first described as a algorithm to combat content farms. So thinking about how content farms grow with “templatized” information architectures, will help you understand the types of patterns that Panda is looking for. Likewise the Penguin algorithm is designed to analyze patterns found in a back link profile. This can be anchor text, C class IP addresses, and other elements.
Target The Details
Its extremely important to understand all aspects of how Google my be interpreting a domain. The best way to reach this level of understanding is to zero in on all possible issues. One thing I like to do, is use this handy Chrome plugin in conjunction with Google Analytics, to identify all of the algorithm changes that might be affecting a site. Because there’s no point in developing a strategy to rebound from Panda if you have also been hit with Penguin, or a Page Layout Algorithm.
Focus On The User
In almost every case of algorithm changes the needs and demands of the general public are put in the front of the priorities. Because of this, its important to focus on developing a heightened UX in every aspect of the site. Building a better UX is normally talked about with Panda recoveries, but Penguin “rebounders” should focus on UX as well. When building links, target prospects that have great UX, doing so will be more likely those links won’t get penalized, or flagged.
Raise The Bar
I have mentioned here and in other post that Google’s interpretation of quality is fundamentally subjective. However, raising the bar with better content, user interfaces, information architecture, and everything else across the board will insure that all of the patterns and factors that trip these types of algorithms, will cease. I am a firm believer that if you do at least 5% better than everyone else you can be very successful online.
Have Courage To Face Big Changes
When Penguin first launched I remember hearing Matt Cutts say,
If you’ve cleaned and still don’t recover, ultimately, you might need to start all over with a fresh site
When I first heard that I thought, man what a jerk. But the sad truth is sometimes, hes right. I mean starting over entirely should be the last case scenario, but sometimes big changes are needed to start getting traffic again. And when big changes are needed, courage needs to be in ample supply. Because the honest and sad truth is, sometimes all the big changes in the world may not help you recover, and as a result money and time may be lost. But with out trying, your clients will never have a chance at regaining any traffic. As SEOs, we need to inspire courage at every turn to make our clients feel comfortable about making such significant changes. And that starts with you!