In the fall of 2011, I was contacted by the Director of Marketing for a B2B company. The company’s website had been hammered by Panda, and he didn’t know what to do. I could tell very quickly that his team was truly baffled. The company and website have been around for a long time, the site contains a boatload of ultra-high quality content, and used to rank for thousands of keywords. The Director of Marketing made sure to point me to their top articles, whitepapers, blog posts, etc. after our initial conversation. I can tell you that he was right; they had a ton of great content.
In addition, the site’s link profile was not only clean, but it was ridiculously impressive. They had earned tens of thousands of links, many from relevant and powerful sites in their industry. Needless to say, I was fascinated by this story, and I was eager to begin assisting them. Although the company will remain anonymous, I received approval to write this post covering the details and key learnings. Everyone involved agreed that there are some great points here for others hit by Panda, so they were cool with me covering what happened.
The Plan of Attack
Since I was contacted after their first Panda attack, I had a lot of research to do. I wasn’t familiar with the company, website, key players, content, etc. I began my work by heavily analyzing Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools data to determine the drop in impressions and traffic. I also focused on determining which content was heavily impacted. Comparing the timeframe before and after the Panda attack revealed some alarming findings. I tracked those metrics back to the content on the site and began to see some serious problems. From an outsider’s perspective, there was a trend occurring with the quality of content being published in the months leading up to getting hit by Panda. I’ll get to that shortly.
Before I move on, if you believe you were hit by Panda or Penguin recently, definitely check out my post about how to determine which algorithm update impacted your website. You want to make sure you focus on the right algo update before taking action.
Hi, I’m Glenn… Let’s Talk Panda
Once I had a wealth of analytics data, I began to interview key stakeholders. I wanted to know the types of changes the website experienced leading up to Panda from an execution standpoint. This involved interviewing the technical players involved, as well as the people driving content. As the interviews went on, the evidence began to grow. I started to get a good feel for what happened.
Complacency Can Be a Killer
As I mentioned earlier, the site in question held a lot of high quality content. There were articles, blog posts, whitepapers, etc, and the company had built this up over years (legitimately). The site was rewarded with outstanding search engine power and performance and ended up ranking for thousands of target keywords. But that’s when a critical problem started to creep in.
To put it simply, the company became complacent. I noticed a big drop-off in the quality of content leading up to the Panda attack. The posts and articles were thinner and didn’t really provide the level of knowledge and thought leadership that they used to provide. Some were only a paragraph or two that linked out to other stories on other blogs. It’s also worth noting that there were times some of those thinner posts linked out to partner websites (companies that had a business relationship with the company I was helping). That said, it was a very small percentage of their content (less than 3% of the content I analyzed).