Recovering from 2012 Google Panda/Penguin Updates…Finally!

So here’s my story, and I’ll try to make it short so we can get into how I finally got out of the Google hole, and doing better than I ever did before!

Last year, around February or March 2012, I started a new candle site. I had been selling candles for nearly 4 years, but decided to close the business because it was just too much work. However, I didn’t want to scrap my site altogether, so I decided to start a new site showing people how to make soy candles. I worked on the site, created backlinks, created content and by Summer, I was getting quite a bit of traffic for a couple specific keywords, and thus I was starting to make more money through the Adsense ads on my site.

I also have another website, my mom blog, that I had posted a recipe on the previous year (2011) that had taken off quite well around this same time, and started ranking on the first page of Google for 2 very important key phrases, and I was getting more traffic from that one page than probably all my pages put together each day! It was awesome, and of course I started making more through my Adsense ads there too.

Well, the 3rd week of July, my family and I went to our yearly church camp for a week. When I got back and checked my stats, I found that my mom blog recipe that had a high of 228 visits on July 24th suddenly took a nose dive on July 25th to 111 visits, and then continued to fall from there. After that, it seemed no matter what I did, it just didn’t help. My Google analytics stats just showed my site limping along the bottom of the pond…… My recipe had dropped completely off the radar for my keyphrases.

Traffic Drop July 2012 Google Panda Update

I found out later that it was due to this Google Panda update which happened to be the night of July 24th 2012: http://www.seroundtable.com/google-panda-39-official-15480.html

So then, on September 28th, my candle making site took a nose dive off the Google cliff from 66 views on the 27th (I know that’s nothing to shout about, but that site had been steadily increasing and was also still only a few months old) to only 9 views on the 30th and then staggered up and down on the low end of the scale from then on.

Google Panda/EMD update traffic drop 2012

I found out that on September 27th 2012, Google had rolled out the EMD update (exact match domain) and another Panda update. I’m not quite sure which one caused the demise of my site, but I’m thinking it was probably both. Although my domain wasn’t “exact match” it nearly was. “Learn how to make soy candles.com”  and of course the keyphrase I was targeting was how to make soy candles.  The funny thing is, that I never actually got real high up for that keyphrase though. The ones that I was doing well with were “Homemade soy candles” and “homemade candles”.

What were some possible causes?

Here are some reasons I had heard for not being able to recover from Panda in particular:

  1. Low quality content
  2. Too many questionable backlinks
  3. Too much of the same anchor text for backlinks
  4. Over optimizing your pages

And I’m sure there’s more, but these are the ones that really made me take a look at my sites.

What I realized a month or so ago, when I was watching this video where Pat Flynn is interviewing Alex Becker, is that since I had been trying for quite some time to fix my sites, and it didn’t seem to be working, was to take Alex’s advice toward the end of the video, and just start a new site.

I had experienced first hand that new sites seemed to be ranking quickly since I had just started a coffee recipes site and it started ranking well within a couple days! So why not try that with my candle making site?

Here’s the video if you’re interested. I’m not very comfortable (and neither is Pat if you read farther down on that interview) with some of the seo techniques that Alex utilizes, but there is also some good info here:

Back in the saddle…..

So I had my plan. Start a new site. One problem though. What happens when I try to redirect all my pages from my old candle site to the new site? My plan was to just copy all the old articles over to the new site but, if my old site was “penalized” or just had too many bad backlinks or anchor text, would that transfer over through the redirects?

Well, I read an article by Alex Becker about Penguin 2.0 here: http://source-wave.com/penguin-2-update-guide/  and I left a comment, asking him that question about whether I should redirect the old site or not.

His answer “Hey Melissa, no keep the old site far far away from the new site

Well, he could have been right. And I probably took a bit of a risk redirecting, but my problem is that I didn’t want to lose any of my site visitors, because I know I have plenty of people that come back to my site via direct link. If I didn’t redirect, the ones that hadn’t signed up on my mailing list wouldn’t know what happened!

And besides that, I was pretty sure I had fixed the anchor text issue by removing my site from the sidebar of my mom blog (which has quite a few posts and so it showed I had 800+ links to my candle site on there with most of them using the same anchor text!!!). And I changed the anchor text in a few other areas too.

And also, I did some research and came up with the conclusion that the old site probably isn’t going to pass on anything bad to the new site through redirecting.

So I went ahead with it.

And then what happened???

May-June Google Analytics Traffic Report 2013

That’s what happened. That little circled point there..the highest one? June 7th, 66 visitors. And as you can see, it’s still climbing, even with all the expected dips here and there, but steadily moving up! I started the new site about May 5th I think, and it only took 2 days and I was ranking on the 4th page of Google for my main keyphrase!

Now I’m on page one for two of my main keyphrases, though still not at the top, but it’s getting there. I haven’t even written any new content for the site since I switched all the old articles over. I do need to get back on that though before I lose my footing.

I just gradually moved articles, about one or two a day, sometimes skipping a day, until they were all moved and redirected. The new site is called Soycandlemakingtime.com . I like that domain name better anyway.

So, obviously my old site, so far, has not had any affect on the new site. In fact it probably helped it with the juice from all the good back links that it does have.

What about that site with the  recipe??

Well let me show you…..

Google Analytics Website Traffic Stats January-June 2013

This one took a bit longer to take hold, but then, I didn’t add any more recipes to it for awhile, and when I started the new site back in December, I added a whole new frappuccino recipe, well, the same recipe, but I tried to write some different content on the page so I wouldn’t get penalized for duplicate content. Well, that one never really took hold for my keyphrase,(although it did show up higher in the SERPS than the Mom blog one) until  I decided to finally just redirect the frappuccino recipe on my Mom blog, to the frappuccino recipe on my new site. I also redirected a couple other coffee recipes to the new site too.

That did the trick! I started moving up for that keyphrase, and then I started adding more recipes also, got more people to share them and Voila! Traffic starting in April started to take off! And, you know what? The page ranking for that keyphrase is actually the category page for frappuccinos! Not the individual page. That’s fine with me though :)

To make a long story short (oops, too late)…..

I just wanted to share all of this because I had a super hard time trying to figure out how to fix my sites and why they dropped off the charts like that last year. I was so frustrated! I wish I had started a new site for both of them much sooner, but I just didn’t know at the time.

So, if you have a site that suddenly got hit by Panda or Penguin or any other furry little “friend” and you’ve tried to no avail at recovery, you might consider just buying a new domain and moving your site. I suggest doing it gradually so that Google sees new content being added to it consistently over the course of a couple weeks or so. I think that helps keep the Great Google happy 😉

Well, sorry that was so long, but this story has been building up for awhile and I’m just so excited that things are finally moving in the right direction again. And, since I’m trying to rely more on social sharing and more natural backlinks, I think this time I won’t have to worry too much about the wrath of Google!

Have you recovered your site rankings after a Google update? Or are you still struggling? I’d love to hear about it!

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