How To Know If You Got Hit By Google Panda And How To Lift The Penalty
by ledux | on January 2, 2013
I’m having a constant struggle with Google algorithm updates, to be more specific with Google Panda updates and refreshes. These updates keep bashing my blog (www.imz6.com) and taking away my hard earned traffic, because I don’t know a better way to get free traffic, I keep adjusting my blog according to the new Google guidelines.
When you are hit by the Google Panda you need to check all your content, because the Panda penalizes, for duplicate content, spun content and other crappy content. Now, I haven’t intentionally published duplicate content, but I have received a lot of guest posts that were already published somewhere else.
Yes, that happens a lot, but I figured it out only after I got penalized, if you are accepting guest posts make sure to check that the articles that you get aren’t duplicates.
How I was checking, if the articles aren’t duplicates? The first time when I got penalized I had a ton of work to do and check all the articles that I have published, around 500 I did that by copying and pasting the first paragraph into Google and looking for matches. Usually it’s pretty easy to spot them.
So, after the first manual check of all my articles, the penalty got lifted, it was like a breath of fresh air, the traffic came back and I started generating leads again. Now, I was smarter and I checked all the articles before publishing them. Life was good, but not for long, I got penalized again, by the same Panda.
It was strange, because I have checked all the articles already and I was checking all the articles before publishing. I started thinking what might be the problem and came to a conclusion that it’s, because of the curated blog posts.
So, I did another check and deleted blog posts that had a lot of curated content and very little original content, I also found some other duplicate guest posts, I probably didn’t check good enough the first time. After a week the penalty was lifted again and that good stuff came back until another Google Panda refresh came and I got penalized again.
I was mad, I wanted to delete all the articles and start over again. I put myself together and I did some random cleaning of outdated articles that no one would read, but now some time has passed and my blog is still penalized.
One day I was checking a new guest post that someone sent, did the regular check, but this time I went one step further and entered the article’s title into Google, no exact matches, but I did click on the first page result, started reading it and realized that the one that I had was a spun version of this article, then I realized that my method of checking isn’t accurate.
So, I deleted some more articles, but still the penalty is here and just recently something clicked in my head and I remembered a site called Copyscape. Copyscape is mainly designed to look for sites that have stolen your content and for you to file a complaint against those sites. It helps to protect your content online, but it can also be used to check you website for duplicate content as well as checking text documents, if they have been published somewhere on the internet or not.
There are two versions of Copyscape the free version and the paid one.
- The free version is a simple search where you can put in an URL and check, if there are duplicates online. The free version is very limited, but still a useful tool.
- The paid version has a lot more features. You can check text documents (in free version the article must be published on the web), run batch searches for a whole site which includes analytics and searches give more results. One premium search costs $0,05
So, I ran a batch search for my whole blog which cost me $23. I got a whole analysis of all my articles and detected all the duplicate content. I also found pages that had stolen my articles. I got all the duplicate articles deleted and contacted one site that has taken my content.
I did this only a few days ago and the penalty hasn’t been lifted yet, but I sure hope so it will get lifted for good. From now on I will be checking all the guest posts, before publishing, with Copyscape.
Now I would like to give a detailed tutorial on how to check your site for duplicate content and make it Google Panda approved.
How To Know If You Got Hit By Google Panda And How To Lift The Penalty?
A big mistake that I have done when I got penalized by Google, you know that you got penalized when the traffic from Google drops significantly, was that I assumed I got penalized, because off bad backlinks or “thanks to” Google Penguin.
I thought that it was Penguin’s fault, because everyone was talking about it and Panda was long forgotten even though the refreshes were still coming in. So, I deleted tons of backlinks which probably were helping my site to rank higher and not vice versa and only later on I understood that it was Google Panda all along.
How do I know it was Panda and not some other update and how you can check for yourself?
Go to your Google Analytics, if you aren’t using GA any other similar service should be fine, if you can watch several months of traffic stats, also the function to filter out Google traffic would be helpful. Choose the menu Traffic Sources, then click Sources, All Traffic and click on google/organic as shown in the image below.
Then identify the dates when you saw a huge decrease in traffic and analyze the information. Here’s an example how to do it:
This is an image from one of my previously owned blogs, as you can see from the image it got hit two times once on April 27th and the second time on July 24th. Now when we know the dates when the traffic dropped we can compare them with Google algorithm updates and find out by which update we got hit.
Go to http://www.seomoz.org/google-algorithm-change for a list of Google algorithm updates and you can see that on on April 27th ( the date when the traffic dropped the first time) there was Panda 3.6 update and on July 24th (second drop) there was Panda 3.9 update.
So, we can make a conclusion that the site was affected by Google Panda and this means that the problem is with the quality of the website’s content.
Let’s check another example of a site (www.imz6.com, the blog about which I talked at the beginning of this blog post) which got hit by Panda as well:
In this image you can see the traffic drop after the update on August 20th which was Panda 3.9.1 , but unlike the first site the traffic didn’t dye off completely, because the site #2 was older and had more authority.
So, using this method you can identify by which Google update you were affected, not just Google Panda, I just don’t have examples to show of other update penalties and thank god for that.
Now that you know what’s causing the problem you can start fixing it, if it’s Penguin you need to clean up your backlinks, if Panda then you need to fix the content, if something else then do your own research about the update.
Cleaning Your Site For Duplicate Content
Now I don’t have experience with other updates so I’m only going to talk about how to lift off the Google Panda penalty.
Go to http://copyscape.com/signup.php?sign_up&pro=1&o=f and sing up for an account.
Choose batch search or click this link http://copyscape.com/probatch.php .
Now you need to add all the URL’s of your blog that you want to check.
There are 3 methods:
- You add in the URL of your page and Copyscape will put in the pages that your URL is linking to. For example your URL is www.site.com and has links to www.site.com/tags , www.site.com/archives, www.site.com/page2 . So these will be added to the search. I’m not sure in what situation someone could find this useful. I don’t recommend using it.
- You can manually put in all the URL’s that you want to check. One URL per line.
- You put in the URL of your sitemap and Copyscape will automatically fetch all the URL’s. If you don’t have a sitemap built, I will do a quick walk through how to build it for WordPress blogs.Download and install a plugin called Google XML Sitemaps. Build a sitemap using the plugin and if you built it correctly your sitemap should appear at www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml
I recommend using the third method, because it’s the easiest and most reliable. So, you put in the URL of your sitemap and click add. Then you will have to buy search credits, as I previously said 1 search costs $0,05, once you have bought the credits you can start the batch search.
After the batch search is done you will get an email informing about it. Then go to your account and click batch results or follow this link http://copyscape.com/probrowse.php
You will land on a page which is similar to this:
Here u can see the URL, Title, Matches and Risk. URL is the link to your article’s search results. Title is the name of your page or article. Matches mean on how many pages there was spotted something similar to yours, you don’t really need to worry about that number. Risk means how many percents of words match up, if the percentage is high the color is red, if low the color is orange or green.
You should be mainly worried about the reds and dark oranges, though I recommend to check through all of them. Yes, through all of them. You click the URL and see the results of the Copyscape search, click on the first result and a page opens which was found to be similar to yours, there should be the words that match highlighted on the page, then you can decided if the articles are similar or not.
Mainly only the reds will be duplicates, but just in case check them all. Go through the list and delete all the duplicate articles on your site or file complaints to others, if someone has taken your content and haven’t given any credit to you. After doing this you should be Google Panda approved.
From now on when you get a guest post paste it in the premium Copyscape search http://copyscape.com/login.php and make sure it’s not a duplicate, this should prevent you from getting into trouble in the future.
Hope this was helpful, if you have any questions or comments, leave them below.