Content Audit to Combat Panda Penalty

Estimated read time 3 min read

The Problem

A 12-year-old content blog had been hit with a Google Panda penalty and site traffic crashed in May of 2014. Traffic partially recovered in September of the same year, before trending down again the following year. The site, which once enjoyed ample advertising income and advertiser interest, was struggling. At the same time, technical issues were on the rise. Page loads were slow, routine plugin updates were failing, and the server began to crash routinely without manual deletion of log files.

The Plan

Google Panda targets sites that have ‘thin’ content. This content is typically trivial, repetitive and/or unoriginal. The only way to recover from a Panda penalty is to remove or merge or rewrite content that’s not substantial. That’s no small task when the penalized site has a lot of content. In this case, the site had more than 6,000 published blog posts and more than 100 published pages. The first phase of the plan involved auditing all content that had not seen significant traffic in the last three months. To do this, I:
Inventoried all content using Xenu LinkSleuth.

  • Exported all page views in the last 90 days from Google Analytics.
  • Used Excel and lookups to create a spreadsheet that contained the URL, number of pageviews in the last 90 days, page title and page description for all of the site’s content.
  • Re-ordered the list of URLs in order of pageviews, from lowest to highest. As it turned out, the first few thousand of the URLs had no page views at all.
  • The first phase of the plan was completed in September 2015.

The second phase of the plan is still ongoing. For all content that has low pageviews, I’m reviewing each and making a determination on the next steps. Content that is underperforming can be rewritten and promoted or simply archived. This effort will be ongoing to ensure that all new content is performing as it should.

The Deliverables

The deliverables for the project are content audits with recommendations for each page and post.

Archive recommendations

After archiving enough posts to get the content down to a manageable level, I began the process of reviewing content that showed signs of promise. For this content, I made recommendations to:

  • Archive the content because it was redundant, outdated and trivial (ROT).
  • Rewrite the content because it was dated or trivial.
  • Optimize the content because it was valid and relevant but still underperforming; optimization involved linking to and from related content on the site and promoting the content via social channels.

The Outcome

I have archived nearly 4,000 posts and another 25 pages. While the content process is still ongoing, the site is showing signs of recovery with a notable increase in Google traffic over the last two months. These traffic increases are coming from legacy content on the site, demonstrating that the old content is recovering. Note that this is the first increase in organic traffic the site has experienced in the past 10 months. The bounce rate and pages per session have declined somewhat. To address this, I will spend some time optimizing the highest-traffic landing pages to encourage visitors to explore more of the site.

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