Welcome to part two of my series of an unknown length looking at my exciting adventures recovering one of my affiliate sites from it’s Google Panda woes!
The first thing I did after returning from New Zealand and getting over the huff that I’d been in was formulate a recovery plan.
Here’s The Plan Stan!!
- Removing all site content except the core pages around which the site is themed and rebuilding the whole thing from the ground up. In a site of almost 1,300 pages this leaves me with around 150 to play with.
- Increase average page views per user, time spent on site, and general visitor happiness by not having any core pages that redirect straight out to merchant.
- The core pages (which feature individual fashion brands) will be completely redesigned to form decent information resources about the brand beyond the current description and “shop now” type links. Things like sizing guides, information on the types of product they specialise in etc. I’m also going to have a special offers widget created for the site that’ll allow me to present information on sales, discount codes, and offers for each brand or by specific category.
- Investing heavily in site functionality. I have an early version of a plugin that’ll let me take merchant feeds, grab and save all their images, resizing and renaming them automagically (Oh how I’m coming to love that word). The plugin also creates masked affiliate links and will allow users to browse all the products in ways they wouldn’t be able to on a single merchant site. Each core page will have a small widget which will display the latest products on the site for the brand. I started organising this back in January when I realised that we had a problem.
- Thin “product reviews” which were really only rewritten product overviews and whizzed people straight back out to merchant will be replaced by newsy items and how to articles. These will not be monetised.
- I’ll also start doing real product reviews under some kind of nom de plume. We’ll be setting up a mini photo studio to take detailed pictures of bras. I will not be modelling these :D. These reviews will also form part of my shiny new social media strategy. I shall be trying to get the merchants and brands to bestow some retweetage upon me for my efforts. Again, these will not be monetised but I’m holding out real hopes of scoring serious amounts of free underwear and link love once I get it going.
- Competitions – again around social media to try to get people retweeting, liking, and generally engaging with the site.
- I’ll be going through and re-optimising the core pages, well de-optimising them really. I’ll also be rewriting anything that isn’t clear and concise and where there’s too much repetition of terms closely related to the page content.
- Lots of social media type fun, all totally new and nosebleed inducing but I think essential for the longer term.
- Theme update.
- Site speed overhaul.
If you read the above carefully you’ll see it caters for an awful lot of things Google could use to tell you are an unoriginal site.
It Is Alive!! The Early Results
I’ve already put in two solid weeks of work on pulling my site apart and starting to reconstruct it and am seeing some early, but limited, results. Here’s a list of what changes I’ve made, when I made them, followed by some results and observations. Hope you’re still awake by the time you’ve gotten through ’em!
First of all, here’s the Google referral data from my Analytics account: –
The upward trend is all the more pleasing when you consider that the increase in traffic is being countered by the removal of all the pages that were generating 90% of the traffic we’d regained as at April 25th or so. In a twist of fate only Google could engineer the only pages left ranking were complete and utter spammy shite which I’d accidentally let get indexed – they were old PPC pages and had no unique content whatsoever.
What Have I Done So Far From My Plan?
I hear you ask. Here’s a list of what we did, and when.
- April 3rd. I changed all the brand overview pages so that rather than the user going straight out to merchant from my “view whole range” button, they were directed to my internal product feed section which I thought would increase the average page views per user that Google was seeing happen on the site.
- May 2nd. I removed all the content from the site except my main pages. This took my 1,300 page site down to a whopping 169.
- May 4th. New site design and structure is put in place. For now, I’ve based the site completely around the core content. Replacing the old feed content in the top bar with links to categories containing all my brands.
- May 6th. I began the process of deoptimising my pages and rewriting content where needed.
- May 12th Finish the deoptimisation and rewriting. I can assure you alcohol will be taken this evening!
- Like Site B I found some pages on Site A where my SEO plugin had let me down. A significant number (but not all) of them were quietly ranking away. Not enough to alert me by producing much traffic, but high enough to cheer me up significantly. This reinforced the idea that softening the SEO on the site was looking like a winner.
- As I went through my pages on I also did test searches and discovered that many pages that were previously totally buried or around page 5 were now mid page 2. Another trend was that in many cases “softer” site pages that perhaps mentioned the brand name once were ranking relatively high in the serps i.e. within pages 2 to 5.
- The cached date on the majority of the pages returning to the rankings was initially around April 14th to 18th. So either my change to the way people flowed through the site early April was something Google liked, which has resulted in some pages at least appearing within the first five pages (they weren’t before!) or I’m simply benefitting from an algo adjustment and this information is meaningless.
- Many of the pages I adjusted on were reindexed immediately. Some of them were suddenly looking a lot sunnier on the rankings front. Others still nowhere in sight. An oddity with this is that the new titles and meta descriptions are showing in the index but the cached version of the page is still old. Another thing I’ve seen is that pages I’ve adjusted will often be catapulted back into the SERPS but it’ll be the old page version ranking rather than the new one. I’ve seen this repeatedly in the last two weeks.
- Average time spent on site and visitor page views have more than doubled and are now in line with my other sites.
Wow. Well this post has got a bit on the long side but it’ll hopefully be useful in this form.
Before You Get Jealous Of My Recovery…
Green eyed SERPS monster bothering ya? Never fear!
Because I still have a very, very long way to go.
With having made the decision to take the site back to it’s core I’ve lost a large number of pages that previously brought traffic and income to the site. I decided that for my site there was no quick solution because when I looked at it and asked “does this add value and could it stand alone without the affiliate content?” The answer was a resounding no.
I think it’ll probably take me at least 6 months to get back to where I was but I honestly believe it’s more than worth the effort. I know I’ll end up with a much stronger resource that really does add value in the long term – which will put me streets ahead of those not prepared to put in the work.
Good luck to everyone out there who has been Pandalised – and remember the road to recovery isn’t an easy one but it is worthwhile!