Sunday, February 23, 2014

Update: SEO Issues - is it Penguin? Is it Panda? or is it me?

It was a little over a year ago that I posted the "SEO Issues - is it Penguin? Is it Panda? or is it me?" in which I detailed out the struggles I had faced with recovering a website that had been hit hard by Penguin and Panda updates. I had first identified which section of the site that was hit the most, and presented my findings to the head of the corporation's division. 
In the months that followed, there were projects quickly rolled out that were designed to fix the site, and to recover the traffic that was lost. After months of the site losing traffic and still getting penalized there was a light at the end of the tunnel in recovered traffic just before I wrote and published the blog post.
I am sure a lot of you who have read the article are wondering where the site is today. Sure, a quick hockey stick of recovered traffic is great, but did that traffic hold throughout the year? 

I am happy to report that traffic has held:

Traffic continued to grow throughout January 2013 (just after the jump in traffic in November 2012) and through February. The industry the site is in sees an overall rise in traffic and consumer interest to purchase from the last week of December through February with a downtrend through the rest of the year every year. While we saw the site follow this trend, in July we saw a boost in traffic. After careful research, it was determined that a Google Panda update confirmed on July 24th was the boost we needed. Ironically, what had taken the site down in the past was now helping the site improve as we continued to clean up issues remaining causing the hits from Panda and Penguin.

Most important issues identified:


  1. Too many on-page links
  2. Top level pages
  3. No site hierarchy
  4. An extremely high number of URLs
  5. Duplicate content
  6. Not enough unique content


In general - the site was not following the core of the Webmaster Tools Guidelines which is the Bible of SEO. If a site isn't following the core of what Google says, then there is virtually no hope for it.

As 2012 was focused on recovering from Panda and Penguin hits, 2013 was focused on cleaning up the remaining issues from parameters, thin content, duplicate content, finalizing the last pages to the hierarchy, and so on. I am happy to report that the site is now 96% complete of all issues, and the first of many projects are underway that are designed to grab new opportunity for the site. Traffic has seen increases in August, October, and another boost in December with continued growth as we are in the peak of our season again.

Courage is Grace Under Pressure


It was what was stated in the image I had added to my post along with the description of the pressures I had faced in 2012.
Throughout those grueling three months there were several Google Panda and Penguin updates. I documented each and every one of them in Google Analytics, and continued to answer questions, gathering data, and dealing with being under close scrutiny that the work I was doing was complete BS.
I sat in numerous meetings, some of which I walked out crying (I'm not afraid to admit it), being questioned about the road I had taken and why we weren't seeing results. There were people within the company recommending that they roll the pages back to where they were before, and even changing the URLs. I fought hard that they don't touch a thing. I sent an article posted on Search Engine Land by Barry Schwartz citing Google's patent that "tricks" search spammers.
But the article and my please fell on deaf ears...
It had gotten so heated and there was fear that nothing was being done while traffic was significantly declining that the company brought in yet another SEO consultant to look at the site objectively. 
It was a lot to bear, and lot to live through. Sadly, what I had experienced in the organization was not unlike the experience many SEOs face. We are constantly questioned and second guessed. Many coworkers and bosses will even take it upon themselves to learn as much as they can, only to find that there is a lot of arguing among the experts in the industry as to what is the "right" way to optimize, and what is "wrong". But for SEO there is no right or wrong way, only what works. My philosophy behind optimizing is to always follow the rules. Start with the guidelines, organize the website, provide information for the user and present it in a way that makes sense. No shortcuts, trickery, or "optimizing". It is a philosophy I fight for every day (and boy do I fight).

Today I am happy to say the tune towards myself and the SEO work that is getting done has completely changed. My Boss now gives me rave reviews, the company has belief in the work done for SEO, and the team (product and engineering) is extremely supportive with any issue or requests needed for SEO. We are a cohesive and supportive team, and the results from the work we are doing is paying off.

Many people in the industry have told me to look for work elsewhere. That not only included people in the industry and some of my supportive coworkers, but the person my Boss reports to had even recommended it. I will admit I had interviewed at a couple of places. What discouraged me was that I knew the work that had been done up until that point would eventually pay off. If I had left then credit would have been given to the next SEO hired, or worse, it would be ruined by someone focusing on getting instant results. Most importantly, leaving the team that is now supportive was just not what I wanted. I love working for this company (the benefits are good), and everyone that I work with is like family. I call us the "Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin." since we are a small office within a very large organization. We are a close family that support one another and they all seem to welcome my quirkiness.

Until Next Year

So until next year, I will be continuing my job and the work for SEO. I have big plans for the website, and will continue to fight for what I believe in for SEO. I will also try to get more informational posts on here as we continue our last bit of cleanup on the site and continue to see results. I am even contemplating writing a book (as I have been told I should for a few years now), but am still reluctant with all those great SEO books already on the shelves - most of which have been written by some very dear friends. Until then - keep optimizing, and fighting for what you believe in SEOs.