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Penguin recovery? Or Panda? It’s a tough call!

Penguin Recovery?At the time of writing this post, there has only been one Penguin refresh and that was on May 25, 2012.  Stories of Penguin recoveries are few and far between, so I paid particular attention when I saw Nick LeRoy’s post about a possible Penguin Recovery.

Nick tells the story of a domain whose traffic dropped dramatically on May 25th, the day that the first Penguin refresh happened.  He had a number of keywords as anchor text in the links pointing to his site which was probably the culprit.

He credits his recovery to a number of things including changing his internal links so that they weren’t so over optimized, getting rid of a purchased link, and doing a major overhaul on his content, noindexing thin content and making sure that he had more unique pages.

Near the end of August, the site started to see an uptick in traffic again although it had not returned to original levels.



So was this a Penguin Recovery?

I would say that it wasn’t!  Some of the changes that Nick made were much more in tune with Panda recovery than Penguin.  I believe that the majority of his recovery so far was because of Panda related changes that he made.

Remember, as far as we know, Penguin is all about the quality of your backlinks and Panda is all about the quality of your actual site.  The changes that Nick made to remove thin content and beef up the quality of his site probably helped him escape the Panda filter.

Go to his site and have a look at the second graph that he has which dictates the site’s traffic drop, and then slight recovery.  I’d like to point out a few things:

1. There is definitely a significant drop on or around May 25th, which is coincidental with the first Penguin refresh, so this supports the idea that the site was affected by Penguin.

2. But, there is also a drop that happens near the end of April.  You could argue that this was due to the initial Penguin rollout that happened on April 24th, but I’m guessing that it was a slight Panda hit.  There were known Panda refreshes on April 19th and April 27th.

3. The “recovery” looks like it starts around the end of August.  There was no known Penguin refresh at the end of August, but there was a Panda refresh on August 20th!

My conclusions:

First of all, thanks Nick for writing this post.  It’s always good to hear of websites that were affected by Google and then managed to make some sort of a recovery.  You’ve put some hard work into fixing up this site and it is paying off.  I am guessing that you could see further recovery when we finally get another Penguin refresh.  However, it depends on the severity of your anchor text issues in external links pointing to your site.  I’m not sure that just cleaning up the internal links will fix the problem.

This case study is a good indication, however, that we need not jump to conclusions.  I have seen a number of websites that saw a traffic drop at the end of April and webmasters have come to the conclusion that they were affected by Penguin.  I believe that many webmasters have gone on a crazy unnecessary link killing spree!  A traffic drop at the end of April could be a Panda issue in which case, getting rid of links will just end up hurting your site.  Similarly, for some websites there could be some other issue such as accidental noindexing, malware and more. (See this article on other reasons for traffic drops.)

Thanks for sharing your post though Nick and I hope you see a full recovery soon!

Added September 6, 2012: Nick just added another traffic graph to the end of his post. The graph shows a big traffic jump yesterday. Barry at SERoundtable is speculating there may have been a Penguin refresh yesterday. So, perhaps Nick is now getting his Penguin recovery!

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