In the last couple of weeks we have seen a total of 5 Google algorithm updates. This has certainly left a lot of people’s sites in tatters as traffic and earnings have dropped off a cliff overnight.
Historically Google have left a decent amount of time between updates so you can get a grip of what’s going on, but not this time.
5 updates in less than 2 weeks has created a huge amount of hysteria and fear amongst webmasters – something the web spam team are becoming an expert at.
So with all the mayhem the updates have caused, how are you meant to know where to start?
Identifying The Penalty
If you suspect your site was hit with a Google penalty after an update then you need to identify which algorithm change took your site out.
Once you know which penalty your site got slapped with it is a lot easier to analyse in detail and create a plan of action to recovery.
Unfortunately a lot of webmaster make assumptions at this stage and start fixing things that aren’t actually broken, often making things worse.
Accurately diagnosing which penalty is at play is essential to recovering your site.
Where To Start
The first thing you should do is see if your drop in rankings/traffic correlates with any new Google algorithm updates.
SEOMoz Change Hisotry
SEOMoz maintain a very helpful page that lists all of the major updates, the date they happened along with some additional information about the update.
This page gets updated quite regularly and is always a good point of reference.
If you are seeing strange movements in the SERPS and that page hasn’t being updated, then you should have a look at the MozCast for the day.
Mozcast is a great tool that represents the turbulence in rankings in weather terms. The higher the temperature, the more fluctuation the rankings have seen that day.
This is a good way to check if an update is rolling out at the current time.
The Panguin Tool combines the data from the SEOMoz change history page with your Google Analytics graph.
It isn’t as flexible as Chartelligence as you can only see Google updates and how they affected your search traffic but it’s great to quickly check if an update has affected your site.
There is no need to install anything, all you need to do is login with your Analytics account and grant the Panguin Tool access to the data.
As soon as you have done that and selected your website you can see this-
The red lines are Panda related, blue lines are Penguin related and Orange lines are general updates to the algorithm.
What I really like about this over Chartelligence is that when you mouse over each update you get a bit information about it as well as a link to get more information.
Once you have isolated which Google penalty is potentially affecting your site you can start to analyse the cause of the problem.
Remember that correlation of your search traffic dropping with an algorithm update doesn’t necessarily mean it is the update at fault, for example your site may have being hacked and hosting malware.
If a drop in your traffic does correlate with an algorithm change then that should point you in the right direction of what to look at first as a cause.
Many webmasters set off in the wrong direction from the get go, so make sure you take time to understand why the site dropped before taking any action.
If you think the penguin update is to blame then analyse your backlinks, if you think its Panda then do a full on site audit looking for duplicate content and site structure.