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Over Optimization Penalty > Signs of and remedies for



10:14 pm on Dec 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

As a Panda sufferer I've been changing a lot of things on the site... tweaking it slowly and deliberately, hoping that we change enough to get back into the good graces of Google.... while overall improving the usability and design of the site... and usefulness of it for our customers.

A member here (who I'll not name because I don't have permission) checked out the site and within a matter of minutes determined that we probably have an over optimization issue... specifically on the home page.

The issues he described were:

1. Not enough text to support the home page (around 200 words...)
2. Overuse of the same links in the header/footer/body (going to the same category pages... looks spammy/repetitive)
3. Not enough fresh content... The content has been the same for years... no real updating on the home page.
4. links pointing to the home page... on the home page... obvious optimization "trick".

The proof of the home page being a problem was:

1. The home page isn't the highest ranked page on the site.
2. In Google WMT the home page isn't ranked under the top urls for Your site on the web > Keywords > top URLs

The theory is that perhaps the site is suffering from a loss of grace of the home page (the most important page on the site.) Once the home page is cleaned up and considered a valuable page on the site the rest of the pages will start to regain their prominence.

What we are doing now to improve the home page:

1. Removed links pointing to self.
2. Updated the content, improved the overall sound of the content
3. Introducing a blog section which will be updated constantly with up to date content.
4. Rotating product feed which updates with new fresh products every time the page is loaded... including snippets of content about the product.


1. Are there other sources to verify the strength of a single page... (PR went from 5 to 4 in the last update...)
2. Anything one would do to optimize a single page... versus an entire site...
3. Any collaboration on the theory that perhaps a single page (the home page) could take down an entire site 75% traffic loss...

Up till now I've been focusing on everything but the home page. I've been looking at the problem as the site as a whole... not even thinking that the problem could be right under my nose based on the most important page... the home page.


2:25 am on Dec 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member planet13 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Hi there, Lenny2:

i will throw these ideas out there and hopefully someone with more experience than I can either confirm or deny the following (or at least they will spark an idea for you):

2. Anything one would do to optimize a single page... versus an entire site...

I got some links to my INTERNAL pages where the anchor text was just the root domain. some were "www.mydomain.com" and some were just "mydomain.com"

4. Rotating product feed which updates with new fresh products every time the page is loaded... including snippets of content about the product.

i would love to know what others think about this. To me, it seems like it might be counter productive.

I am purely guessing here, but I would imagine that google would like to see SOME consistency. Also, I have had people mention to me that linking directly to PRODUCTS might not be as helpful as linking directly to CATEGORY level pages.

I am not sure 100% why, but I am guessing that google still bases a lot of it's understanding of the home page of a site depending on the linking structure of the home page. (Again, I am hoping that someone with a better understanding of this will weigh in and help out.)

My view might be tainted though. i have gone to sites and seen a product listed on the home page. Then when I went back later, the product was gone, and I had a hard time finding it again. For what it's worth.

One question for you:

Have you closely examined your crawling logs?

someone mentioned to me a technical error, where they had incorrectly coded an absolute URL to their home page. they forgot to include the http:// in the absolute URL, and so their link looked like this:


So the final link when it was displayed (or followed) was this:


They said that not too long after fixing the problem, their rankings started to regain.

MUSING OUT LOUD: Panda must be so complex, that MAYBE many technical errors that wouldn't have consequences in the normal algo are causing problems for Panda?


8:37 pm on Dec 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the feedback Planet! I've never actually physically looked at the crawl logs... I'm going to try and figure it out! Funny I have gone as far as I have without knowing the basics.

I'm often wondered about your theory as well. A Toyota is more forgiving... but you put the same abuse toward a Ferrari and it'll break.

Anybody out there have any feedback on the home page penalty (by itself) causing a Panda-like reaction?


6:54 pm on Dec 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Some have noted a traffic drop when some/many of their back links come from padalized sites. Lots of new links from bad neighborhoods produce a similar feel to the traffic loss too.

Perhaps it's time to build some quality back links that are from sites on your topic and in your niche's neighborhood? Don't forget local (Chamber of Commerce, BBB, town/regional directories.)

The OOP I recently fixed was poor anchor text variety (2 combinations) of too quickly acquired links. Took about 90 days to return to normal.


6:40 pm on Jan 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Hoople, Now that it has been close to a year and I've:

1. Deindexed many pages
2. Improved user metrics
3. Improved content
4. Added new great content

I'm thinking more and more about the link theory... aside from some small changes left to do... links is the only real frontier I haven't worked on for a year...

Anybody else going down the link path for Panda with good results?


7:06 pm on Jan 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Lenny I'm with you in this boat. I have not really focused to much on the home page and linking structure, only removing and making certain pages better overall. I'm in the process of creating a new template that I hope is more user and google friendly overall. Currently my link navigation is down the left hand column and the new is a rollover menu bar along the top. Looks cleaner and is still easy to follow. It's just not the early 2000's Link to it and it will rank navigation.

Anyone with experience of removing a left column link navigation to all internal categories?


11:39 pm on Jan 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member whitey is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

1. Deindexed many pages
2. Improved user metrics
3. Improved content
4. Added new great content

@Lenny2 - just think of things having an end point of being purely mathematical and relationship driven. Panda quality evaluation has to come back to this and it is generally accepted that pure linking is not part of this update. ( but nontheless plays a vital broader role in overall quality signals ).

And those over optimisation elements - do they really act against "quality". Some do, but I'm just re challenging the questions of your perceived over optimization.

So you've been on this for a year, and are only just getting potential signals of a revival in the next iteration [ another thread ]. But even if you get out, how strong will your quality score be - given that you've waited a year. Whatever you've done it isn't enough, and I'm hoping that you are not removing elements which may be beneficial to you. You really deserve a lot better for your efforts and it's great that a Webmasterworld member has come in to assist you.

Can we dig a bit deeper?

In terms of quantity and ratios, how much and what have you improved your content by? How is the content compelling, compared to before - and how would Google be scoring this "mathematically" ?

Google appears to be looking [ in mathematical terms ] for anything that adds value. And since this is a site wide evaluation, I wouldn't be over focusing on just the home page.


5:04 am on Jan 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Whitey - thanks for the input. I agree it's important to look at the numbers...

The hard part is figuring the "mathematical value" of "quality".

So far I'm resolved to be suspicious of every site and every ranking. I find myself analyzing the rankings of others... trying to find the combination of things that is creating their rankings... key word reports/link reports/domain authority/domain history/competition etc. etc. etc. the list goes on and on.

Finally, after all is said and done it becomes apparent that what I need to do (I say I, because I'm not smart enough to figure it out... many people smarter than I, I'm sure could figure it out...) and the answer is simple... very simple. I need to make pages that are kick-ass. I need to understand my niche... I need to understand my product... I need to understand my customer... and then build pages for my customers. Google will follow. After all it's what search engines do best.

I think I'll be out of panda when:

1. I stop looking at traffic trends
2. Stop checking the serps
3. Stop reading reports
4. Stop analyzing links
5. Stop trying to reverse engineer the algorithm

With all my extra time... creating top "quality" content.


6:00 am on Jan 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

Big YES to your last two paragraphs.

Panda is a good lesson for all of us. If you're serious about building a stable web business, don't put (all) your eggs on any Search Engine.


6:46 am on Jan 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member whitey is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

@Lenny2 - really what i was driving at with the mathematics angle was less of an intensive analysis, but more or less along the lines of :
- what % of your content is unique
- what % of your site is unique
- do you have fresh content / what proportion changes

-You have great content ? Y ?
-But how are you defining that compared to others ?

Every site is unqiue to some extent, so these questions may not apply to you, but i am trying to encourage a more substantive approach.

You may build a a great site for users, which sure is better than chasing the algorithmn by trying to reverse engineer it [ a mug's game ], but can you drop some numbers around it. It doesn't have to be complex.

This is what i mean by translating quality to mathematics. This is all Google can ever read.


1:51 am on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

@whitey I like the idea of getting mathematical. It's just that there are so many potential areas for the data to lead us astray. The only fact is that we don't know enough about the algorithm... and the algorithm is a moving target.

Why is the algorithm a moving target? Google is trying to improve their serps... and stay away from gettin stale/bad results. The best way forward is to innovate really good quality pages that users really want to read/watch/partake in/enjoy/share/etc.etc.etc. By doing so the search engine will follow and WANT to rank the #*$! out of your site.

The thing is that the users are getting more control too... and pickier. Before (a few years ago) we could rank crappy pages and get the benefit of the doubt (sales/conversions whatever) from our customers because they didn't have high expectations. Today, the users have much higher expectations... and tomorrow they are just going to be even higher. From a Webmastering perspective it is not going to serve us to get crappy pages ranked high in the serps... they'll just get dogged and the "brand" diminished.

Do you know how many customers call and say: "I hate how every site on Google links back to Amazon... if I wanted to go to Amazon, I'd just go to Amazon... are they in bed with Google or what?" etc. etc. we get the calls all the time. People are tired of the cloaked made for adsense BS affiliate sites... and while they may be generating a lot of traffic for Amazon (and other affiliate marketers) it can't be good for the Brand.

People have higher expecations. Whereas I had to let go of 13 employees after Feb 24th 2011... I had to let go of a kick-ass apartment... luckily my vehicle is all paid for... People say to me all the time: "ahh man Google has too much control... aren't you pissed etc. etc." I tell them no it's not their "fault" it was my choices etc. etc. and in my mind and entire being I realize now that the Panda shakeup was a wake-up call... The web doesn't have to be a "cestpool" it can be the bud of a flower that is slowly opening up... You have to ask yourself: Do I want to be a part of the flower... or a part of the manure?

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