Google Survivor Tips – SMX Advanced Recap

Google Survivor Tips

Moderator: Danny Sullivan

Speakers: Alan Bleiweiss, Micah Fisher-Kirshner, Mark Munroe

After an awesome keynote we’re getting pumped for the Google Survivor Tips session.  Looks like an all-star panel ready to drop some knowledge bombs.

Starting the session off is Mark Munroe.

Mark has never used the word “panda” until it was used by Google to code their update. Since then Mark has been dreaming about the SERPs and the Panda.

Panda Recovery Strategies: Building A Quality SERP Experience

February 24, 2011: Panda hits. But they didn’t know it. Their analytics were showing a drastic drop in server activity and soon after, Matt Cutts announced a site wide hit had occurred.

Commonalities of Panda victims:

  • Content Explosion
  • Thin Content
  • Heavy content aggregation
  • Heavy ad/content ratio
  • Article and Q&A content farms
  • Dated UI
  • Collateral Damage (pure unique content sites got hit)

However, each of these common themes has notable exceptions.

What is Google interested in?

  • Think like Googlelonian
  • Google cares about customers – their pages
  • To recover from Panda you have to help Google.

Can Google determine page quality?

Panda is an admission by Google that they cannot reliably solve the problem of identifying quality content

How did Google determine quality prior to 2/24/11?

  • Reputation
  • Content was binary
  • SEOs loved it

Hypothesis: Google is using behavioral metrics

  • Just like user behavior on your own site is the best measure of success, the same is true for Google
  • Those metrics are influenced by the web pages that show up in the SERP
  • But they cannot judge an individual page on user metrics (just not enough data)

Google is looking at signals that indicate a positive or negative SERP

  • Bounce rate
  • Query behavior after the bounce
  • Average time on Google before a bounce
  • Click through rate
  • Repeat visits

Where will Google get their data

  • They won’t use GA
  • They won’t use a toolbar
  • Will only use data available on their sites
  • Will only use data that is broadly applicable on all sites.

Does it matter if it’s behavioral?

Changing the focus from your site’s usability to the SERP experience will reveal new strategies. It is important as it relates to new SEO/Content strategies going forward. If it is behavioral, it is based on data collection.

Going forward, SEOs need to be better at thinking about user experience. Your designers and UXEs should be thinking better about search.


  • Know your searcher
  • All searches are questions. You control what questions get traffic to your site
  • Conduct Search usability testing
  • Look for bad keywords
    • If keywords don’t make sense get rid of them, fix the content
  • Easily identifiable content
  • Make sure you have good titles
    • Make sure the title is indicative of the content on the page
  • Review your keywords
  • Beware of Content for Content’s Sake
    • Content should be focused around the title of the page
  • Link freely to relevant content
    • If you can’t provide what they want, send them where they can get it
  • Don’t annoy your users
    • Overly aggressive monetization techniques
    • Opening 10 windows like travel sites do
  • Be careful with new content initiatives
    • Panda is not just about recovery but new strategies going forward
    • Be careful with the use of noindex, nofollow
  • Panda Impact on Domain Strategies
    • Domain name matters
    • For websites with a broad reach, a multi-domain strategy where each domain is relevant to the niche may be more effective in the long term


  • Panda is a behavioral-based update
  • Work to improve how users interact with your site in the SERP
  • Google wants to improve their site. Think about things from Google’s perspective

Danny put Alan on the panel because he told him he’d be sorry if he didn’t. And without further ado, Alan Bleiweiss.

Disclaimer: The information being presented is based on Alan’s experience and his own opinions.

Alan doesn’t work with sites that are directory or aggregator sites, he deals mostly with the sites that were affected by the Panda update. For this panel Alan reviewed 15 websites resulting in over seven million pages indexed in Google and only 740,000 in Bing.

Two kinds of SEO

Myopic SEO

Focuses only on Google-based magic bullet methods

Sustainable SEO

Focuses on user experience as seen through the eyes of search bots & algorithms

Sites Alan reviewed that got hit by Panda revealed a significant drop in traffic, in most cases worse than the infamous “May Day” hit. May Day was a precursor to Panda. Sustainable SEO’d sites weren’t affected by either May Day or Panda.

Myopic SEO

  • Topical Cross Contamination
  • Text Anorexia
  • Internal Link Poisoning
  • Unnatural off-site patterns
  • Sheep to the slaughter competitive evaluation

Sustainable SEO

  • Provide multiple consistent signals regarding topical focus
  • Does this “feature” confirm or confuse topical focus?
  • Does this page overwhelm the senses?
  • Off-site diversity (inbound links, social mentions, reviews)

A client came to Alan after Panda with a page stuffed to the gills with ads, unnecessary internal links and very, very little content on the home page. They had heard that if you have something important, put the link on the home page. His clients did this but took it to extremes. Keep it simple, keep the topical focus really tight.

After they implemented the changes Alan suggested, their traffic, clicked ads, and site activity all  increased. They removed the unnecessary internal links and only kept the internal links that were related to the topic of the content on that page. They kept the topical focus.

Myopic SEO

Inbound links were brand related, but didn’t help users figure out who the brand was to make an informed decision.

Link to root ratio is the ratio of total links to root domains among inbound links. If you have one site linking to you 10 times, your ratio is 10. If you have 10 sites linking to your site once, your ratio is 1. Having a high link to root ratio is bad, but this is relative; if you have 3 instances of a high link-to-root ratio among 5,000 link sources, that’s okay – but if you have 3 instances among only 10 sources, that’s bad.

Sustainable SEO Benefits

  • Higher rankings in Google
  • Google rollercoaster resilience
  • Higher rankings in Bing/Yahoo
  • More traffic

Going Beyond Google

  • Bing/Yahoo
  • YouTube
  • Niche Marketing Search Engines

Bing Tricks

  • Bing loved the diversity of inbound link anchor text
    • Must point directly to the topical focus of the anchor text
    • Links coming from sites that Bing ranks well
    • Laser Target Anchors to relevant pages
  • Bing has more difficulty discovering content
    • Submit a sitemap.xml to Bing webmaster tools
  • Bing-Facebook deal
    • Don’t just push content – engage for authority

If you have a really strong anchor text spread, you’ll be amazed at how many pages you can get indexed in Bing.

And to cap off the session, Micah Fisher-Kirshner.

The Panda Attacks

Monitoring system goes haywire, traffic drops over 20%


  • Is the data in?
    • Maintain a good relationships with ops
    • Massive events require flexibility within organization
    • Utilize Google analytics hourly reports with advanced segments
  • Who else is affected?
    • Find the limits of the event
      • SEO affects everything and everything affects SEO
    • Communication is essential
      • This isn’t time to send emails
      • Keep your departments near
  • Algorithm Update Rumors?
    • Read, read read!
      • Read voraciously
    • Focus on forums and search news sites as they will get information out quickly
      • Webmaster world
      • Search engine land
  • What was recently launched?
    • Keep an event log
    • Bug the engineers
      • Not every detail is always written down
  • Algorithm Update Rumors?
    • Go back and read some more!
  • What areas are affected?
    • Segment any way you can
  • Did anything break?
    • Let’s assume everything you’re doing is white hat, right?
      • Sometimes broken or forgotten processes can lead to a broken website that looks like black hat SEO
    • Know what is fundamental to your site’s SEO
  • Algorithm update rumor?!
    • Yes, we have confirmation
    • Now what?
      • Go collect data
  • Who’s talking about the update?
    • Recognize the regulars
      • Skip the broken track records
    • Always read important people, even if it’s just one sentence
    • Scrutinize the strangers
    • Jerks will be jerks
      • Push past their annoyances and listen
  • What sites are dropping?
    • Your ranking data shows the severity of the impact
    • Competitive ranking data is essential
      • Who is surviving the update? How are they surviving?
  • What are the theories?
    • Think like a black hat
  • What theories fit?
    • Find out everything you can
      • Work your business connections
      • Read blogs for in-depth analyses
    • Jot down likely possibilities
      • Make sure you have enough data
      • Get out in front fast before others do
  • What can we do to recover?
    • Think like a search engine
    • Learn to love statistics
    • Understand how changes were made
      • Richard Baxter at SEOgadget is perfect
    • Coding clues and LinkedIn
    • A/B Test
      • Subdomains, categories, page types

Did you fix it yet?


  1. Google is my favorite search engine your tips are good. Enjoy Sharing with each other your Tips, Jobs, Tools, Fun & everything that can be shared while Making Money Online..

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