The question on the minds of many affected by the Farmer Update is: How do I get my rankings back? What strategies can I employ right now that will start the process of recovering some/if not all of my traffic in Google? A very recent thread on WebmasterWorld was started by a webmaster affected by the update and his plans to fix the problem areas of his website and then document the effects in Google. Other SEO's and webmasters joined the conversation and been hotly debating this the last few days, sharing tips and plans to recover their rankings.
The unfortunate reality right now for most websites is that your rankings will not recover completely in the short term, whether you do nothing or something. Once Google has filtered out your lower quality content that previously gained easy rankings, it will take some effort to recover your rankings for those previous positions. Not to fret however, there are things you can do to help move this process along.
So What Should You Do?
First determine how much you were affected by the Farmer Update. This could be the first diagnostic clue on how significant your new changes should be. Look at your detailed analytics reports and determine the drop in organic traffic for your major keywords and even long tail keywords. See any patterns? What areas were the most affected? If you lost more than 75% of your traffic it could be mean there is some serious content quality issues going on with your site. If you lost much less, then you probably have less to do, and Google is just polishing your overall valuable content footprint in the index for you. You could also have sections of your website that are dragging down the overall rankings for other pages. Identify them.
It seems one of the most overwhelming strategies so far is blocking off the thin and auto-generated content sections of your website from Google. Google has indicated that low quality pages on one part of the site can effect the overall ranking on another part of your website. This was a tip shared before the update by Google's JohnMu. He recommended blocking the crawling and indexing of any content that is not unique or valuable to users.
What is the best way to do this? Forums members are discussing the ways they are doing this. Here are some strategies from separating your thin/lower quality content from the rest of your site and other tactics being used to fix their websites.
- Address the most significantly impacted pages first, get rid of them
- Use Meta Robots noindex, follow tag on individual pages
- Delete the pages permantantly
- Don't delete, improve the content of the page immediately.
- Reduce the number of internal links
- Improve the content X ad density ratio. More unique content on ad heavy pages.
- Remove redundant pagination
- Use the rel="canonical" attribute on duplicate pages
- Do nothing quite yet, watch and see what happens
- Revisit those dark and forgotten parts of your website, eliminate any junk
- Address boilerplate content. Reduce it, or consider making it unique for each page
- Give Google feedback on the update and how it impacted your website
- Submit a reinclusion request once you have cleaned up portions of your website
Some gems from the thread:
Netmeg makes an excellent recommendation on determining what pages to fix:
So the first thing I am doing is taking the same advice I've been spouting in the AdSense forum for years - take an objective look at my site, and measure percentages.
If nav + ads + header + footer > content; then fix.
If nav + ads + header + footer < content; probly ok.
Even if weak pages do help drag down good pages on the site, it still seems to me that addressing the "Biggest Loser" pages first makes very good sense. In other words, even though there is a site-wide component at work, the greatest power of the update is focused at individual URLs.
What is clear is we are still not quite sure how these changes will impact the rankings in the short and long term. That will take some time to figure out. I think it will be important to monitor the forums where webmasters are making these changes and recording their postive/negative impact to figure out the best strategy for your website. Stay tuned.
Continued discussion at WebmasterWorld.