Recently I encountered one of Google’s latest search engine algorithm tweaks and saw a site that was getting roughly 500 visitors a day drop down to less than 70 visitors per day. It was shocking to say the least, but kind of expected.
I left the site, updated it occasionally and noticed the traffic remained low. This wasn’t a problem that was going to solve itself, I knew I had to try and fix it and return the site to its former glory.
Understanding the penalty
Unless you were unfortunately an innocent victim of one of Google’s cute but deadly sounding updates, there are a multitude of reasons.
The site I operate is kind of grey area and relies on capturing type in traffic for popular things like movies, games and music. I am not linking to anything, but through some clever SEO and named pages, I was once ranking quite well for popular music and movies.
I determined the reason my site was penalised is because most of the page content was mostly copied from the likes of Wikipedia and wasn’t really unique. I was copying the content word-for-word and for a good amount of time, it worked without an issue. I tried spinning the content to mild success as well.
Fixing the penalty
The latest slew of Google algorithm changes look at the content of your site and determine if you add any kind of value, obviously copying and pasting Wikipedia content wasn’t adding value at all. To fix the issue I had to think of ways to spin the content to add value without making more work for myself.
Previously a page for a popular movies might have had the title: “Movie: How To Train Your Dragon 2” and then on the page I would had the following content:
- The title
- The copied content from IMDB or Wikipedia
- A Youtube embed
- A poster image
- Occasionally release dates
The new page layout for a movie now has the following:
- The title
- Release Year (Clickable taking you to an archive page of movies released the same year)
- Release Month (Clickable taking you to an archive page of movies released the same month)
- List of actors and actresses
- List of directors
- The ability to click on an actor, actress or director to view an archive page showing other movies they’ve starred in or directed
- The movie category (clickable taking you to an archive page showing other movies in this category)
- Multiple Youtube embeds (official trailer, preview clips)
- A news section with links to news articles about the movie including excerpts
- A widget that polls a few torrent sites determining if this movie has leaked onto the Internet (with manual override) and also support for users to subscribe to leaks of this movie
- Ability to download movie trailers (using a custom API script I developed to save Youtube videos)
- Page specific discussion (a custom forum category)
Has it worked?
At first I wasn’t so sure, but then recently I’ve noticed my traffic has started growing. It took about a week before Google visited my site again and obviously re-assessed whether it offers value or not. I’ve gone from around 60 hits per day back to 200 in a little over a week and a half. So I guess you could say it worked and provided I don’t get penalised again and keep the content coming, the traffic should be back where it was soon enough.
The key here is you have to make your content look unique even if in reality your site still doesn’t really offer that much value. As long as you can deceive Google enough to look fresh, then that is all you need.