How I’ll Fight The Panda Once More

Panda algorithm updatesI bought Digital Media Minute back in late 2008 from a web developer. He’d had added content virtually every day–sometimes multiple posts per day–since he started the site in 2003. When I bought DMM it had over 3000 posts on it, almost all of which were indexed in Google.

At the time the traffic was about 5,500 unique visits per day on weekdays, when most developers were at work and referring to the site for the answers to minor programming questions, or the sort of hacks that the former owner excelled at writing.

Probably a majority of the posts were less than 100 words in length, as again the site functioned as a repository of thousands of one developer’s professional notes to himself.

Some of the posts brought hundreds of visits each day, but Google loved even the less visited small ‘notes’– cumulatively they attracted a ton of long-tail traffic. Back then there was a place for a lot of sites like this, that aggregated answers like that, but it was not meant to last.

Panda and Penguin

In February 2011 the first Panda algo update hit Digital Media Minute badly, Panda 2.0 followed in April and things went from bad to worse. Penguin the following year didn’t hurt as much, but the traffic decline was pretty steady even outside of major algorithm updates.

It was all an education for me.

Proof that even with over a million backlinks, zero artificial linkbuilding, no duplicate content, on a responsive (albeit ugly!) WordPress theme, etc., a nicely aged site could be hit hard in such a way that even the 2,000-word posts that had formerly brought hundreds of visits each day were impacted too. Number-two or -three rankings for a keyword became second page rankings, then page four rankings…

The Road Ahead

After not touching this site for years, for the last few weeks I’ve been adding content, almost daily. I’m just writing about a couple of my hobbies: tech generally and Internet marketing. I’m supporting myself online by the way, and have for years. Client work and my own projects. Not too difficult in Bali, Indonesia, where (the good) life is still inexpensive and where I’ve had a base for 12 years now.

So yes–longer posts, just trying to be helpful or share genuine enthusiasm. Add an image with an alt tag, tweet out the URL to get it indexed a little faster, etc. Basic stuff.

It hasn’t been hard for me to get a post together each day, share opinions and small tips of my own, no longer programming tips but more in line with topics with which I have experience, especially Internet marketing.

But I’ve got a little plan.

There is very little to lose when it comes to Digital Media Minute. Worse case, well, not much will change frankly, in terms of revenue the site is earning (enough each month for a half a pizza in the US of A, or a week’s worth of lunches at my favorite warung here in Bali) or traffic, under 100 visits per day as we are now.

Best case, frankly any bump at all in traffic will be something of a victory as far as I’m concerned, and I’ll have some hard data I can share in an interesting case study.

My plan has a few parts to it, and I’ll get more ideas as I go, as one does.

Here’s what I’m planning at the moment:

This is a traffic generation challenge. Unlike in 2008, I won’t rely only on SEO to increase site traffic. But I still want to start by trying to increase traffic from search.

In 2011, post Panda, I added content to the posts that were literally a sentence or two, so that every post on this site had 100 words, minimum. Took dozens of hours. Of course these posts were still insanely thin, but maybe just a little less laughably thin than they had been. Clearly it didn’t change anything.

At the time I was considering radically culling the number of posts on the site, putting back to draft status all posts that had no backlinks, fewer than X amount of visits per month, and that had made zero or a few pennies income.

I didn’t do it at the time because I thought there might be a chance that things would somehow improve over time.

I no longer think that will happen. I think the thin pages are still hobbling the entire site, per my understanding of Panda.

I’ve also been swayed by the example of people like Brian Dean of Backlinko, who was doing incredibly well in the SERPs even when he had fewer than 20 (epic) posts on his site, and adding new content only once a month or so (if memory serves).

That is the opposite of what this site was built on, short posts and updates every day.

Brian Dean is number 1 or 2 for ‘onpage SEO‘. Traffic to this site is down by 98%.

In terms of strategy, I’m just not shooting for the super long tail traffic that used to be DMM’s bread and butter, as attracted by the short, specific posts I mentioned earlier. Fewer, longer posts are the way to go.

But first I will cut the number of posts on the site radically.

Over the course of the last year about 600 posts–out of 3000+ remember–received any traffic. In the last two years that number is under 1000.

I’ll cut out any post that hasn’t been visited in the last 2 years. I’ll 301 any backlinks these posts have to them.

Of the remaining 1000 posts, I’ll cut hundreds more. Only 600 posts have two or more visits in the last two years. 425 posts have 3 or more visits in the last two years. Only 338 have 4 or more. You get the idea.

I can’t see how I’m hurting things if I end up with only a few hundred posts on Digital Media Minute, and maybe a lot less than that.

I don’t expect to see a traffic explosion, of course! But we’ve heard anecdotes where doing this sort of thing can rather counter-intuitively increase traffic.

I do think it’s worth an experiment. Especially since the posts I ‘cut’ will be simply put back to draft status, not deleted.

After a few weeks–I’ll use one tactic at a time to see if it has any effect–I’ll put time into improving the remaining posts. I’ll select posts that rank at the bottom of page one or top of page two for their primary keywords, favoring primary KWs that have especially high search volume.

Then, if we’ve seen any improvement at all, I’ll work on branding and a new theme, and list building.

There’s a lot more to tell; I’ll elaborate further in an upcoming post.

Thanks for reading.




Get In The Google Search Results ASAP–Three Reliable Ways

Google Search Results–What’s The Trick To Getting In?

I recently got a letter from a reader, saying in part:
… seems that I must not have set my site up quite correctly, as my post is still not coming up in any Google search results. I’ve tried everything I can think of (alt text for pics, keywords in the edit snippet bit). It says ‘SEO – good’ in the Yoast plugin) and I have the green bullets! I’m lost. 
Anyway before I lose the will to live – is there any chance you can give me some advice on what I may have done wrong?

Ok, here’s a little secret.

If you have a question for me about tech, life, living in Bali (I’ve been in Bali for about 12 years, that’s true), or almost any other damn thing, if you’ll simply imply that your will to live is contingent on me getting you a good answer, you’ve probably found a way to compel me to answer.

So now you know. I’m putty in your hands. Up to a point anyway. I have my pride, or some that remains.

So here was my answer, outlining a powerhouse three-pronged approach, and I can only hope she gets into the search engine results pages (the “SERPs”) as fast as possible. And you do too, for that matter.

Are You In The SERPs Already? Do This

First, enter the URL of your site into the search field at, e.g.

You should see your site, most likely as the first result. If it isn’t there then the site isn’t in the Google search results at all, i.e. Google’s index.

There are several things we can do to get a site into the index, or as we say, get the site “indexed”.

Here’s the first thing to check. You just want to make sure the noindex meta tag doesn’t exist in the homepage’s HTML code.

Sound complicated? In WordPress it’s dead simple.

(If you’re using a different Content Management System/CMS like Joomla, Dupal etc. there’s probably a way to in your dashboard.)

Look in Settings>Reading in your WordPress dashboard. The ‘Search Engine Visibility’ box as shown in the image below should be unchecked:
google search results indexing wordpress setting
If the box is checked, uncheck it click “Save Changes” and do the steps below.

If it is unchecked then you can do the following. I’d do all three of these things:

1) The easiest thing is to use this link to submit your site to Google:

2) Also easy, and good practice: post a link or multiple links to your homepage in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.. New pages on the web are discovered by crawlers coming from other pages and sites, via links.
You can imagine that as important as social media is that crawlers are all over new posts on all the platforms. If they find your link they will follow it to your site and you’ll get indexed.
Caveat: For a new site this will probably take days, even if you do everything I’ll suggest. It could take weeks. Don’t get discouraged and IMPORTANTLY–don’t let it stop you from creating content. Your site will get indexed and you’ll be getting free, targeted search traffic from the SERPs. We just cannot know how fast Google will index it.
Also, you can certainly post links on social media to inner pages on your site. Do so. It is very good practice not just for SEO but to simply get the word out there about your content!

3) Signing up for Google Search Console ( ) and verifying your site is also good practice if you’re serious about your site. Then, for new sites I submit a sitemap.

You can either use a WordPress plugin to create your sitemap, or I think the Yoast SEO plugin (which I recommend in my “How to start a blog” post and video) will help you create it.

Here’s the section in Google Search Console where you submit your sitemap. See the red button in the upper right?

GSC for google search resultsAfter you submit your sitemap it can still take some time to have your site show up. Check using the method above; enter the URL into Google. As long as you have the box ticked in your WordPress settings as I show you above, the crawlers will find you eventually if you’ve submitted your site to Google, added it to Google Search Console, and submitted a sitemap.

Two more things:

a) This might be obvious, but determining that your site is in fact in the SERPs **doesn’t mean** you will be ranking well for the keywords you’d like to show up for. That’s a different challenge, the SEO challenge. For conveying deep SEO knowledge via lucid explanations, I recommend learning from this guy.
b) Making sure your homepage is in the Google search results is the first step, but you will want all the pages on your site to also be indexed in Google’s SERPs, naturally.
(By the way, I’m talking about Google because 80%–90% of your search traffic will come from Google. Luckily, getting indexed in Bing and other search engines simply involves getting crawled, which you will be sooner or later. Bing for example has an equivalent to Google’s Search Console. I have never submitted a site to it, fwiw. If your site gets into the Google SERPs it will get into the other search engines eventually too. We’re far more interested in Google because of the volume of search traffic it can send us.)
Back to indexing inner pages of your site.
We do not directly control how many of our pages are indexed. It’s Google’s index. But they do want to index your content. The most important thing is making sure your site is crawl-able by search engine robots.
Don’t worry, a standard WordPress installation leaves you in good shape for crawlability and basic SEO…the idea is that once the homepage is indexed the crawlers will look for links on the page to go deeper into your site.
This doesn’t mean you need to link to every post on your site from the home page(!). If you have several posts you will link to them all, in practice, but obviously with hundreds or thousands of posts this becomes impractical. Tags and categories help with all this but no need to overthink it in the beginning.
So the point: having a link to your sitemap on the homepage, even if it is way down out of the way in the footer, is enough to give the crawlers access to everything, making it more likely that all the content you’ve worked to produce ends up in the Google search results.
In closing I’ll say that just as sharing on social media helps your site’s initial indexing, it can only help to get your deep pages indexed too.