How to Check if You Were Penalized – Panda Part 3

(Updated 5/4/12)

If you are already 100% positive you were mauled by the panda you can skip this section and move on, otherwise let me explain how you can quickly figure out if you were affected. This step-by-step tutorial will tell you exactly how to diagnose your traffic and figure out if you were bitten by the beast.

  1. Before we get started make sure you are using the new version of Google Analytics. If you are not sure what version you are using just refer to the following screenshots:

    Old Google Analytics

    New Google Analytics

    New Google Analytics

  2. We need to setup an advanced segment to filter out all the irrelevant traffic such as direct traffic, referral traffic, Bing traffic, etc. If you are new to analytics don’t worry, this is easier than it sounds. Start off by opening up the “Advanced Segments” drop down menu at the top and selection “+ New Custom Segment”.
    Google Analytics Advanced Segments
  3. Once inside the “Advanced Segments” drop down, we need to name the segment and start adding the necessary filters, aka “dimensions”. When all filters are properly added your screen should look something like this (click to enlarge):The first filter ensures we are only receiving traffic from Google but since this could still contain Google AdWords traffic we need to add another filter. The second filter makes sure all traffic is coming from organic search traffic, aka not pay-per-click. Then we need to filter out any branded keywords, these are usually keywords in your domain name. Finally we are ready to save our Advanced Segment and start looking at the traffic.
  4. Now we want to see all of the traffic history from yesterday to just before the first Panda update. With the new version of Google Analytics set the date range from 2/1/11 to yesterday’s date.Dates set in Google Analytics
  5. Look for any noticeable drops in traffic and compare them to the dates of known panda updates. A typical drop in traffic from Panda is usually at least 25% and happens overnight.

Panda Penalty from Google Analytics
(click to see larger image)

Here is a list of all Panda updates thus far:

  • Panda 1.0 (February 23, 2011) – First Panda update, targeted sites with duplicate content and likely poor usage metrics (affected ~12% of search queries)
  • Panda 2.0 (April 11, 2011) – Rolled out the Panda update to affect all English queries worldwide and not just English-speaking countries
  • Panda 2.1 (May 9, 2011) – Panda refresh
  • Panda 2.2 (June 16, 2011) – Panda refresh
  • Panda 2.3 (July 23, 2011) – Panda refresh
  • Panda 2.4 (August 12, 2011) – Panda now affects queries in all languages except Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (affected 6-9% of queries in affected countries)
  • Panda 2.5 (September 28, 2011) – Panda refresh and algorithm recalculation
  • Panda “Flux” (October 3, 2011) – Panda refresh and algorithm recalculation
  • Panda “Flux” (October 13, 2011) – Panda refresh and algorithm recalculation
  • Panda 3.1 ( November 18, 2011) – Panda refresh and algorithm recalculation
  • Panda 3.2 (January 18, 2012) – Panda refresh
  • Panda 3.3 (February 26, 2012) – Panda refresh
  • Panda 3.4 (March 23, 2012) – Panda refresh (affected 1.6% of queries)
  • Panda 3.5 (April 19, 2012) – Panda refresh
  • Penguin Update (April 24, 2012) – AKA the “webspam update”, not related to Panda but seemed to target “over-optimization” such as high keyword density and excessive use of exact match anchor text backlinks
  • Panda 3.6 (April 27, 2012) – Panda Refresh

The example above shows a particular website that was hit by panda on June 16, 2011. The sudden drop in traffic is typical of a Panda penalty. If you have a significant traffic drop (>20%) on the same date as a Panda update, you were likely penalized. But don’t worry! In part 4 of this Panda series I will explain exactly what steps you can take to reduce and hopefully eliminate the panda penalty.

Previous – Part 2
Why was my Site Penalized?

Leave A Reply (5 comments So Far)

  1. Glenn Boundy
    6 years ago

    Great article. Thanks for posting. My company got slammed by Panda and hopefully your tactics can help us get our PR back in good shape.

  2. Marc Epstein
    6 years ago

    Nice series of articles. Part 3 helped me realize my site has been affected by panda, and I didn’t even know it until now. Looking forward to your future articles!

  3. Naive
    6 years ago

    how come there’s no part 4?

    • Jeff Oxford
      6 years ago

      I’m writing part 4 now, it should be up this Saturday.

  4. Naive
    6 years ago

    Ok.. hope it’ll me an interesting read. Thanks!

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Jeff Oxford is the founder and lead SEO consultant of 180 Marketing. Jeff has managed many successful SEO campaigns for clients all around the world.