Our story starts in February, when Danny Sullivan saw that something had changed at Google. I mean, we heard something was in the wind when Matt Cutts mentioned that Google planned to take action against “content farms” shortly before, so it wasn’t like what happened was any big surprise.
And it wasn’t just Danny noticing. SEOs from all over the Web had seen significant changes to their organic traffic, but this important algorithm shift had no label until Danny called it the “Farmer” update in his SearchEngineLand.com blog.
Yet, when Google admitted to the update (which affected nearly 12% of all pages in the U. S.), they decided that they’d rather call it “Panda,” because it was more “friendly” and because they didn’t want people to think that they were specifically targeting content farms.
But they were targeting content farms and more. And thousands of websites immediately lost their traffic and were scrambling to figure things out.
Some major sites were affected by Panda, too. Suite101.com, for example, lost 94% and EzineArticles.com lost 90% of their organic traffic. There was no doubt that the devastation was a crushing blow to sites using only “duplicate” rather than the original content that Google wants to see.
That’s not to say that your site will be penalized if it holds some duplicate content. But if it’s ALL duplicate content or content “scraped” from other sites, you’ll want to pay close attention…
If your site was affected, you may have noticed a significant drop in organic traffic since the end of February. You can also check your positions in Google Webmaster Tools, and see if keyword positions have radically changed over the past 30 days.
But if your investigation proves that the Panda has bitten you, don’t worry. You can get your rankings back. Here are five things you can do to improve your image with Google:
1. Remove any pages with “scraped” content. Content that you didn’t create yourself, such as article reprints or blog “excerpt” posts with no original content added to back those up. Even very large sites with just a few such pages are feeling the bite, so if you think your site is too big to be bothered, you may want to think again.
2. Keep outside advertising to a minimum. It’s OK to have one or two ads on a page with a significant amount of content, but if you have a site where the ads outweigh the content or your site looks like a used car lot with streamers, banners, and blinking ads everywhere, get rid of that stuff! It’s going to hurt you.
3. Be sure that your customers have a way to contact a human being. If you’re writing a blog, be sure to respond to your comments. If your site is an e-commerce site, a membership site, or a stand-alone website, be sure that people have a way to contact you or at least your support department by mail, email, and telephone. Live chat isn’t a bad idea, either. Google wants to see human interaction or at least the potential for it.
4. Do everything you can to get traffic. Send social media outlets to your blog or web page, use paid media buys, do whatever it takes to get people interested in your site because Google wants to see some traffic coming in and they are counting your “authority” in social arenas, too.
5. Get quality backlinks. Don’t buy them ever. Google hates that. But you can guest post on other blogs in your niche, or submit to quality directories like DMOZ, Yahoo, or JoeAnt.com, for example (just be sure that the directory is human edited or it won’t count).
Though Google ins’t the only search engine on the block, it still gets the most traffic and will give you the best results if you optimize for it. Take some time now to figure out whether the Panda has bitten you, and then follow the steps above.
The bottom line is…Give Google the quality, unique content that it wants because there’s nothing more valuable than the bucket loads of targeted, free, converting traffic that Google supplies.
Take care of Google and it will most definitely take care of you.
Still worried about Panda? Here are more steps you can take to can improve your rankings, whether or not your site was bitten by the bear:
1) Care about your visitors
The overall user experience is important, not just to Google but to your customers. Be sure that your site design and usability are set to “easy,” keep ad-to-content ratio low, and work on brand perception. Keep your brand in their minds and on your pages.
If you’re already there…Great! You’re doing the right things.
2) Are you concentrating on awareness?
After ensuring all content on your site is high quality, be sure to consider your engagement with customers through social media channels. Promote your brand awareness with Facebook pages and Twitter. Work toward achieving “authority” in social media sites by getting as many Retweets and Likes as possible.
Focus on your customers’ experience interacting with your company. Let them know that there are real people behind it.
3) Have one kind of advertising, not several…
If you have a site or blog running AdSense, Kontera (or other link advertising), and banners, choose one form of advertising and stick to that. Too many forms just ring Google’s bell and could hurt your chances for higher rankings.
And if you’re already doing these things? Celebrate! You have appeased the gods of Google.
Extracted from StomperNet NewsFlash, April 22, 2011.