There have been many updates to the Google search algorithm and every now and then webmasters find themselves in the situation where they need to make major changes to their SEO strategy in order to stay afloat. Some of the changes have a really considerable impact and the recent Panda update is one of those cases when you just can’t pretend the changes don’t affect you.
What Is Panda
Panda isn’t just another update to the search algorithm, many of which we have seen over the years. One of the special things about Panda is that it uses human reviewers to rate sites. No, not all sites are rated by humans but there is a sample of sites where human reviewers make the evaluation and after a pattern in reviewing is noticed, the job is continued by machines, which presumably use the same criteria as humans. So, if you have made the mistake to optimize your site only for bots, now you will be hit right between the eyes.
Panda is aimed at improving the quality of search results by removing low quality, spammy entries from the first positions. The first victims were the so called content mills but the later updates hit many other types of sites as well. What these sites had in common was that they had tons of useless content that was artificially pushed to the top results pages. Many sites who are (or considered themselves) no content mills were hit pretty hard because they exhibited similarities to content farms and if you don’t want to be the next victim, or if you have already been hit yourself and wonder how to get back on your feet, here are some tips to help you.
How to Counteract Panda
Any step in the direction of removing low quality content will help you deal with Panda but here are some steps that are especially useful.
1 No Multiple Pages with the Same Keyword
The reason why content mills were slapped the hardest by Panda is that they had many (in some cases in the thousands!) pages with the same keyword. When you have multiple authors and you give them the freedom to choose what to write about, you will obviously end with multiple pages that use the same lucrative keywords. But it isn’t only the content mills where you can find 100s of pages with the “how to get an ex back”, 1,000s about “acai berry”, etc. If your site has multiple pages that target the same keyword, get rid of them immediately because this is simply drowning you.
2 Duplicate Anchor Text and Links from Article Directories/Low Quality Sites
Backlinks are very important but as you know it is quality backlinks that matter. This is why Panda penalized sites with tons of backlinks from article directories or other content sites because these sites are deemed low quality. Additionally, when the anchor text of your backlinks is always the same (and it has a keyword in it), this is more than suspicious that this link hasn’t been created naturally. This is why it is best if you use multiple variations of your keywords (or even better – multiple keywords) as the anchor text of backlinks. For instance, if your keyword is “how to get an ex back”, you can also use “how to reunite with ex”, “how to reconcile with an ex lover”, etc.
3 Clean Your WHOLE Site
Panda is a site-wide penalty and as a result, even if you have some really outstanding pages but you also have lots of so-so ones, your whole site will suffer. The only solution here is to fix or remove the low quality ones and wait for the crawlers to come.
4 Get Rid of Autogenerated Content and Roundup/Comparison Type of Pages
Autogenerated pages have nothing to do with quality and this is why they are especially unpopular now. Roundups/comparison types of pages can also hurt you because these don’t have much original content in them. These factors are the reason why so many shopping sites where these comparison pages are so numerous are hit by Panda. If you run a shopping site, your task isn’t easy because you can’t get rid of these completely but if you add original content to them, this increases your chances to get your rankings back.
5 No Pages with 1-2 Paragraphs of Text Only
Since these pages are easier to create, many webmasters started populating their sites with such short pages in order to increase the number of pages of the site. Now the rules have changed and these pages with 1-2 paragraphs of text can damage your rankings. Add more text or remove the pages – these are the two options you have.
6 Panda Likes New Content
News and recent stuff have always been loved by search engines but with Panda this is even more important. This includes news but also recently updated pages. In fact, about 35% of searches will be affected because preference will be given to current pages. Well, this is hardly a reason to turn your site into a news machine but if you try to update your content as frequently as you can, this will help.
7 No Scraped Content
With Panda, scraped content is (almost) as bad as duplicate content. If you are using spun articles, this can seriously hurt you. While with article sites you have more freedom in rewording your content, with descriptions on shopping sites it is trickier because if you have to stay factual, there aren’t unlimited ways to reword a short 100-200 word description. Still, try to make your descriptions as original as possible.
8 Be Careful with Affiliate Links and Ads
Tons of outbound links is bad but tons of affiliate links on a page is even worse – too many of them on a page and you will be Pandalized. This is why you need to cut the number of affiliate links on a page. For a better effect, you can also make them nofollow, if possible. The number of ads on a page also plays role with Panda and the rule is: the fewer, the better. Keep only the highest profitable ads (i.e. the ones that are really making you money and let the rest go.
9 Minimize Duplicate Template Content
Duplicate content applies not only to posts but to everything on a page. If you are using the same template for all your pages, chances are you have lots of duplicate template content – i.e. the same blocks of text (and links) you reuse on each page. Inspect these blocks that repeat on every page and keep only the most important ones.
10 Too Many Outbound Links with Keywords
Too many outbound links are bad but when they are with keywords as anchor text, this is even worse. The assumption is that these links are the result of a link exchange – i.e. they aren’t natural. This can be a huge problem if you accept guest posts because authors typically include keywords in their links and their byline. Try to keep the anchor text of your outbound links diverse and limit keyword stuffed anchors as much as you can.
11 Poor Internal Linking Structure
Humans and bots like a clean navigation structure. Now with Panda this gains even more weight. Therefore, check your internal links and streamline your navigation – this will help for sure.
The Panda update caused quite a lot of stir. For the sites that were hit the changes were everything but welcome but since there is so much search spam, it was bound to happen. If you don’t want to be on the receiving end, clean your site and make it Panda-compliant. This is the only way (back) to top search results.