The Google Panda update was first rolled out on the 24th of Feb 2011 and has been updated and tweaked hundreds of times since then. The initial update affected 12% of US search results, mostly effecting sites with shallow content. The purpose of this Algorithm update is to remove low quality / duplicate content sites from Google’s search results.
The good old days of simply optimising page titles and ensuring we have a good keyword density and building mass backlinks is over. Backlinks are still very important but we have something just as important to pay attention to, which is the User’s Experience.
Currently If I go to Google and type a search query on “Best mobile phone 2011″ I’m likely to be hit with 100′s of review sites, most of them with no real reviews and simply recommending the most expensive phone which makes the site the most affiliate commission. This leaves me “the user” with no real info to help with my buying decision.
To avoid your site being viewed by Google as providing a poor user experience you need to be able to answer yes to the following questions. If you answer no then you need make changes before Panda wipes your site from the search results.
- Can users interact (Facebook,Twitter,Contact Us)?
- Does the information help the user and is not solely self promoting?
- Is your site appealing?
- Do you link to other helpful sites?
- Are you providing High Quality Authority Content?
We will follow this up in more detail in just a minute. Is the Google Panda Update a perfect fix and will it fix the vast amounts of spam within Google’s search results? It’s not quite perfect, but Google is certainly heading in the right direction.
How have my sites been affected? At first almost all my sites gained mass improvements in rankings and visits. This week Google released yet another update and across the board I’ve seen a small decline of around 3% in traffic. By no means is it a perfect update but as I mentioned before Google is still tweaking and updating Panda.
Sites Affected By Google Panda Update
Article Directories: Ezinearticles, Articlesbase, Buzzle
Web 2.0 Sites: Hubpages, Suite101,
E-Commence: A lot of e-commerce sites where copying product descriptions straight from the manufactures website this is seen as duplicate content and Panda hates duplicate content.
For a sample of sites effected check out this report.
Guide To Surviving the Google Panda Update
The following steps laid out will not only help you survive the Google panda update but will drastically help prevent your site from being punished in the future.
There are 3 major types of content on the web today:
1) Unique High Quality
2) Duplicate Content
3) High Quality Authority Content
Obviously we want High Quality Authority Content on our website and although this isn’t as easy as the other two types the results are very much worth it.
What is high quality authority content: High Quality Authority content is content written by an expert in that niche or content that is vastly researched. The content can’t be scrapped, copied or rewritten from other sites on the web and should be at least 550 words but ideally 1000-2000 words. It should solve the problem promised and give real information and resources the reader can actually use. It’s all too often we read articles and turn to another site to find more information.
Your goal when writing about any topic is to impress the readers so much they will want to share it with their friends, comment on the article or share the URL of the post with other websites – hence natural link building.
You shouldn’t be writing content for the sole purpose of keeping your blog “fresh’ in fact this is a SEO myth and your site can never be updated and still rank high as long as it is has high quality authority content.
Google’s thoughts about blog updates:
I can’t stress enough that you need to over deliver valuable content with no sales pitch in mind. At the end of the day when you give value you will get readers coming back for more thus letting you build a relationship and loyal fans.
A lot of you may have websites or blogs where you are not an expert; this is fine you can still write high quality authorty content. Its as simple as researching and reporting. This might take you hours or days but at the end you will have content that will help people rather than having them click the back button and searching again.
Rules To Follow When Writing An Article:
1) Must help the reader in some way, ie solve their problem
2) Simple layout and easy to read
3) Content must be properly researched
4) Link to Authority sites and experts in your niche. Do not have the mindset that “I don’t want to link back to any other site because I want people to only read my content”. That is helping no one; you want to be associating with other experts.
5) Your content should be that good people want to share it with others or leave comments.
6) Include personal experiences within your articles
7) Interviews with experts in your industry. Posting interviews with experts in your niche is a great way to impress your readers; rank easier as that expert is already well known and create future opportunities for yourself.
Bookmark/Sharing: Include Facebook, Twitter, Re-tweet and email buttons on your blog
Comments: Enable comments on your blog (or Facebook comments) and ask questions to engage your readers. Make sure you reply to every comment, this also applies to your Facebook fan page.
Direct Visits: Is your site getting direct visits, if not create an email list where you can then send them emails and build a relationship creating brand awareness. Over time this will increase your direct visits, thus improving your site’s brand awareness and Google rankings.
Returning Visits: What percentage are “new visits” if you have useful information people will come back for more. Sending out regular newsletters with offers, discounts and solutions to problems will get people back to your blog looking for more valuable content.
Set up a posting time table and stick to it as best as possible. You may decide once a week you will publish a new article, your readers will appreciate the consistency. Again don’t post rubbish articles if you have run out of ideas of what to write about check out sites like Google Trends for new ideas.
Bounce Rate: Is your bounce rate high on some pages, improve the content on these pages and create internal links to other related pages. A good plug-in for Wordpress is Outbrain which will show related posts to your readers. We installed this on Socialbarrel and have seen a major increase in page views per visit.
Add video: Or embed YouTube within your posts. This will help retain users for longer and will target those readers who would prefer to watch a video rather than read.
Website Layout: Don’t complicate your web design, keep it clean and simple.
Make sure you are using breadcrumb navigation if your site is a decent size to help users find their way around. Easy navigation is something you must get right from your first post.
Direct Visits: This is a ranking factor Google takes into account; although small it’s still worth considering. A good way to get direct traffic is offline marketing, web branding and watermarking YouTube videos. A good example of direct traffic is Scoopon; they have a large volume of direct traffic due to their early entry in the “Deals Market” , offline advertising and a large email subscriber list.
Social Media: As mentioned earlier include links back to your social profiles such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Facebook and YouTube are 2nd to Google in terms of traffic, whilst Twitter is in 11th place.
How to use Facebook to increase your online presence
- Create a Face book business page to promote your brand
- Have a custom welcome page designed to match your site
- Use an opt-in page within Face book to give away special offers, discounts or a free report.
- Encourage users to “Like” your page by offering something in return similar to above.
- Keep your page updated with links to blog posts, videos and images (not just your own, but anything related to your industry).
How to use Twitter to increase traffic
- Create an account and brand your page with a background image and profile image that identifies your brand.
- Set-up your social oomph accounts and links it to your twitter account.
- Send something free and of value to your followers (use social oomph to automate this)
- Return the favour and follow tweeter users that follow you. Again use social oomph for this.
- As with your blog set up a schedule for your tweets. You don’t want to be logging into twitter each and every day so use Social Oomph to set up auto posts.
- Link your Face book and Twitter accounts. This way when you tweet it will be sent to your Face book page. There are Face book apps that can do this for you.
- Only tweet things that your users will appreciate such as new posts, videos or breaking news. Again not only from your site but other related sites and from other experts. Spam tweeting will cause you to lose a lot of followers, most twitter users are logged on daily and they don’t want to see 20 new posts from your site in one day.
- Make sure you are using the “Tweet” and/or “Re-Tweet” share button on your website.
Step 3 Survive Google Panda update: Increase Search Engine Click through Rate
Even having the number #1 spot in Google doesn’t automatically mean you will get more traffic than spots 2 or 3. Your page title, site URL, page description, thumbnails and Capped titles will affect your CTR.
Page Title - Each page title should not only include your keyword but also entice potential readers to click through, think of news headlines they do this with every article.
Site URL - Avoid hyphens and cheap domains such as .net, .net.au, and .ws. These domains are hard to rank for and it’s rare they sit high in the SERPS.
If your page has a video you can have a thumbnail displayed in the search results. To do this you need to host your own video and add it to your Video site map. If you are using word press you can grab a video site map here.
Capitals in Titles: Your titles should at least have each word starting with a capital letter. Depending on the content you may also use ALL CAPS. This can look spammy so be careful when using ALL CAP TITLES.
Step 4 Survive Google Panda Update: Improve and Optimise
No-Index All Low Quality Pages or Posts: You should know straight away which pages are low quality, examples of low quality pages are spun content, copied content or duplicate content across your site (or duplicatated from other sites). If you own an e-commerce site and have copied the product descriptions from other websites such as the manufactures site then you will need to manually edit each and every product to avoid being stung by Panda. Of course for most of you who own e-commerce sites know that changing the descriptions on all your products is no 5 minute task, so consider hiring a professional writer for this. You can hire writers at Odesk or Elance. A decent writer from one of those 2 sites will set you back anywhere from $5 to $20 per hour.
Another sign that pages may be low quality from Google’s point of view are pages that have a page rank of N/A – you should have all your pages ranked at least 0 or above. If you have PR N/A pages it’s either because that page is fairly new (less than one month) or there are no backlinks going to that page. You can start back linking to that page, no-index it or delete the page in total.
- Delete all pages that are duplicate or spun content
- No-index any pages that are “Low Quality” in Google’s Eye’s.
The User experience is affected by the speed of which your site loads. Having lots of scripts and plugins will slow your site down, Google will see this and penalise you for it. If you have Google webmaster tools you can see at a glance how your site compares to other sites on the internet. You can also use Google Page speed to find problems which are slowing down your site and suggestions to reduce loading times.
How to Increase Your Sites Page Speed
1) Ensure you have a reputable hosting company, with a decent server. If you opt in for a cheap hosting with out-dated equipment your site is doomed from the get go.
2) If you are using WordPress there are a number of must have plugins that will reduce your loading times such as”
If you have a ton of images you may want to consider a CDN. A CDN will load all your images from the server closest to the user. This will avoid users from America having to download images from an Australian server and will allow them to download it from their local server. Again this is only needed if you have a ton of images on your site and have international customers. An e-commence type site would benefit from a CDN network. We have had experience with Max CDN and can recommend them as a realisable provider that are also reasonably priced.
Internal and External Links
This isn’t exactly new to the Google Panda update but you should have both links to other pages on your blogs and links to other websites as mentioned earlier. When Google looks at your site and sees little to no links to other pages on your site this shows poor navigation and is more likely to give a bad user experience.
The same is true if they see you linking to only your own site with no external links. Internal linking also helps your overall SEO whilst external linking helps your readers find more information easily.
To Increase Your Web Presence Today, Call Us On 08 7329 5085