A new Google Panda update was unleashed in September that has brought chills across the Internet. Why? The thought of any of Google’s algorithm updates hitting a website can send shivers down a business owner’s spine. If your website does not meet specific Google standards, website traffic can suddenly drop drastically. If it does, that is a sure sign that your website has been hit by Panda. Let’s take a look at what Panda is and what you can do as a website owner to avoid the Panda’s rage.
A Brief History of Google Panda
Google first released the Panda algorithm update in February of 2011. Named Panda after a Google engineer by the search engine giant, this filter was designed to keep thin or poor quality content from placing well in the search engine’s results. The initial roll out of Panda targeted websites that copied the content of other websites. It also zeroed in on content farms that contained shallow or small amounts of original content. To date, there have been 27 Panda updates according to Search Engine Land.
Google Panda 4.1
The Panda 4.1 update roll out was officially announced by Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, Pierre Far, on Google+ on September 25, 2014. This improved update was designed to “identify low-quality more precisely” and affected roughly 3-5% of queries.
Facts we know about Google Panda
- Google Panda is not a penalty, but a filter that sifts poor quality content and keeps the affected site from ranking well.
- Panda is now a continuous part Google’s algorithm.
- Once Panda strikes, the effect is site wide and domain specific meaning the entire website will be filtered and not just a low quality page. Google specifically states that “low-quality content on some parts of a website can impact the whole site’s rankings.”
- Traffic will continue to slowly dwindle if the cause of the problem that triggered Panda’s wrath is not identified and corrected.
How to Determine if You’ve Been Hit by Google Panda
If you see a sharp and significant drop in website traffic, you may have been hit by Panda. The first thing you will need to do is to put your Sherlock Holmes hat on and start digging to determine if the traffic drop was actually due to Panda or another factor. The first steps are to:
- Check your Google Analytics Account to see if there is a significant and sudden drop in traffic.
- If there has been a traffic plunge, check the dates of Google updates to see if the drop and the date of one of Google’s updates are related. Moz has a comprehensive list of Google’s Algorithm Change History that you can use to check.
- Check your Google Webmaster Tools Account and see if there are any messages about a manual penalty. You will not see a penalty warning about Panda.
What to do if Your Website Has Been Hit by Panda
The first thing to do is not to panic. Perhaps your website has been up for quite some time and there are outdated blog articles with very low word count that are no longer relevant. That shallow content may not be intentional, but rather an oversight or “a back burner item” that you have been meaning to take care of for quite some time. The good news is that it is possible to clean up the triggers that may have caused the Panda wrath.
Panda Recovery Action Steps
There are actions steps to take to make your website Panda-friendly. It may take time, but the effort you invest into your website will be well worth it.
- Analyze Your Content
Take a close look at your website’s pages and perform a thorough analysis.
- Out with the Old
If there are old and outdated blog articles that are no longer relevant or offer any value, delete them. It may be a difficult decision to delete articles that you or members of your team have worked so hard to create over the years, but it is a necessary step in remaining Panda-friendly.
- Revise and Build
If there are articles that can be updated to make them relevant, take the time to revise them and build them up. Are there articles with shallow or thin content covering a topic? If the article is relevant, add valuable information to make it a thorough analysis of the subject, add outbound authoritative external links and graphics. In the past, it may have been acceptable to write a 300 word article focused around a keyword phrase, but now, articles with detailed analysis of a topic will bring search engine rewards. In fact, experts are recommending more “meaty” articles with 1000 to 1500 words.
- Check for Duplicate Content
Duplicate content may be unintentional. Some content management systems (CMS) can cause duplicate content out of the box, and website owners are not aware that this happening. WordPress is one of the most popular CMS in the world and is known for causing duplicate content. For example, there may be duplicate content issues with tags, archive pages, category pages and more. To help with this, you will want to use the plugin, WordPress SEO by Yoast and set it up properly to make sure the pages are noidexed.
- Focus on Quality Content
Going forward, make it a priority to consistently generate high quality content. Actions steps include:
- Produce Quality Content
Producing “meaty” articles that are well researched and documented with sufficient word count. Again, experts are recommending articles with a word count from 1000 to 1500 words.
- Grammar and Spelling: Be sure to check grammar and spelling of each article. Have a second or third pair of eyes reading your content to ensure quality. Run your article through an online editor like the Hemmingway App.
Google’s Ultimate Goal
It is important to note that Google’s goal is to provide a good user experience and to help “people find high-quality sites in Google’s search results.” The company published More guidance on building high-quality sites that specifically addresses what Google is looking for in quality standards
The chilling truth about Google Panda, as with any Google algorithm update, is that websites can be hit and drop drastically from the search engine results. The causes that trigger Panda’s filter hitting a website may be unintentional, but may result in Panda’s sting. There are proven steps to take to get back in the Panda’s graces. It may take time, but by following Google’s guidelines, you will be on the road to recovery.
Do you have any questions about Google Panda? Did Panda 4.1 help or hurt your website? Please share your thoughts below.