Do search engines like your website or blog? Are you invisible in the first ten search results and wondering why?
Well, the answer is probably Google Panda, which is definitely not a just a black-eyed bear but a sophisticated machine-learning algorithm, an advancement upon, an update to the existing Google search algorithm. It is used to distinguish between high quality and low quality websites (based on a people’s poll – which sites had content they could use, which site left them frustrated and turning back to search engines and so on). Its aim is to provide the user with only useful and relevant content for their search query. It uses stringent methods that weed out websites with poor content and low usefulness. As many as 12% of sites featuring in searches have bitten the dust – there has been a sharp drop in their rankings.
The Google Panda has an algorithmic cousin, the Google Penguin, but we will talk about the Panda now. Why was it necessary to update the existing search algorithm? It was necessary because internet standards were slipping.
Several websites had very thin content, repetitions and paraphrasing pass for information. Some websites merely serve as a content farm or a directory; they only have numerous links to other related sites and no original content of their own. In addition, poorly written content (we are talking grammar and vocabulary, here) often distorted the information and did not help the user at all. They may also have too many advertisements popping up and distracting the reader. Imagine an ad for camisoles strutting across the screen as you dodge to view the diet related content it conceals!
The Panda also ignores sites where SEO principles are violated or Black Hat SEO principles are followed. These bad guys cheat majorly on content – they often lift it or load it with links that redirect you to several other sites, wasting your time. Technically, too, these rubbish-heavy sites take their own time to upload and this is not what internet users need.
Google Panda has launched a massive cleanliness drive. Well –known websites with spam or irrelevant links have been penalised. The Panda is systematically enforcing stricter standards and thereby ensuring quality content and linking in websites.
How to get the better of the Panda
It is reasonable to assume that Google Panda is definitely not the last word in Google algorithm updates. As websites find loopholes in search engine methods, the search algorithm would be reinvented in order to maintain quality of content and the smoothest search experience. However, if you ensure website quality at your end, you are fortified from the impact of all future search engine updates.
Follow these ten simple guidelines to escape the Panda dragnet.
Content Duplication – AVOID
Your visitors get nothing out of it. If anything, it might turn them to the website where you sourced your content. All the content that you research must be well edited (and also verified), possibly rewritten to be of maximum use to your niche audience. Visitors to your website should want to visit again for that special perspective that your content will give them.
Thin content – REPLACE
Not all of your content may be below the Panda standard. Some of your pages would have steady traffic, while others may have virtually none. Create a systematic report using your own business specific analytical tools; websites for different businesses would naturally have different parameters, so this is not a good place to compare your traffic with that in other sites.
Once your report is prepared, take a good hard look at your low traffic pages. Is this content even necessary to your overall design? If so, how can you value add? (a) Add content that is of use to real visitors (organic visitors) rather than a trawling robot that has been sent from some snoopy website. (b) If the content is superfluous to your domain of expertise, simply make a few basic statements (citing authentic references), add relevant links that will direct visitors to websites where the same concept is available as useable content.
Keyword density – MINIMISE
Every article that you post on your site must contain the keywords that people will use to search for information. However, there can be too many keywords. The percentage of words that keywords occupy in your total word count is the keyword density. Google Panda does not encourage more than 2%-4% keyword density. Anything in excess of this is automatically overlooked by the new Google Panda. E.g. http://www.colorcharacter.com/uk/
Categories and Tags – OPTIMISE
Too many tags and categories unnecessarily skew the search and that is not an advantage to website or user. For instance, several tag names may be unfamiliar to a number of users and so they will not use it as a search word. I know of a blog with very few visitors – the blogger has gone berserk with the numbers and names of tags and categories. It is advisable to have a Google webmaster account that guides you in this.
Spam – CLEAN UP
Websites often link up with spam sites (that typically have low quality content) through articles and backlinks. This clutters you site, is of no use to visitors and therefore, Google penalizes these practices. Clean up your site and keep only useful links with relevant and reputed sites. Unknowingly, a site may also link up to a blacklisted site (that typically uses black hat practices) and may even be penalised for it. Do check a website before the professional nuptials.
Anchor text – SPREAD IT OUT
Distribute your anchor text properly over your networks with clear and brief directives like ‘CLICK HERE’ along with the URL, which tells the user exactly what to do to get to your site. Also ensure variety in the directive, like an animated arrow, maybe (or else Google might think its duplicate text!!). E.g. http://www.colorcharacter.com/uk/
Bounce Rates – CONTROL IT
Bouncing is when the visitor returns to the search after a first look at your page, this means that your site is not relevant to their search. The content on these ‘bounced’ pages do not hold the reader’s interest and therefore has to be improved. Use precise analytical tools to monitor all your pages. Either bring in meaningful content or delete them.
Ad Ratio – GET IT RIGHT
An ad-free site speaks of the confidence of the marketer and the high quality of the content. Sometimes though, and especially if you are a newbie, you may need ads. Make sure they do not interfere with the viewing of the content. It might just irritate the user and he will never return. Modify your site template, have less animated ads – do what it takes to make content your king.
Social Media Promotion – DO IT
If social media sites promote you, it means real people are promoting you and that works very well with Google Panda. Create and use Facebook and Twitter (or any other) bookmarking buttons on your blog for wider sharing of your links and contents. You will definitely attract more attention.
Buying or Exchanging Links – AVOID IT
Buying and exchanging links will work in the short term until you are caught by the Google Panda. You then face a ban or a penalty. If you want better page ranking, you have to earn it. Invest in a good team, informed resource people and talented writers, quick-thinking ideas people – all of whom will constantly reinvent and keep you well ahead in the search engine game. These are long term strategies and are highly durable. They foster growth and improvement. The bottom line is that website masters have to rely on their content and creativity for an enduring internet presence. The easy way out (black hat and the like) is often just the WAY OUT.
I’m Ramya, a freelance web designer/writer based in India. I have worked in a number of SEO projects and have a good insight into creating a web design with SEO techniques incorporated in it. Apart from web designing and SEO I also contribute high-quality articles to top class websites and blogs. Besides business I am part-time wildlife photographer and generally an extrovert, I also like travelling to different destinations.
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