In Google's Panda update sites with a low percentage of original content and a high percentage of duplicate content have been hit hard; in particular content farms full of keyword-stuffed content. In some cases sites lost more than 90% of their traffic. A number of well-known article directories and respectable sites containing standard content, reviews and product descriptions shared with other vendors have been badly affected.
So what does this mean for you? And how can you ensure you don't fall foul of these changes?
1. Focus on Producing Great, Original Content
Yes, I know it’s a cliché but if there’s one thing the recent Google changes have rammed firmly home it’s that great, original content is king and the best route to high page rank.
The search demand is still there and now that content farms have been taken out of the game it’s a great opportunity for you to improve your ranking.
So forget about spinning hundreds of identical or near identical articles and concentrate instead on producing unique, value packed blog posts, videos, podcasts, reports etc. and promoting them as widely as possible.
Remove any duplicate content, write your own product reviews and descriptions rather than relying on third party sources and include as much in-depth data and analysis as possible. Where necessary rewrite, extend or add to your existing content.
2. Increase the Length of Your Blog Posts
A large number of short blog posts could be viewed by search engines as an indicator of shallow, low quality content; balance them out with lengthier posts.
3. Review Your Approach To Article Marketing
There are a number of reasons why you might be using article marketing – to build backlinks, get more traffic to your website or build authority in your niche.
If done correctly, article marketing is still worthwhile, although it dpends to a large extent on how quickly and effectively article sites move to improve their quality standards and recover their authority and page rank. For the time being SEO and traffic benefits may be considerably diminished, although if Ezine Articles are to be believed authors in some niches have actually seen an increase in their page rank and traffic for certain keywords as a result of the Google algorithm changes, presumably as a result of more spammy competitors being taken out of the game.
Focus your efforts on your own blog and guest blogging for other authority sites. Drive traffic to your site through blog commenting, social networks, social bookmarking, and answers sites.
4. Get Your SEO Strategy Right
The fundamental principles of SEO still hold good and now that the nature of the Google algorithm changes have become clearer this is an appropriate time to revisit your SEO strategy.
Take a fresh look at the keywords you are targeting. If you are targeting a large number of broad keywords try focusing instead on a narrower range of long-tail keywords. Use Google Instant to find out what information your target audience are searching for, Google Trends to identify what’s hot right now and Google Analytics to find your website’s most responsive keywords. Then use this intelligence to put together a content blueprint and publication plan.
5. Pay Attention to Your On-Page Optimization
Checking your <title> tags, <H1> on-page titles, your meta descriptions. Ensure they include your primary keywords and are relevant to your content.
Resist the temptation to over-use your keywords. Make sure too that your meta descriptions include a compelling reason why people should check out your content to maximize the click through rate to your site from Google’s search results.
6. Get active with social media
Get your content in front of as many people as possible via Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn , etc.
Focus on creating interesting and engaging content with viral potential, cross promote it to the nth degree, make it easy for people to distribute via like, share, social bookmarking and follow buttons on your website and give them incentives to do so.
7. Don't Have Too Many Advertisements on Your Site
A high ratio of ads to content could be an additional signal to the Google search engines that your site is of low quality, particularly if they are not relevant to your content or relate to products usually associated with spam such as male enhancement or weight loss.
Be sensible about the amount of space you devote to advertising and be highly selective about the type of ads you run if you don't want to find yourself in the SEO sin-bin.
8. Pay attention to visitor activity
If you have performance issues that result in a high bounce rate on one or more of your pages fix them promptly.
Repair broken links, ensure that your site is easy to navigate and provides a pleasant user experience.
Give your visitors reasons to stick around a bit longer on your site, delving into your blog archive or checking out your other great content.
9. Use deep links
Deep links (linking from your blog post to another page on your blog or site using your keyword in the anchor text) are another good way of encouraging visitors to explore what else your site has to offer. They have the added benefit of boosting your SEO by pointing the search engines at other pages so they can be indexed more easily.
10. Encourage repeat visits
The percentage of repeat visits to your site matters more than ever. Use email marketing, your Facebook fan page and Twitter to keep pulling visitors back by offering them lots of fresh new content and compelling reasons why they should click through on your link.
Once you get visitors to your website for goodness sake make sure you are interacting with them! Give them incentives to leave a comment on your blog post (e.g. some valuable content for the first 25 to do so) and respond promptly to comments so your visitors feel like they are engaging in a conversation with you. Be helpful, friendly and approachable, entertain them, educate them, inform them and they will want to come back again and again. Plus you will be building a great relationship and a more responsive list – the holy grail of online marketing.
How have you been affected by the Google Panda changes? What changes have you made to your SEO strategy to ensure you don’t fall foul of the new page ranking algorithm? I’d love to hear from you so please post a comment and share your experiences and insights with the rest of the community here.
Jan is a digital marketing coach and founding Director of WOW Consulting, anEssex online marketing and website design company. Jan's speciality is demystifying digital marketing and show small businesses how to integrate web, mobile and social media into their marketing strategies to create sustainable competitive advantage and profitable growth.