10 Ways To Beat The Panda Update

by Jan Willis April 13th, 2011 


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 Willis

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.

Essex online marketing and website design>

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14 Responses to “10 Ways To Beat The Panda Update”

  1. Donna says:

    So Jan, have you successfully managed to get a Pandalized site un-Pandalized by doing these 10 things?

    • Jan Willis says:

      Great question Donna! Most of my clients have actually benefited from the changes because they have always focused on producing great original content. There is only one that has been badly affected and having put a lot of effort into her blog and video marketing over the past month she has already undone most of the damage with her page rank and traffic recovering to near pre-Panda levels.

  2. That's awesome…but what can thin sites do now? lol Start blogging?

  3. Jan Willis says:

    Google has sent out a very clear message that the days are numbered for people who game the Google algorithm to drive traffic to their sites but offer little or no original content and can't engage their visitors enough to get them to come back. Great content comes in many forms so blogging is by no means the be all and end all but for most people it will be the cornerstone of their content strategy – not least because Google loves fresh content and user interaction and blogging ticks both boxes. I also think social media will be a major beneficiary – in particular Youtube.

  4. We have been hitted hard by Panda. Do you say a min word post should be at leats 400 words?

    • Jan Willis says:

      Google have said that they will reward authority sites providing lots of valuable information such as research, in-depth reports and analysis so if you want to achieve high page rank you will need to have a number of lengthier keyword rich articles. The ideal length is 400 to 600 words.

      Not all your posts need to be this long but if you have lots of very short posts the search engines may think your content is thin and penalise you, particularly if you have a lot of ads on your site. We don't yet know what the ideal ratio is but to be on the safe side I would balance things out by having at least one full length post to every 2 or 3 short posts.

  5. Wayne Barker says:

    Great post Jan,

    I have been following the Panda update carefully and it has recently gone live in the UK with pretty much the same results as we saw in the States. Essentially it all comes down to the user experience. Google has harped on about it for years and it has been repeated by SEOs and Marketing guys for so long that we sometimes forget all about.
    When you look at your site you have to ask yourself a few questions:
    1. If I came here as a user would I be instantly turned off? Excessive and agressive ads certainly turn me off – stand up Ezine articles.
    2. Do you provide real, unique and exciting content and information.
    3. Do the content on you site warrant a place in the the first page of Google?
    4. Will people return to find out other news or information or is this likely to be a one stop visit?
    Your site needs to engage, inform and encourage repeat visits. It may be trivialising the hard work that ha gone into the latest Google update – but at the end of the day it was merely a clean up job. Google has swept away all the thin, lame and useless content and buried further down the results – allowing the better information more prominence.
    If your site is genuine, if your information is great and unique, if you weren't firing out content to wrap adverts around…you should have little to worry about.

  6. Great article. Thanks.
    Just wondered Jan, with e-commerce sites where a product appears in more than one product category, is this duplicate content as far as Google is concerned and if so how do I get around it. For example a particular tie on our website could be in the "brand" category for that tie, in "silk ties", perhaps in "skinny ties" or "wedding ties".

    • Jan Willis says:

      Hi Wendy
      I don't think you need worry in this instance. Essentially you are not creating duplicate product descriptions but merely assigning a single description to multiple product categories using tags. Where you might run into problems is if you are using standard product descriptions and images provided by the manufacturer or third party reviews that a number of other retailers are also using. If that is the case you would be well advised to create your own unique content. Hope that helps!

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  9. Jason Acidre says:

    Excellent list Jan. I definitely agree with #6, I've been testing social signals for quite some time now, and they are really influencing search results these days, but of course, it's imperative to know how to secure rankings once search engines begin to tag your fresh content as relevant to search phrases.

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