The Google Panda Web Page Content Penalty
Good day! Did you know that the Google Panda ranking signal penalty has a birthday coming up? It's going to turn four next month! This post covers what you need to know about the penalty, and how to recover from it, if your site gets "Panda slapped."
This was a major ranking signal change that was first rolled out February, 2011 by Google. It was designed to penalize sites that published low-quality or no-quality content, "thin," or shallow content. It also hit sites that loved larding the page borders with ads, just so you could click on them to your heart's content.
You may also still hear it called the "farmer" update, as it went after sites that were low quality content farms, such as article directories and article distribution sites that had no editorial guidelines to define content quality.
After years of getting complaints, Google developed this ranking signal penalty to knock down sites that cranked out generally useless content, and raised sites that legitimately published good information that really answers a searcher's query about a topic.
In 2011 and 2012, Panda was rolled approximately one time each month during these two calendar years. What's more, Google was nice and let us SEOers know beforehand that it was coming, watch out, clean up your site or else! However, in March 2013, Google got over being nice and told us that we'd know if we got hit after the fact, because they were done with letting us know in advance, bwahahahaha!
Signs You've Been Hit By Google Panda
There's several different ways you can tell you've been hit by Panda. First, if you've been spewing out low quality content on your pages, you'll get penalized, if you haven't already.
If your content isn't really long enough to answer the questions your web visitor has about what you're offering (thin, shallow content), you might take a Panda hit.
Definitely if you've got ads on every page, around all borders, this bumps up against Google's ad to content ratio (I don't know what it is exactly, but with Panda, I do know that decorating the borders of all of your pages exceeds that ratio) for ranking in their results.
One sure way to tell is if you see groups of pages that similar in keyword topic take a fall in rankings, that's a classic sign of a Panda hit. There are sites that have a combination of decent content mixed in with pages that are shallow, thin content, and by looking at your Google Analytics and rankings, you can see which pages are penalized.
How To Clean Up Your Site If It's Taken A Google Panda Penalty
The only way to get back in Google's good graces is by completely re-writing thin, poor content pages. You'll need a lot of time and resources to pull this off if you've created lots of pages over the past few years. But your site won't recover until you've made a diligent effort to publish useful, unique, high quality content that your web readers can get real value out of.
Speaking of high quality content, how do you know what Google wants you to publish? Glad you asked - take a look at their guidelines here. In particular, pay close attention to the bullet points. This is probably the clearest guidance we'll ever get from Google, so if you write your pages, or if you have others do it for you, make sure you share this link with them and go over all the bullet points that apply to the information you need to communicate to your prospects to convert them into buyers!
Have you looked at your content lately? Are you getting fewer visitors to your site? If you can identify pages that could stand a major re-write, why not tackle one or two a week and see if you get more traffic?
Are you stuck for finding ideas to write about to avoid a Panda penalty? Here's a post that will help you figure out topics of interest for your target market.
Invenio's SEO classes go over the Google Panda penalty in greater detail, plus you can learn more on-page SEO factors to get better search visibility for your pages. Read about our basic SEO course and register today.
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Until we meet again, keep it between the ditches!
All the very best to you,
Image courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Giant_Panda_eating_Bamboo.JPG