Home / Search Engine Algorithms / How To Keep The Panda At Bay

How To Keep The Panda At Bay

The big question is how to fill your site with the type of content that builds your brand, attracts targeted traffic, generates high quality leads and keeps the Panda algorithm in check.

The answer is to put quality content creation above all else.

There is only one way to produce quality content. Research thoroughly and then write your own article. Write from the heart and color the content in your own style with your own wit and your own passion. A good rewrite is black and white. An original researched article free of mistakes brings your picture alive in full, vibrant color.

In this process there is one major factor that should not be overlooked. Your reader must connect with your content. Know your audience, listen to them and give them what they want. Do not only research your material. Do the same with your reader. Write for an individual, not for the faceless masses.

A quality website however requires more than just quality writing. The site must also look good. Adding pictures and video is one way to achieve a product that is pleasing to the eye. The search engine optimization and design must also be top class.

Understanding Quality Content

In order to determine what qualifies as quality content, it helps to step into Google’s mindset by revisiting the content-related questions that were asked of Google Panda’s search quality human raters:

  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it shallow in nature?
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
    Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators or spread across a large network of sites so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
    Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopaedia, or book?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?

In essence, this is the standard that your content must meet if it is to be featured in the top ten blue links on the front page of Google. Google wants to offer information-rich answers to its users so obviously it wants to avoid valueless content being visible in the search results.

If you have an Amazon affiliate site, the question is simple. Is there unique, high quality content on each of the product pages, or is the content simply a rehash of what is already available on the Amazon website?

Some affiliate sites exists to solely direct a visitor to Amazon’s site and fail to offer value beyond that. Google will deem those pages to be doorway pages, and the site will be nowhere to be found on Google’s organic search results.

Google’s Quality Rating Guidelines

Google provides a lot of signals for high- and low-quality content in the quality guidelines, which clearly spell out what they’re looking for from quality content.

Here are their exact words:

  • Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
  • Don’t deceive your users.
  • Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings.
  • Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging.
  • Make your website stand out from others in your field.

Google also specified the types of content that could lead to a manual penalty:

  • Posting automatically generated content.
  • Actively participating in link schemes.
  • Creating pages with little or no original content. This includes situations where webmasters may have copied content from high authority sites. In this case, your webpage will be filtered out in organic searches.
  • Cloaking and sneaky redirects. This is where the version of the webpage that was indexed by the search engine spider is substantially different from what the visitor sees when they get to the site.
  • Hidden text or links using white text, CSS or by manipulating images or the font size.
  • Doorway pages which are created by inserting results for particular phrases with the purpose of sending visitors to a different page.
  • Scraped content, which involves taking content from other webpages and publishing it as your own.
  • Thin affiliate sites that don’t provide much value.
  • Publishing webpages with irrelevant keywords. This is also known as keyword stuffing.
  • Engaging in rich snippets spam. This involves using spammy rich snippets on your site such as using authorship mark-up on other people’s content or marking up the same thing multiple times in different ways on the same page.

The User Experience

Prior to Google Panda, aesthetics were not really an issue when it came to ranking on Google Search, and some truly ugly websites even ranked higher than their more visually appealing counterparts for the same keywords.

This was due in part to the fact that these sites were often better optimized and avoided many of the design techniques and gimmicks that often prevented the more visually appealing websites from being effectively spidered or indexed. This is simply not the case anymore, and Panda is simply another nail in the coffin of poor-quality site design.

This is what Google has to say about thin content:

Some webmasters attempt to improve their pages’ ranking and attract visitors by creating pages with many words but little or no authentic content. Google will take action against domains that try to rank more highly by just showing scraped or other cookie-cutter pages that don’t add substantial value to users.

Your goal should be to create a site built for user engagement. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the site well organized?
  • Is it easy to navigate?
  • Is it easy for visitors to find what they want without having to use your internal search engine?
  • Do pages on the site load quickly?
  • What is the ad ratio? Are there too many ads?
  • Are there any broken links?

It is important to understand that the user experience and how users engage with your content is now a strong ranking signal.

User experience is simply a way of encapsulating the questions:

  • When people visit your site, are they able to quickly and efficiently do what they want?
  • Will users easily find the answer they are looking for?
  • If your visitors are trying to make a purchase or find specific information, is it easy to locate the menu or complete the task?

If the answer to any of the above questions is no, it will hurt your search ranking.

Remove or block spider access to low-quality content.

Even if you have unique, high-quality content on most areas of your site, low-quality content on part of a site can impact the site’s ranking as a whole. If you cannot remove bad content, use your meta robots tag or an entry in your robots.txt file to block the crawling and indexing of duplicate or low-quality content to prevent them from affecting the ranking of the entire site.

Poor-quality content scope signals could include:

  •  Pages that don’t appear to align with the purpose of other pages
  •  Irrelevant content
  •  Less than extensive information
  •  Any form of duplicate content
  •  General information
  •  Pages with no purpose
  •  Auto-generated content
  •  Pages with the sole purpose of advertising or affiliate income
  •  Heavily spun content.

Bounce Rate

The amount of time your visitors spend on your site is now used as a measure of user engagement, and Google uses bounce rate to determine whether a site is a good match for a particular keyword.

A bounce occurs when a visitor leaves your site without visiting more than a single page. In effect, someone did a search on Google or Bing, found your site in the search results, and clicked through to your site. When the searcher got to your site, they took one look at the page they were taken to (your landing page) and, for whatever reason, exited your site immediately.

Note that Google also looks at return visits to your site when analyzing user engagement. Basically, if users visit your site once and never return, it means the site’s content is not appealing to the very people the site was intended for – your target audience.

If a high percentage of people are bouncing from your site, that tells Google your site has poor usability or that you may be ranking for irrelevant terms. This is what can often happen when you optimize your site for generic keywords such as computers, shoes, or televisions. If you have optimized your site for those keywords and a visitor is looking for a specific type of computer, shoe, or television that you don’t carry, they are going to bounce from your site once they discover that you don’t have what they want. If a high percentage of searchers are bouncing from your site, this could really hurt your search ranking for your target keywords.

In this scenario, you’ll need to ask yourself what people are trying to accomplish when they get to your site and look at the keywords you are ranking for. Google has removed keyword intelligence for SEO from Google Analytics, but you can still find out the keywords users are using to find your site through your PPC campaigns and Google Webmaster Tools.

It is absolutely essential that the landing page the user is taken to from the organic listing is directly relevant to the searcher’s search terms. When you do so, your site will be more engaging to your visitors, and they will stay longer on the site.

Click-Through Rate (CTR) from Search Results

The Google Panda algorithm also looks at your click-through rate. When a user does a search on Google and sees your site listing (title, domain name and description) in the search results, how often do users click through to your site? If you are getting a lot of impressions but searchers are not clicking your links, then your click-through rate for that particular keyword is going to suffer, and so too are your rankings.

Google has a way of calculating the perceived trust ordinary users place on the results displayed on the Google search results page through a variety of metrics. CTR scores, these days, are one of the means used to assess the quality of a particular page presented as an answer to a search query by recording whether a particular result got clicked on, and how many times, and then anonymously tracking the behavior of those who clicked on it.

If, for instance, a website that consistently comes up on the first page of Google for a specific search query attracts clicks but the visitors leave that page within 30 seconds, chances are that their experience has been unsatisfactory, the website does not adequately address what they are looking for, and, in all likelihood, does not deserve the high search ranking it has.

CTR scores are one of the metrics that helps Google decide whether a website belongs in a top tier subset of sites that provide a high quality end-user experience. If the accumulated data indicates that it doesn’t, the website is then placed in a subset of low confidence websites that might still provide an answer when no other alternatives are available; but will make the visitor work harder to find what she is looking for.

Keyword Hoarding

If some of the web pages on your site are ranking for a large number of keywords that they should not be ranking for, then your site’s ranking will be vulnerable to Google Panda. This is why you should only optimize your site for specific keywords that are really targeted to your content and relevant to your niche market.

If you don’t have the content to justify ranking for a particular search term, there is no point in trying to optimize your site for those terms simply to attract more eyeballs to your site. It will never rank, and if Google sees that you’re trying to manipulate its search results, you’ll be hit with a penalty.

This can often happen when you target broad, generic keywords such as men’s shoes or computers. For example, if you sell Windows PCs, ranking for a broad match keyword such as “fast computers” or “best computers,” could inadvertently hurt your site’s search ranking. This is because you will naturally be ranking for things like smartphones, game consoles, fridges, iPads, Macs, and anything that has a computer built into it. This is just how the algorithm works, it’s not perfect. Doing so will only increase your bounce rate and decrease return visits to your site for those keywords. This is all because you’ve cast your net far too wide.

Identifying Poor Performing Content

It is important to weed out pages that might be deemed as “low quality” in the eyes of Google Panda. The best place to do that is through your analytics to identify your worst performing content, which are pages with the highest and lowest bounce rates. In addition, you need to identify the search terms that are bringing visitors to your site to ensure that you are delivering value to those users. In particular, take a look at the pages with a higher-than-normal bounce rate (70-100%) with very low average time on site and examine them individually. These could be an indication of bad quality. Recreate those pages and turn them into authoritative, exhaustive content pages.

Before digging into your analytics, you may want to start the process by gathering data on how users feel about your site so you can find out if your high bounce rate is due to a terrible site design or poorly written content. Posting a survey on Amazon’s MechanicalTurk is a fast and easy way to get feedback from regular users. You may be able to diagnose problems of trust, design, content, and other issues that may be affecting your website.

Identifying Bad Content on Your Site

As has already been established, content is the most fundamental ranking factor, and the quality of the content on your site will determine how high you rank in the search results. If you are experiencing low rankings, a content audit should be the first thing you should consider doing.

Even if you have unique, high-quality content on most areas of your site, low-quality content on sections of your site can impact the entire site’s ranking as a whole. If you cannot remove bad content, you can use your meta robots tag or an entry in your robots.txt file to block the crawling and indexing of duplicate or low-quality content to prevent them from affecting the ranking of the entire site. Note however, that Google doesn’t recommend using the robots command in this manner.

Poor-quality content scope signals could include:

  •  Pages that don’t appear to align with the purpose of other pages
  •  Irrelevant content
  •  Less than extensive information
  •  Any form of duplicate content
  •  General information
  •  Pages with no purpose
  •  Auto-generated content
  •  Pages with the sole purpose of advertising or affiliate income
  •  Heavily spun content.

The fact of the matter is, if you have poor quality content, Google will categorize your site as a low quality website, and it will be practically invisible in the search results. It is therefore critically important to identify and weed out pages that might be deemed as “low quality” in the eyes of Google Panda. And the most effecient way to do this is through a content audit.

What is a Content Audit?

A content audit is a comprehensive analysis of the quality of your existing content in order to find out whether it is achieving the goals you want or actually damaging your chances of ranking high in the Google search results.

An audit will answer the following questions about your content:

  • does it provide value for your target audience?
  • is it generating the right kind of traffic to your site?
  • is it generating conversions for your brand?
  • does it inspire confidence in our brand?
  • Is it relevant?
  • Is it duplicate content?
  • Is it accurate and consistent?
  • is it credible and trustworthy?
  • are visitors engaging with the content?
  • which of your pages have a higher-than-normal bounce rate (70-100%)?

About Admin

Check Also

domain names tlds

How To Choose A Viable and Effective Domain Name

What is a Domain Name? A domain name (also referred as a URL or Uniform …