The Google algorithm ‘Panda’ originally launched in 2011, and since then a grand total of 27 iterations have taken us to the latest 4.1 installment, but the key message remains the same – create high quality, unique and well optimised content on a well structured site, and you won’t be penalised. This latest update has affected a fairly substantial 3-5% of US search queries, but, as with the previous versions of Panda, the losers predominantly feature aggregator sites with thin, repeated content, such as lyrics portals.
Before creating new content for your site, ask yourself the following questions in order to avoid falling into a (panda) bear trap:
- Is the content directly relevant to the page it sits on? This might sound obvious but it’s really important that every piece of content relates to the other content on the rest of that page. In turn, grouping relevant content together should help to retain readers interested in particular topics by keeping them on the page, therefore reducing bounce rate.
- Is the content suitably descriptive? Content should be long enough to provide a good level of description and include relevant key words. Content that is too short will fail to draw much interest from Google.
- Is the content unique? Repetitive content is a big no-no for Panda. This doesn’t just mean that you should avoid copying content from competitor sites, but that content within your own site must also be unique wherever possible. This can be a particular problem for e-commerce sites which sell similar versions of the same product – care must be taken to differentiate whenever possible.
- Is the content visible within the rest of your site? Content should contain a good amount of internal links to other areas of your website, and in turn your site should be well structured to allow easy navigation for users to find content relevant to them quickly and easily. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your site’s architecture and conduct a technical audit to ensure your sitemap is up to date and accurate with no broken links or 404 errors.
- Is the content helpful? The way people search has changed in recent years, following the introduction of services such as Siri. Consequently, content which features questions and answers works particularly well, as it can solve specific problems quickly and can also be picked up on by the Google Hummingbird algorithm, which monitors users’ intent before delivering search results, therefore adding extra benefit to your site.
How To Tell If You’ve Already Been Penalised by Panda 4.1
All websites should take advantage of Google Webmaster Tools – it’s free, and, as provided by Google itself, it’s naturally trustworthy and the best source for monitoring your site’s Google health. Websites negatively affected by Panda 4.1 should receive an alert notice on Google Webmaster Tools. You then have the chance to re-optimise your content and resubmit your site to Google. If Google is satisfied, the alert notice will be removed, thus reducing Panda’s impact on your SEO.
Ultimately, Panda aims to improve the search experience for users by directing them to highly relevant, high quality content from trusted sources. Always create content with a user in mind to improve your site’s optimisation.