Google Panda Updates & Penalty – Frequently Asked Questions

Dec 30th, 2015

In an effort to improve user experience, Google continually modifies and updates the core algorithm it uses to determine the order in which search results are returned. Google Panda is part of this core algorithm, and measures the quality of a site’s content, cracking down on those with thin content, high ad-to-content ratios and other content quality issues and adjusting ranking accordingly

There are several varieties of content-specific penalties, and they often result in complete removal of offending content from search engine results pages (SERPs). So if you’re not following Google’s best practice guidelines by providing fresh, relevant and quality content to your users, then you are running the risk of being caught out.

Though a site may be penalised for activity in breach of guidelines, there is the potential to avoid long-term detrimental effects by quick, expert action.

There’s no minimum or maximum word count that Panda takes into account. The idea of writing more than your competitors to gain a strategic advantage is unfounded as this would be something that spammers could easily exploit.

Sites hit by content-related can still rank. Often, a site is hit algorithmically due to a large amount of thin or poor quality content. However, if there’s still content on the site that users find valuable and relevant, these pages will still rank.

Duplicate content is a completely separate issue to Google Panda. Pages containing duplicate content are unlikely to rank ahead of the original sites/pages.

Panda does not take 404 pages into account. This would make it easy for spammers or competitor sites to point lots of links at non-existent URLs.

Excessive adverts ‘above the fold’ should be avoided – this detracts from the content on the page, which should be the main focus.

Google Panda cracks down on:

  • over-optimisation (keyword stuffing and repetitive content)
  • copied (scraped) content
  • thin or low quality content
  • replicated or otherwise unnatural content

Your first clue will be a dramatic drop in traffic.

If you have been impacted, your visibility will not improve and traffic will not return to your site until you fix the issue on your website that caused it. And as Panda is an algorithmic penalty, this means that even once you’ve resolved the underlying issue(s), you’ll have to wait for the algorithm to be run again for the penalty to be lifted to get your rankings back, which could be several months.

  1. Follow the SURE rule: your site content should be Substantial, Unique, Relevant and Engaging.
  2. Don’t stuff your content full of keywords – they should appear naturally within the text.
  3. Make sure your site has a low ad-to-content ratio.
  4. Establish yourself as an industry thought leader.

Publishing high quality, original content that people want to read and share is the key to content success. So the good news is that if your brand’s content is great and adds value for the user, then you are likely to be rewarded with better rankings.

An action plan for optimising your content:

  • Fully analyse your content to identify areas for improvement.
  • Identify long tail opportunities by carrying out effective keyword research.
  • Ensure your content enhances a user’s perception of your site’s overall value (expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness).
  • Give enough detail in your content to answer your readers’ questions.
  • Ask yourself “How many visitors have I helped today?”, rather than “How many visitors have been to the site today?”.
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