Yesterday Google released another roll out of their Panda Update and rolled this update out to UK for the first time. This has a lot of people scared on how to move forward in their SEO campaigns. How has this update effected us as SEO’s and internet marketers? What tools and tactics are still effective? Some of you may even have stopped your SEO campaigns.
The very worst thing you can do is freeze like a deer in headlights! Expert SEO’s always continue moving forward, and in this article we will examine what has changed and how we can continue moving forward with a strong SEO campaign.
What is the new update?
The Panda Update or Farmer Update is probably one of the largest algorithm changes Google has made in the past 8+ years. This update has affected more than 16% of all search queries that we have seen thus far. The sites that seem to have been effected the most are Article Sites, Price Comparison Sites and Some Web 2.0 type sites.
This update had some results that were really quite shocking. Even just back a few years ago in 2008 sites like Squidoo, Hubpages and Ezine Articles use to be crack for Google. I remember getting several Squidoo lenses to the top of Google in just a few days and now these very same sites a few years later have seen a massive dip.
Panda No No’s
When Google rolls out with major algorithm changes they don’t simply post a list of the new search criteria that we can easily use to adjust our SEO campaigns. However, they do offer us many subtle suggestions that they recommend all Web-masters follow. We can also examine the sites that were effected and begin to analyze exactly what uncle G wants.
When examining the sites that were most negatively effected you have to look at all factors. You need to examine their ad’s, their content, their back links, anchor text, duplicate content, meta information, etc.
After going through countless sites of the biggest losers here in the Ping Kaching office we have identified what we feel are the biggest No No’s that Google is going after.
a) Ad’s seem to have become a factor in negative rankings. We found lot’s of sites who were negatively effected in their rankings had too many Banner ads, AdSense, etc. Try limiting the Ad’s on your website and if you saw a dip in your rankings then I would suggest removing your Ads all together until you are able to restore your traffic volumes. This didn’t seem to apply to affiliate ad’s in the body of your articles. Unless you are going over board with those….see point b.
b) Avoid Excessive outbound links on your website. A lot of price comparison and coupon code type sites were negatively effected. The majority of these sites had an enormous amount of outbound links pointing to other websites. Additionally, be sure your links are all valid. Another thing I noticed on a lot of these sites were a large number of broken links.
c) Check all your individual pages. Now is a good time for some spring cleaning of your website. Google has said individual pages have the ability to bring down a site’s overall score. If you have a lot of dated material, poorly written articles or possibly some pages you tried some black hat techniques on such as keyword stuffing etc., now would be a smart time to remove those pages, put up 301 redirects to new posts, etc. Pages you will really want to remove from your website are duplicate content pages. See point d.
d) Duplicate content on your website is a killer! Sites that had lot’s of duplicate content saw a huge decrease while sites with original articles seemed to flourish. If you have duplicate content on your website remove it now. Do a 301 redirect from the duplicate content page and have it redirect to the most prevalent article. Remember that Duplicate Content is bad but Syndication is Not. See the difference in a paragraph near the end of the article.
There actually are lot’s of valid reasons you may have duplicate content on your website. You might even be reading this paragraph confident you don’t, but what about printer friendly versions and text only versions of an article. Both of these have the exact same text as your original post but sit on different URLs. These should be dealt with as well. Here is how JohnMu from Google suggests we handle these situations.
“Just to be clear — using a robots.txt disallow is not a recommended way to handle duplicate content. By using a disallow, we won’t be able to recognize that it’s duplicate content and may end up indexing the URL without having crawled it.
For example, assuming you have the same content at: A) http://example.com/page.php?id=12 B) http://example.com/easter/eggs.htm
… and assuming your robots.txt file contains: user-agent: * disallow: /*?
… that would disallow us from crawling URL (A) above. However, doing that would block us from being able to recognize that the two URLs are actually showing the same content. In case we find links going to (A), it’s possible that we’ll still choose to index (A) (without having crawled it), and those links will end up counting for a URL that is basically unknown.
On the other hand, if we’re allowed to crawl URL (A), then our systems will generally be able to recognize that these URLs are showing the same content, and will be able to forward context and information (such as the links) about one URL to the version that’s indexed. Additionally, you can use the various canonicalization methods to make sure that we index the version that you prefer.”
e) Single source back links. If you were negatively effected by this update and you don’t have duplicate content, outbound links, etc. Then chances are you were negatively effected because the majority of where you have obtained your back links from have been negatively effected. If for instance you relied solely on building Hubpages for your back links then you would have seen a dip to your primary domain as well. Those Hubpage back links have lost some of their link juice. It’s never a good idea to bank all of your strategy on a single link source. Try varying your SEO techniques rather than just using Web 2.0 sites or Article back links. Even Ping Kaching software uses several various techniques such as RSS, Social Bookmarking, Directory Submission, Pinging, etc. By having a wide base of back links from different sources you will secure your position in the SERPs from future changes by Google.
Remember Google often says that it rewards websites that provide a good user experience. When writing new articles on your site or when thinking about how to lay out your site always think of the customer. Too many Ad’s, poor navigation, outdated material and broken links can all be indicators to Google of a low quality site. Google will continue to refine their algorithm to weed out the sites that don’t provide a quality experience to their users. So if you use White Hat SEO methods, vary your link source and provide quality content then you will never have to worry about losing 90% of your online business over night like so many of these companies have with this update.
What If I Was Negatively Effected?
If you were effected by this update and lost a significant amount of traffic don’t panic. The good news is you weren’t effected by Bing or Yahoo and so you will still have those traffic sources in the meantime. (Again don’t just vary your link sources but you should also be varying your search engine optimization methods. If you only focus on Google and ignore Bing then you are not only giving up 30% traffic but you are putting all your eggs in a single basket.)
To restore your Google ranking be sure to setup a Google Webmaster Tools account and dig through your site. Read the above points again that can negatively effect your website and make the necessary changes.
One you have fixed the issues that could effect you negatively it’s time to look at the positive changes of Panda and adopt those into your site. (Read next paragraph.) Then once you have made the positive changes try contacting the Google spam team and letting them know you’ve fixed your site and would like them to reconsider it.
Capitalizing On The Panda Update
With any algorithm change Google makes it equals a zero sum game. This means some sites will fall but others have to rise to replace them. So we are able to evaluate not just what Google doesn’t like but we are able to examine what they do like.
The sites that saw the largest increase in rankings were News Sites, Media Sites (Video Mainly), Sharing Sites, Social Media Sites and Blogs.
Let’s now examine some positive ranking factors in the Panda Update.
a) Unique Content. Need we say more? Create your own Unique Content!
b) Video Content. Video content really saw a spike and I also think users and customers really enjoy video. Not only can adding video to your website increase your rankings but I believe it can increase your sales as well! (We will be doing an article on video optimization in the future.)
c) Social Media. Google is using social media and sharing as an indicator that you have Good content. Using Ping Kaching is a great method for submitting your material to Social Sites. The software is even releasing an entire Social Updater tool that will update your Facebook, Twitter, Xanga, Tumblr, Google Buzz, Yahoo Buzz, etc. accounts. This is an extremely powerful method for showing Google that you have quality content. Also try building into your site Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc. The more you can sync your major social media profiles to your website the better. (Did we mention we are already ALPHA testing a Ping Kaching tool that builds social media profiles with links back to your sites? (; )
d) Definitely look at installing a daily/weekly blog for your site. Fresh, new content is more important than ever. Be sure to submit every new post to Ping Kaching where it will be able to distribute that link to social bookmarking and social media sites.
e) Article length. It appears that people who have longer articles that are roughly 300+ words in length are preforming better than articles which are 200 characters in length or shorter. When writing blog posts or doing article marketing be sure to reach that magic 300 word length when possible. Google appears to be treating shorter articles as lower quality.
f) According to the research of SEO Andrew Wise domain age now plays a larger roll in ranking factors as well. However, I wouldn’t suggest to anyone to switch their business over to a new aged domain just for that reason alone. Though, if you are planning to start a new business then there is no reason why you wouldn’t pick up an aged domain. DomainFace is a great resource to find Aged Domains. Ping Kaching will actually be releasing a tool in the software that will have a plugin with Domain Face and will help it’s customers select Domains.
Difference Between Syndication and Duplicate Content
Earlier in the article I discussed that duplicate content is a big No No in Googles new algorithm. But this doesn’t mean you should throw out your RSS distribution, Postereous accounts, etc. Let’s now examine the difference between Syndication and Duplicate Content.
“If you syndicate your content on other sites, Google will always show the version we think is most appropriate for users in each given search, which may or may not be the version you’d prefer.” -Google
If you search Google News you will find the same stories picked up on multiple websites. Quality content like News, Articles and Press Releases are all similar and are considered Syndicated Content. If your content is good, it’s almost expected to be seen in multiple locations. Syndicated Content is natural and it’s existed for decades in printed materials, newspapers, magazines and TV. Having a Postereous account with the same posts as your blog is not going to negatively effect you. Having the same article posted on your website with two separate URLs and separate meta data to try to capitalize on multiple keywords will!
The new update by Google was very large and has hurt many businesses. I hope that this update has opened your eyes to the importance of varying your link building techniques as well as not just building a website for Google but also for Yahoo and Bing. To simply put all your eggs in a single basket can be quite devastating as many have found out.
The important thing is that you keep moving forward. Content creation, link building, etc. Follow the above points and I am confident you will see an increase to your website rankings with these changes Google has made.
As for Ping Kaching, Google’s update effected the software’s features in a positive way. Social Media is becoming more powerful in rankings and a tool like Ping Kaching is needed more than ever.
We are very excited to release our Social Updating feature in the next week. This tool will not only save our customers ton’s of time but with Google’s latest update it will be a very powerful tool for helping our customers rank!