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 Google Panda Updates Explained Simply

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PostSubject: Google Panda Updates Explained Simply   Wed Mar 14, 2012 10:36 am

In recent times Google has been rethinking and reshaping the way it
analyses and displays results in it’s search index. These new changes to
it’s algorithms are commonly known as Google Panda.
Yes it’s a cute sounding name but in reality, to some websites and
businesses it has been devestating. For years some websites have been
cruising along sitting at the top of the rankings and then have
experienced a sudden rankings drop for some of their major keywords. If
this sounds like something that has happened to you, read on because I
am going to explain what it is all about and what you can do about it.

What are the Google Panda updates?


Google Panda is essentially a quality filter that is being applied to
search results from Google. This filter has been developed in part due
to a survey or questionnaire that was issued to what Google have
assessed as normal web users. This survey contained a lot of questions
which all related to the user experience that was delivered by the
websites they were asked to visit. Some of the questions that were asked
are -


  • Would you trust the information from this website?
  • Would you trust this website with your credit card details?
  • Are there too many advertisements displayed on this website?
  • Do you think this site is an authority within this particular niche?
  • Does this website contain orignal, insightful content?
  • Is this website easy to navigate?
  • Do you feel as if this website is only trying to sell you something?

These are some of the questions and there were many more. But these
will cover the needs of this article and will cover what most people
will need answered to be able to start fixing any ranking drops that
were caused by any of the Google Panda updates.

Panda is designed to essentially bring websites that give a good user
experience and good quality content to the top of the rankings and drop
websites that do not deliver a good user experience lower. Now, to
continue reading this article I highly suggest you try to remove
yourself from the equation when looking at your own site and remember
that the Panda algorithm is based on statistical calculations. These
calculations are not necessarily perfect. You also need to remember that
having your website listed in Google’s index is not a god given right.
Google is a company and it’s purpose is to make money. The fact that it
helps many other websites and businesses to get exposure and in turn
make money themselves is awesome, but it is not their main aim. Google
make a lot of money delivering advertising on top of all of the services
that they offer for “free”. They are not primarily there to help you
make money. If you want to perform well on Google’s search index you
need to know how they look at sites and play by their rules. The sooner
you can get his into your head, the sooner you will be able to look at
the changes that need to be made to regain your sites former ranking
positions, traffic and potentially cashflow.

Diagnosing a Google Panda “quality” penalty and how to fix it.

Google’s Panda updates have been rolling out at regular times since
February 2011. The first algorithm updates were released for US results
only and then extended to all English Google platforms. The dates of the
updates are listed below -


  • February 24, 2011
  • April 11, 2011
  • May 10, 2011
  • June 16, 2011
  • July 23, 2011
  • August 11, 2011
  • September 28, 2011
  • October 5, 2011
  • October 13, 2011
  • October 19, 2011
  • November 18, 2011
  • March 5, 2012

Now the simplest way to know if you have suffered a rankings drop due to the Panda update is to analyse your Google Analytics
or other traffic data. If you are suffering traffic drops on or around
the dates listed above you have potentially suffered from the new
algorithms. Now, I will also point out that just because you have
dropped in your rankings does not mean to say that your site is
necessarily suffering massively as some sites have. If you have only
dropped a few positions for particular keywords it is more than likely
because Google’s new algorithms have deemed that the other sites around
you are slightly better optimised for their new formulas, or essentially
this means these formulas have determined that those sites give a
slightly better user experience as defined by the survey that is
discussed above. It is also important to remember that it is very
possible that the Panda algorithm may only be affecting some keywords
you have been ranking for and not others. Identifying these keywords is
very important in diagnosing the exact reason any performance penalties
have occured.

I need to point out that the Panda updates are also pushed out
manually by Google. If you have suffered a “quality” penalty you will
not see a performance increase until the problems have been resolved and
until Google “presses” the button on their next update. Because each
algorithm update is still in testing they are releasing them manually in
stages so that they can track and continue to improve their algorithms.
The key to ensuring you come out of the penalty is to make the
necessary changes and continue building “quality” links as you always
should have been. If you make the changes that are needed to fix the
problems you are going to come out of it with potentially higher
rankings and more traffic than ever before. You need to continue working
on your site and try to forget that you have had a rankings drop as
much as you can. The work that you perform just needs to be slightly
different. If you have been thinking about a site redesign, now is the
time to do it. If you need to make minor changes, now is the time to act
on it because your site and your business will continue to suffer if
you do not do this. Also, to keep track of when the updates are actually
released subscribe to Google’s Twitter account @google
and watch out for what they are calling “weather reports” which
announce when the updates are released.

Once you have determined whether it is specific keywords that have
been penalised by Panda or essentially which keywords are now sending
less traffic you can move forward. If it is a lot of keywords that you
have been penalised for and you have lost nearly all of your traffic
then this becomes a far more complex subject and is something I suggest
you contact me about. If you have really noticed a rankings drop for
specific keywords, chances are they are more than likely your major
keywords which have previously sent a lot of traffic. These are keywords
which were previously well optimised for but are now not so well
optimised for. I will suggest a few things to look at -


  • Keyword density – This is the single biggest factor
    that I have come across in determining a Panda keyword penalty is a
    high keyword density. Too many keywords stuffed into the content or
    entire page is not good. It makes it look as if you page has been
    written purely for search engine algorithms and not for your readers. If
    a reader knows what sort of website they are on they do not need to be
    constantly reminded of this. They do not need to be reminded about what
    types of products they are looking at by continually using the product
    categories underneath every single product listed on your page. It
    presents a bad user experience and whether you like it or not this is
    exaclty what Panda is designed to filter out. Remember it is real people
    who were surveyed by Google to help create it’s new rankings formulas.
    It is these people that you now need to be writing for and just filling a
    page full of your major keywords does not provide for engaging or
    quality content. It is also important to remember that keyword density
    is considered across your entire website and not just any single page.
    It is very possible that you have been penalised due to a page deep in
    your site which receives traffic or ranks well. A keyword density of
    0.5% to 1.5% is now the typical range for any page for sites listed in
    the top 3 results for any keyword. Again, this is not a perfect formula
    and I have proven this wrong myself on several occasions by comparing
    separate sites on a page level only. But this is what you should be
    aiming for. There are other factors to consider and if you need advice
    on this, contact me. A simple tool to determine keyword density is SEO Quake.
  • Duplicate content – Whether it be from content you
    are reposting after finding it elsewhere on the internet, or whether it
    be from content which you are displaying on multiple places throughout
    your site dynamically or deliberately, Google does not want to see
    duplicate content. Remember, Google have the biggest single index of
    information anywhere on this earth. If content has been found during
    it’s crawling process elsewhere on the internet is can easily identify
    this. A quick point I have to make is if you are selling a product and
    the description is not written specifically for your website this is a
    very common way to introduce duplicate content. If the product is sold
    by multiple websites and the default product description issued by the
    manufacturer is being used by yourself and others, this is duplicate
    content. This will be found. You cannot hide from Google’s robots. If
    you have the same information displayed on your site as is also
    displayed on other sites you will more than likely be penalised for
    this. Write your own product descriptions. Make sure your content is
    unique and original. You really need to consider whether your “tags” on
    CMS platforms such as WordPress are causing duplicate content to be
    introduced dynamically. It is now a good idea to create “noindex”
    properties on these tags so that Google no longer takes them into
    account when indexing your content. These points are something that is
    very important to consider if you want to survive moving forward. There
    are systems such as Copyscape
    which can be used to determine uniqueness of any content. Also, ensure
    your Title and Meta description elements are unique for every page
    within your site.
  • Linking techniques – If your website has previously
    survived because of a bulk link building strategy and the sites that
    your links are hosted on have been deemed as low quality, your links are
    no longer going to be worth as much as they once were. In the past is
    has been too easy to create a lot of incoming links, have them noticed
    by Google and then have your ranking increase depending on your anchor
    text structure. As much as linking is still very effective in helping
    you increase your rankings, the focus on quality links is becoming far
    more important. Stop focussing on getting thousands of forum profile
    links and really put your efforts into getting contextual links from
    high PageRank, high domain authority sites with low out bound links and
    that are of a good age. These links are far harder to get and Google
    sees them as far more important. As time goes on low quality forum
    profile links and blog comments are going to be valued far less. And if
    those sites have been penalised in any way from the recent updates,
    chances are their links are nowhere near as strong as the once were.
    Tools such as SEO Spyglass are great for analysing incoming links.
  • Page structure and usage metrics – Your pages need
    to be easy to navigate. Interlinking of pages not only makes it easy for
    search engines to navigate your site, but also make it easy for readers
    to dive further into your site. Google is now looking at site metrics
    such as average page loads, time spent on site, bounce rate and return
    rate to determine a quality site. Think about it this way. A quality
    site will encourage people to spend more time reading it, will make
    people want to open more pages and will have people returning to it.
    This is very simple to understand. Now, Google operate Google Analytics
    and until recently have seriously undervalued it for their own
    statistical purposes. They have more information than anyone on around
    80% of all websites that are live on the internet. It makes simple sense
    for them to use this information to determine some simple values of
    reader usage. They have now introduced this into their ranking
    algorithms and if you have no idea of what users are doing on your
    site,or how long they are actually looking at pages or how many visitors
    you are actually receiving you are not running your site properly.
    Start to think about how to increase these average figures and how to
    reduce your bounce rate. The simplest way is to introduce quality
    content and stop seeming as if the only reason your site exists is to
    sell products. People want to be engaged in the information they are
    receiving, and the more engaged they are the more time they will spend
    on your site. Remove some of your sales content from your predominant
    pages and introduce content that people want to read. Reduce the amount
    of products that are displayed in one hit and add some quality
    descriptions. And most of all, make it easy to navigate to other pages
    of your site so that readers dive deeper and receive more information.
    Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools are the best tools for analysing these figures but I also use Statcounter on all of my own sites.

Now this is just the start. This is going to be an ever changing
subject and is something even seasoned and experienced SEO professionals
are finding it hard to adjust to. Google is changing the shape of the
internet and making it harder and harder to “game” their system.
Traditional bulk link building efforts are no longer as effective as
they once were. Link building is just as important, if not more
important than ever. It is just the quality of the links that have
changed and the techniques that are used to get them. Content should now
be a major focus. If your pages are obviously just set up to purely to
sell a product or to display advertising such as Google Adsense, you
will more than likely be penalised by Panda. If you have duplicate
content or are using content scrapers or auto-blogging tools, you will
more than likely get “punished”. If users are not spending much time on
your site, you will more than likely be suffering in the rankings index.
As I have already said, the new algorithms are based on the results of
questionnaires issued to real people, so shifting your focus to what
real people want to see and not just what search engines have previously
wanted to see is going to be imperative in moving forward. These
algorithms are designed to determine quality. Get used to it.

Now, you can sit back and continue to think your once high
performing, high ranking website deserves to be on top still if you
like. But I suggest you stop living in denial. If your website has
suffered a rankings drop due to Panda and you do not fix the issues that
have caused this, you will not regain those top positions again. Google
are only going to get stricter and what we are seeing is just the
beginning of them rethinking the way they deliver quality content within
their search results. If you do not adapt and move forward, your
website and business are going to suffer as a result. This may seem
harsh but as a full time SEO consultant I am in a position where I see
the results of these changes every single day and if I do not tell you,
then there is a chance that no one will. Swallow your pride, rethink
your strategies and focus on delivering what real people want to see and
I am sure you will survive what is going to be a very, very bumpy ride
for those who cannot adapt. Focus on delivering a quality user
experience and your site is going to really benefit now and in the long
term.

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