Bloggers and blog administrators are at least a little search engine savvy so most of you already know a lot about the Google Panda update and its importance. With this in mind I’ll simply summarize what Panda is at a high level. Google uses algorithms to define where web pages show up in the search list for different keywords. Panda is an algorithm Google put in place to remove pages with poor quality content. Pages with only a few unique words on them, pages with more advertising than original content, and pages with duplicate content reprinted from another site are all targeted by Panda and penalized according to the perceived severity of the page.
This change was intended to help Google filter out what they consider low quality sites such as content farms and sites that just crawl the web and grab up as much random junk as they can and cram it all in one place only to cover it in advertising. For the most part Panda did a fantastic job removing these types of sites from the top ten search positions. Some legitimate pages got mauled by Panda along the way, but with such a sweeping change this was too be expected. So how do you avoid enraging the Panda? Here are the top 5 ways to stay clear of Panda and offer your readers something they really want to read.
1. Spell Check Everything
Spell checking sounds trivial but it’s not. When Google is grading content on a site for quality correct spelling does come into play. Poor spelling may not be a crushing blow but it does count and it’s easy to fix. This is more important to keep in mind for site administrators than individual bloggers. We can all check our own work, but the admins are responsible for several authors, possible thousands. Most blogging software has built in spellcheckers but having a human being give every page the once over can be very important. If two articles of equal quality are fighting it out for a top position it would be a shame to lose a spot due to misspellings.
2. Fix all Duplicate Content
If two or more pages have the same data on them they are duplicate content. This isn’t hard to grasp by any means. There are many different kinds of duplicate content such as true, near, cross-domain, and more. All of these are interesting but the fact of the matter is you want the data on any of your pages to be unique to not only your site, but any site on the Internet. This is incredibly important and can’t be stressed enough. Duplicate content will bring down the Panda and it can take a long time to get it off.
This doesn’t mean two articles can’t be about the same subject of course. There are thousands of articles about every topic imaginable on the Internet but what is important here is the presentation of the ideas. Don’t just throw up an article you found by changing a few words here and there. Google is smart and will know what’s going on. Offering a similar article reimagined in your own words with new ideas is the way to go.
Just because you are careful about duplicate content doesn’t mean everyone else is. You may think you have no dupes when you actually have hundreds. It’s unfortunate but possible that another site copied your content and published it. Google may have difficulty discerning where the article originated and it’s possible that the dupe could hurt an innocent site. There are methods to help reduce the chances of this happening in the future but the best short term plan is to rewrite anything that was duped now and guard against this in the future. Copyscape.com is a great tool to use in order to locate any duplicate content.
3. Remove Shallow Content
What shallow content is can be very subjective but Panda hates it so you have to deal with it. This can be more of a concern with users of blog templates as the template can dominate the page with a tiny but of unique content hidden somewhere. It looks like a full page but Google won’t see it that way. If enough shallow pages pile up on a site it will get penalized by Google. A good way to identify shallow content is if there is more advertising and links to other locations than content, it’s shallow.
It is a good rule of thumb that many site owners use that any page must have at least 500 words of unique content on it. This is a good minimum but in most cases more is better. Not more random words mind you, but more information on the given topic that will keep people reading. A good method of fixing this issue without throwing out a bunch of content is to combine similar content into larger articles. This is a good way to add depth to a page without having to lose anything. As outlined above you may want to rewrite the whole article anyway to avoid duplicate content.
The above changes should bring about positive change even if Panda isn’t pounding on your door right now. Google looks at user signals like time on site, how many pages were visited, how many clicks occurred, and where the user went after leaving your site. Some user signals can only be measured by Google. These are how many users blocked your site or simply hit the back button after reaching you. The above changes can keep users engaged longer thus improving your signals to Google and keeping the Panda at bay.
This article is written by Jon T. Norwood. He is a managing partner at Bank Card Finder, a site that allows users to get accurate personal finance information.