Last year’s Google Panda updates were a major wake up call for web masters across the world. Sloppy SEO practices, content farms and low quality content were punished and a lot of sites saw their traffic, and revenue, fall dramatically. Fortunately, recovering from Panda’s punch is possible if you’re willing to make a few changes and commit your site to quality content.
Here are 8 tips and tools for bouncing back from the Panda and staying in Google’s good graces. (Spoiler: most of them involve improving quality!)
1. Preserve Quality Pages
Getting knocked back by the Panda doesn’t mean you’ve been knocked out entirely. Clearly there were aspects of your site that Google didn’t like, but that doesn’t mean you have to start over from scratch.
Spend some time with an analytic tool and isolate your high traffic pages in the months before Panda. Take a close look at these pages and figure out how they can be brought up to Panda standard. Remember, your site visitors liked these pages even if Google didn’t, so you must have been doing something right with them.
When these pages are re-tooled, re-optimized and filled with quality content they’ll be the core of your new, Panda-friendly site.
2. Weed Out Punctuation Errors
Spend some time proofreading. High quality, error free content is one of the simplest, cheapest and most effective defenses against Panda. Like it or not, Google is taking on the role of grammar cop on the Internet. Panda punishes poor punctuation and rewards good grammar.
So take some time and really proofread the content on your site. The fact is, this is not something that an algorithm should be forcing you to do in the first place. If you’re not comfortable proofing copy yourself, spend a few dollars hiring a freelancer to do it for you.
Think of it this way, on-page typos don’t just make you look bad to Panda, they make you look bad to people who might start spending money with your affiliate partners.
3. Amp Up Quality
Panda evaluates quality in a number of ways that go beyond how good your content reads (though that is factored in as well). In the eyes of Google, quality includes content; relevancy, outbound and inbound links; and a host of other factors. This is good news for publishers because quality, unlike popularity, is something that webmasters have a lot of control over.
When making your site more Panda friendly, you need to cast off all the dead weight you can and rely on fresh, relevant content. This may mean you have to remove a few links that aren’t pointing towards relevant site. You’ll wind up scrapping a lot of short, and meaningless, content. But the more you amp up your quality, the more Panda friendly you’ll become.
4. Evaluate Links
Inbound and outbound links have always weighed heavily in Google algorithms and the Panda updates are no exception. For years, many sites relied on plenty of internal links, along with as many inbound links as they could get. Where those links were coming from didn’t really matter much. But the Panda has changed that equation considerably.
To combat content farms, Panda looks not only at the quantity of links coming and going, but the quality of those links. The days of linking back and forth with any site that would have you are long gone. When you’re getting your site back on its feet, you need to carefully examine every link and decide if it’s going someplace relevant to your topic.
You can keep your focus on external links during this part of the process because Google won’t punish your site for too many internal links if the external links are relevant. If this process is just too overwhelming, consider investing in a software suite like Ultimate Rank Protector to help you with some of the grunt work.
5. Think About User Behavior and User Experience
User experience and behavior are two factors that Google weighs pretty heavily when determining popularity. How long are visitors staying your site and how many pages they’re clicking matter a lot these days. So having an easy to navigate, sticky site is a good way of getting back in Google’s good graces.
But don’t just make a well designed site for Google, do it for your customers. Heat mapping software suites that can tell you a lot about how visitors are using your site and they’re not particularly expensive. Diagnostic tools like this can help you retool your site based on how visitors are actually using it as opposed to how you think they’re using it.
6. Become an Authority Site
Google has developed some serious authority issues and they’re having a major impact on what kind of content goes up on the Internet. Authority sites, as defined by Panda, are wellsprings of quality content, relevant links and everything search engines want to see. Establishing your site as an authority site takes time, thought and plenty of content, but is well worth the effort.
One way of becoming an authority site is by focusing on a very narrow market segment. Programs like Auto Content Cash can help you quickly build niche sites and start growing some traffic around them. Just remember, this process won’t happen overnight.
7. Don’t Over-Optimize or Duplicate
Too much of a good thing is never good and that includes keywords. Panda marked a real crackdown on practices like keyword stuffing and duplicate content. The bigger question for publishers is why bother with these practices in the first place?
Would you watch a television show that only played a few episodes and repeated the same dialogues over and over in each one? Of course you wouldn’t. So why would your expect your players to do the same? Go through your site and toss out old, keyword stuffed content and keep those duplicated links to a minimum.
There’s no shame in getting a little assist in your SEO efforts. There’s no shortage of SEO management products like Raven Tools that help you practice clean, white hat SEO in a fairly automated environment.
8. Understand Google, Don’t Try Outsmarting Them
Besides producing consistent, quality content, the best thing you can do to outsmart Google Panda, is not trying to outsmart Panda. Yes, there are workarounds and short term scams, but they’re just that, short term.
You can’t go wrong by learning as much as you can about Google algorithms and what you can do to work with them, instead of trying to work around them. Investing in an SEO instructional tool like SEOmoz costs a lot less than losing out on revenue because your page ranking has dropped off the charts.