It concerns me that there seems to be a lot of companies who are still having problems with Google Panda and Penguin penalties. As it’s almost two years since this phenomena was started I have put together this quick guide to highlight some of the lingering issues caused in particular by the rolling Google Panda update and provided a solution to help businesses get beyond the issue as quickly as possible.
If you know what Google Panda is skip this next section.
What is Google Panda
Google panda is the name given to an algorithmic penalty designed to demote websites that had low quality content. Breaking this down further this means:
- Algorithmic – it’s an automated penalty based on a number of technical factors.
- Penalty – Panda is available in two flavours, a full penalty that demotes the site as a whole and a partial penalty that demotes a certain topic of content
- Demote – loss in search rankings for selected phrases and keywords
- Low quality – content deemed not to add value to a user using search
- Content – the text of your website including PDFs, Excel spreadsheets, Powerpoints etc. Panda doesn’t affect images, video or other content.
The crux of this is that if you haven’t invested in your content and/or have structural issues with your website then you’re in risk of triggering the automated penalty. Similarly by fixing these things you can remove the trigger.
Panda Penalty Removal Misconceptions
Firstly I must add that I am in favour of making your website whiter than white and that leaving a stone unturned has the potential to add future risk. Get it right now and put in place processes and systems designed to future-proof your strategy. This being said there are many misconceptions around what it takes to fix a Panda penalty:
1. All content must be unique
- Misconception – every page on your website should be unique not only when compared to that of other websites but also your own website
- Truth – Yes your content shouldn’t be copied from another website however the content on your website can be partially duplicated when it adds context. For example an ecommerce site that repeats the delivery and returns policy on each product page will be OK. This becomes boilerplate and is largely ignored by Google.
2. Remove all thin content
- Misconception – all pages require x hundred words of text on them resulting in costly large scale content creation
- Truth – Write something meaningful and unique about your product to provide context. It doesn’t need to be 200 words (I’ve heard people mention each page needs to be 1500 words in some cases). Write enough to answer the users questions and you’ll be fine.
3. Content must be Relevant
- Misconception – we need to repeat the target keyword on each page x number of times
- Truth – since Panda and its subsequent update named Hummingbird, Google is now much better at processing natural language. The easiest example of this harkens back to Google’s use of synonyms. To keep your content relevant just talk about it in a normal tone and again consider drawing up a list of common customer questions and answering them as the focus of your content.
4. Its all about text
- Misconception – Panda can be quelled by simply changing a websites text
- Truth – In my experience most of the issues that trigger Panda are due to technical issues and can be fixed relatively quickly with some simple template and back end changes. Download the free Microsoft SEO Toolkit to quickly scan and identify issues with your site. Look in particular for canonical issues (content duplication), nofollows, robots.txt, duplicate titles and descriptions and broken links as a start.
If your website has had all of its Panda issues resolved and you’re still not back in the search results where you expected to be then your problem is likely one caused by offsite factors. Like ripples in a pond much of your websites ‘worth’ is the defined by all of the other websites linking to yours.
If the websites linking to your website have been affected by Panda then the value these links pass will be reduced and your rankings will be impeded.
The solution is two-fold:
- Use Link Risk (subscription based) or Link Detox (available as a one off fee) to scan your websites backlinks and remove any sites deemed high risk. Manually review any links that need it and check the Domain Authority, traffic and other Trust metrics to see if your backlink profile has taken a beating
- Build better links from high authority sources.
Hopefully with this in place your Panda penalty will be quashed and your rankings back to normal.
If you have any questions let me know.