This is a guest post by Alan Eggleston.
When you get caught for a traffic violation, you get ticketed. That’s kind of what Google Panda is about. Only, instead of getting caught for speeding or driving with a broken brake light, Google penalizes you for speeding with low quality content. Think of it as being caught for driving in the commuter lane while having only one person in the vehicle, then being forced to drive on the shoulder until you change your attitude.
Some Panda Basics
Google Panda is an algorithm – a filter, really – that looks for content of little substance. When it finds sufficient low quality content, Google penalizes the whole site, reducing the site’s search results ranking. They actually call Panda an “update” because every once in a while they rerun the filter to see who has improved the quality of their content and who is still violating their standards. Those who have improved get improved rankings and those who haven’t continue to suffer lower rankings. So far, Google has run six updates.
Note: Don’t confuse Panda with Google Penguin, which is a filter meant to penalize Web spammers.
What is “low quality” content, or content of little substance?
Low quality content or content lacking substance provides little value to the reader. It is written to show up well in search engine rankings, focused around specific keywords. You have probably seen the ads for writers offering to provide the keywords and requiring content be written to a certain keyword density. That can create low-quality content.
Note: Keywords are important to optimization, and making sure that keywords show up strategically in content is important to ranking, but there’s a huge difference between that and keyword stuffing and writing to place keywords rather than writing for substance.
Low-quality content is also content that is duplicated across multiple sites. Some authors and editors will use the same content on multiple blogs and websites. Google wants to know that content for each site is unique. Sometimes, content is pirated from one site to another without the owner even knowing it, often to the detriment of the original owner.
Another sign of low-quality content is simply poor writing and editing. It may contain multiple typos and misspellings, rambling sentences, poor grammar, erroneous punctuation, and long, run-on paragraphs. These are usually produced by content farms or mills that pay very little and get very little in return. Their focus isn’t on quality but on quantity. The content often lacks depth and specifics, thus also lacking substantial substance and any real value to the reader.
What to Do if You’re Penalized
If you find that you have been penalized by Google Panda, there are remedies. First and foremost, replace any offending content. Make sure that you produce content that is written and edited for your readers, not simply to place well in search. Make sure it has depth and substance and that it is well written. And run searches on Google for phrases and sentence from your work and make sure no one – including you – have duplicated the content anywhere. If someone has, demand that they remove it. If you have, remove it; rewrite it if you need to make the same points elsewhere.
A word about hiring writers: You get what you pay for. While prices for writing can vary at the high end, in the U.S. the difference between a writer willing to produce at $5 a page will be entirely different from someone who won’t write for less than $50 to $75 a page. The later is usually a well established writer who will provide top quality material, while the former is usually someone wanting to establish a career. You’re risking your publication and ranking on paying cheaply. You might find a gem in the rough, or you might simply find a lump of coal. Hiring a quality writer can be a tremendous help in creating quality content. A quality editor is equally important.
A Final Point
Being penalized by Panda is site-wide. That means Google won’t just tag and penalize the pages that show a lack of substance, but they’ll lower the ranking of all your pages. If you’ve lowered your standards and used “black hat” spamming techniques on your site, too, you could be in for a very difficult revival. Remove all the barriers to good quality content and user-oriented searches, and that should improve your rankings.
Alan Eggleston is a web editor, writer and principal of E-Messenger Internet Consulting. He recently posted a related article on the Web Editors Blog titled “Pandas and Penguins and Penalties, Oh My!”