On May 21, 2014, Google unleashed Panda 4.0, an update to their famous filter known for flushing out low quality content. Panda’s main aim is to remove content that’s thin, low-quality or spammy from rankings so that the user gets the highest quality results. Panda was first released in February 2011 and has had several updates. Panda 4.0 is the largest update and has affected 7% of queries. It’s main aim seems to be to flush out “thin content from top rankings.”
As soon as Google made the announcement for Panda 4.0, the search world was buzzing. Updates to Panda were monthly and an announcement of an update was unheard of. It meant that this was a huge overhaul. Within, a couple of days it was apparent that certain sites took a huge hit and lost almost 80% of their organic results. According to Search Engine Land in their winners and losers post, Ebay and ask.com topped the list of losers. Ebay has a lot of doorway pages that have little or no content, just meant to lead the reader to a product page.
I think that this update and Panda are actually reasons for content marketers to celebrate. Now more than ever before it’s apparent that your content is the most important thing on your site, something that content marketers have been saying for ages.
Panda goes after thin and low quality content which is a boon for content marketers. Panda targets content that is:
- Thin or little
- Low quality
What wins and comes up on top are sites that produce this type of content:
- High quality
So what do we do to ensure that our site is not the latest casualty? And more importantly how do we rank well for all the content we’ve worked hard to create? Here are some ideas that come to mind:
#1. Do a content audit of your site
A content audit will allow you to at-a-glance root out content that may keep you from ranking well. Doing a content audit, if you have a have a huge site with several thousand pages is a gigantic task. Here’s a good article on how to perform a content audit.
If you don’t have the time to do a full audit, use analytics to get a sampling of popular, average, and low traffic pages. Also, you only need to look at the last year to half a year of blog posts. But you’ll be able to unearth a wealth of info such as:
- Pages with duplicate content. A thorough content audit will point out pages that are redundant and need to be deleted.
- Pages that are obsolete. For example: last year’s Thanksgiving sale and items on discount for that event. If a visitor lands on this page, it creates a poor user experience.
- Does this page contain enough of content? The page should have at least 300 words or it’s considered very thin content.
- Is the content valuable to its audience? This is obviously somewhat subjective, but you can understand if it is once you look at your metrics such as bounce rate and time spent on the page.
- Does the content contain targeted keywords? Do they appear in the first few paragraphs? If you want to rank well, it helps to use the search terms people are using.
- Does the content have keywords stuffed in it? You want to include keywords in your content, but you don’t want to go overboard.
- Does the content have spelling and grammatical errors? Grammatically wrong content is a dead-giveaway to search engines on the lookout for spammy content. Spell check is your best friend.
- Is the content easily readable? This article goes into depth about making your content readable and how to check your readability statistics.
- Are search engines able to index this content? Do you have an XML site-map? Are you stopping search engines with your robots.txt file?
- Have a content calendar. This will keep you on track.
- Build plenty of pages targeting keyword variations. The days of keyword-stuffing are long past. If your site ranks well for certain articles, it makes sense to create variations around those terms.
- Google Webmaster Tools – Search Appearance – HTML improvements, you’ll see any duplicate titles and meta descriptions.
- Check for duplicate URLs
- Have a mobile-optimized site with responsive design. Search engines now prefer sites that work well on mobiles.
- Make sure that your site’s architecture is easy. If your audience has to drill down many levels to get to your content, that creates a poor user experience.
- Plan to market your content on all the social media channels that your audience may use such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+
- If you sell products that are good on visuals such as fashion wear or interiors, Pinterest and Instagram have growing communities that are worth tapping into.
- Try reaching out to people in the community who may be interested in your content. They may like your content and link back to it. Sites such as news sites or non-profits and charitable organizations that you may have donatated to are great for getting links.
After conducting the audit, for each page ask yourself:
#2. Have a content marketing plan in place
Search engines love fresh content and lots of it. And of-course high quality content. Your content marketing plan needs to include a plan for all the types of content you will be creating during the year. This includes blog content, social media content, customer newsletters and emails, any whitepapers or eBooks. the best way to sort yourself through this maze of content is:
#3. Do an SEO audit
Remember, when doing the SEO audit that you’re doing it to find content on your site that is Panda-unfriendly. Check for duplicate meta titles and descriptions. A great tool to use for this is Google Webmasters Tools. If you go into your account:
#4.Take care to only hire the best copywriters and content creators – you get what you pay for
Because of the need to constantly churn out fresh content, many businesses are outsourcing their content creation efforts. One caveat: you get what you pay for. High quality copywriters don’t come cheap but you are guaranteed original, high quality content. In the eyes of Google and even the world that’s priceless.
#5. Improve the user experience on your site
There are several ways to improve the user experience on your site. And most of these things you are probably already doing:
#6. Market your content
Marketing your content on many different channels ensures that your audience will see your content. This sends a signal to search engines that your content is valuable.
Was your site affected by Panda? Do you have more ideas on how to keep content high quality? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share them in the comments below. Thanks.