Wiping the floor with Panda 4.1: The not so long and winding road to recovery
Back in October, Google’s announcement that Panda 4.1 was being rolled out sparked great consternation amongst the masses of shortcutting SEOs out there stuffing their sites full of sparse, low-standard content in order to garner backlinks.
For those who had already been penalised by Panda 4.0, it represented an opportunity to see whether the revisions and reconsiderations they had made regarding their site adjustments had been worthy of recognition in the form of a traffic increase.
Given that Panda’s latest crackdown was like the fine tooth comb to Panda 4.0’s paddle brush, any webmasters focussing their efforts on concealing their low quality or duplicate content will be tearing their hair out as their buzzword congested site is penalised to infinity and beyond.
But, whether you ended up a winner or a loser, the important thing henceforth is meaningful progression towards a solid or more solid strategy, focussed on doing the right things in the correct manner.
As that wisest of primates, Rafiki, said: ‘It’s in the Past’ – this article focusses on the future, and more specifically, 3 key steps towards salvation from the Pandas’ clutches.
Identify the low quality or duplicate content in your website and purge it…Or amend and refresh it through optimisation.
Target your efforts on trimming the fat from the meat in your content. Go through all the pages on your website, preferably in a systematic fashion with your in-house team, and remove any dated content as Google necessitate top quality content to be current and informed in order to be considered authoritative.
This can be done via a number of methods, with your first step being to do a thorough keyword analysis, clarifying which of your keywords have been ranking low and enabling you to revamp any landing pages targeted at these keywords.
If you have hundreds of pages on your site, consider diluting this mass of information and weed out any pages you deem to be superfluous to requirements. Run a site audit – http://moz.com/blog/how-to-do-a-site-audit – using Webmaster tools and Page Speed etc., and if you do not already, start combining your written content with engaging infographics and links to other authoritative pieces of content which provide further insight into your chosen subject.
Webmaster Tools is fantastic for providing you with a comprehensive checklist of everything on your site which needs tweaking from crawl errors to insufficient meta, and is an imperative preliminary step.
Remember, quality not quantity is imperative – if you can make these entities intertwine then all the better, but if you’ve just been penalised then focus your efforts on creating a strong foundation of content to build from.
Keep track of the number of page views your various pieces of content receive and also apply a high-to-low filter to your content to assess which of your pages receive the highest average time spent on them. Bounce rates are a metric deployed by Google and as such, to ignore it is an exercise in imprudence.
If you consider the content on your least-viewed pages to still be valuable (i.e. it is a 500 word plus article containing original, informative content), attempt to keyword optimise these before deciding to outright purge them.
Say you allow users or visitors to post content on your site, it is imperative to ensure that these guys don’t abuse the power you’ve imbued them with and spam your site with mass amounts of duplicate content. In a perfect world, you would have diligent admins constantly monitoring your site, but if you are a small yet enterprising business lacking the staff firepower, then simply add no follow tags from robots.txt. to the section allowing visitors to post.
Any content with under 300-400 words, poor grammar, a lack of clarity, chockfull of awkwardly placed keywords, copied content and a lack of instructive info will be perceived by Panda as lacking quality and will be dealt with accordingly.
Shortcuts are for tricky car journeys; a job well done will never go overlooked by Panda, and as such relevant expertise in your specified field is invaluable in enriching the amount of credibility Google lends to your content, turning your endeavours into accomplishments.
Ensure your site is as user-friendly as possible
Google are all about providing users with the optimum experience, and even if SEOs have the most proficient content marketers on board, if they negate the basics – i.e. Google analytics for page-by-page appraisal to identify accessibility, navigational and clarity of contact information – then they are wasting the value of their in-house teams content creation.
So A/B testing – https://www.maxymiser.com/resources/ab-testing – to check how to best present your business’ logo, what font and font size to use, the positioning of your main navigation interface, positioning of any ads and a clear, unobstructed path to your contact details are all facets of your site which should be accounted for. Analysing conversion rates is the primo way of gauging your target audience and optimising your online marketing endeavours, and the sooner SEOs worldwide recognise this the tighter their strategies will become.
A neat idea is incorporating an internal search engine for your site, enabling users to sift through various gemstones on your site and find what they’re searching for with a far greater degree of ease.
Social shares and rankings do correlate, regardless of Google’s denial of them as a ranking signal, and making sure your content has social media share icons is essential for it being transmitted over a diversity of social media channels.
Mobile Optimisation will yield both Conversions and Google’s esteem
At present, mobile search is the fastest growing aspect of SEO and any webmaster failing to capitalise on the greater coverage it organically provides a business with is completely missing the boat – everyone seems to have a smart phone nowadays.
However, it’s not enough to merely know your site shows up in mobile search, rather a defined mobile strategy ought to be implemented. This should be focussed on providing your user with the best possible viewing experience, knowing that it is that much harder to engage them on a small screen, especially when typical settings in which users browse on via mobile devices are considered e.g. on transport or on the move.
Progressive enhancement is the best way of going about this – separating your mobile site from your desktop site in order to provide the most engaging content and calls to actions to your mobile user, as they are inherently handicapped as far as the full viewing experience is concerned. This form of Responsive Web Design is also highly regarded by Google which we all know doesn’t hurt anyone seeking to avoid Panda’s wrath.
Ensure any mobile user can switch to the desktop version if they so choose, that social media icons are clearly visible on your mobile version, you have a suitable mobile sitemap and imperatively, you apply rel=canonical tags pointing your mobile pages to your desktop pages (and rel=alternate for vice versa) to stop Google from mistaking your business for purveyors of duplicate content
A two-pronged attack using both mobile and desktop, under one URL, is the best way of maximising your conversion rate whilst keeping Panda purring. It’s a no-brainer, simple to implement and a valuable life SEO skill to have throughout your optimising days.
If you’ve been struck down by the Panda’s paws, then no small amount of diligence and dedication is required to attaining the traffic levels your business warrants. Address the above issues and you should be well on your way and remember patience is key – engaging, consistent releases of content, focus on a user-orientated site and overall attention to detail are fundamental to not ending up as panda-chow – it’s not that bamboo-zling.