(Updated for Google Panda 4.0 - 2015)
Not so long ago, you might have dismissed the idea of writing high-quality content and making your website easily accessible because everyone else was in the race of getting to the first spot in the search results.
Why create a fantastic site when you can drive people to a mediocre, keyword-stuffed site, right?
Website owners were more concerned with gaining online visibility instead of offering quality.
It was a notorious game field, and those who didn’t follow the norm were driven off the ranks, kept at bay by sites that resorted to aggressive techniques.
Google's search quality team might have thought it was time to give the content-rich underdogs a chance.
And so they decided to change its game.
Panda was then born.
What the heck is Google Panda?
Panda is a Google’s algorithm update, which was designed to find low-quality sites and prevent them from showing up on the top of Google’s search results.
The aim of this move is to help searchers find relevant, and high-value content that answer or solve their problems.
And that should be your goal too.
If your site is filled with sales pitch content and ads and has little informative content, Google may pull the curtain down on your website.
If you want to stay on top of your game, read on.
How to Prevent a Google Panda Penalty in 2015
1. Build content that
Google your users will love
As always, the focus will be on high-value content. With the introduction of Panda updates, now is the right time to pay attention to quality content that is written with the audience in mind.
And keep in mind that, it's important to update your site with fresh content regularly.
Here’s what Google counts as a high-quality site:
The bottom line is, create content primarily for users, NOT for search engines.
2. Improve or Remove Bad content
Google has already mentioned that it frowns on people that manipulate their search engine results. So if you've been promoting your site nonstop to the point of using questionable SEO tactics, then consider yourself in the menu of Panda.
The mighty search engine once said, "low-quality content on some parts of a website can impact the whole site’s rankings…"
So therefore, you must:
- Delete or improve low-quality content. Here's how: Remove content that you’re not proud of or turn thin pages into more useful ones or maybe / move low quality pages (irrelevant) to a different domain / Edit and combine multiple thin content that looks similar and turn them into a single compelling page.
- Don’t overuse keywords. Use the right keywords and let them flow naturally. Don’t game the search engine with loading so much keywords into every single possible spot within your content. They spoil content and in turn spoils your site.
To view pages that have been indexed by Google, enter this in the search query: site:website.com. Replace website.com with your own domain URL. This way you can determine which pages you need to prioritize first.
- Indexing: It means Google will crawl the pages on your site and include them into their search results.
- Noindex tags: When you add NoIndex tag to a page, you're telling Google to NOT to include the page in search. This must be located within your header tag.
3. Fix duplicate content
Google dislikes having the same content listed multiple times in its search results. They only want one and the original version of the page to rank in search.
Here’s how to combat this issue (click the links for tutorials):
- Redirect duplicate pages or broken URLs to the correct pages by setting up 301 redirect. For example, you applied a new URL for a particular page. Therefore, you should redirect the old URL to the new URL since Google has already indexed the old link. In other words, you want the outdated URLs to be redirected to the correct pages. You can use Simple 301 redirects plugin for Wordpress or you can even set this up through the Settings of your hosting account.
- Use only 1 version of your homepage URL. And set your preferred URL with 301 redirect. For example, www.twelveskip.com are twelveskip.com are treated as different pages and you can't use both. It can be either with www or non-www. For example, I will choose www as my preferred domain, I will 301 redirect non-www (http://twelveskip.com) to the www (http://www.twelveskip.com) domain.
- Use rel=canonical tag for primary pages. Depending on the structure of your site, some same pages can be accessed through multiple URLs. For example, this page can be found using another URL. Now you have to set rel=canonical HTML tag on the original post so Google will know which one is the original, and which one should they crawl.
- Edit or remove scraped/copied content. Remove articles that were copied or rewritten from other sites. Or turn them into a unique content.
- Use noindex tag on pages such print pages and pages with sorting options (pages, most popular, latest) and session ID URLs.
To learn further about duplicate content, learn here.
- 301 Redirect: You use this to redirect a page to another page permanently.
4. Tidy Up Your Site
Another important factor is the architecture of your website. You are now required to improve your website's navigation system. Invest in topnotch design. Content alone doesn’t make your website. The design matters as well. So make sure you do the following steps:
- Avoid excessive ads. It will annoy your visitors.
- Use no more than 100 links per page. Use this tool to count your page links.
- Keep your site well-organized and easy to navigate. Make sure your website doesn’t contain much clutter.
- Validate your site. Tools you can use: CSS Validator / HTML Validator.
- Make your content readable.
- Create a custom helpful 404 page.
- Fix broken links. Redirect old pages to new ones. If you delete a page that has been crawled by Google, you need to either 301 redirect that page to another one or make sure you use a custom helpful 404 page.
Consider it this way. Let’s say your website is number one in search results. However, it has too many ads and flash content, and it’s difficult to browse through its sections. The result: visitors will click out of your site right away.
5. Make your website faster
No one likes slow websites, and so is Google. Basically, the Panda update wants you to assess the quality of your websites. So tidy up your site and make sure you:
- Make your site mobile-friendly. Use responsive design to make it easy for mobile or tablet users to easily access your site.
- Use a caching plugin. Creating a cache version of your pages will help your website to load faster. I recommend W3 Total Cache if you're using Wordpress.
- Compress images and videos. If you’re on Wordpress, use WP Smushit to auto minimize the size of your images.
- Implement CSS sprites to combine background images. You can use SpriteMe.org to generate sprites for you. For a tutorial, click here. Warning: This might be too advanced for you, you might need a web developer for this.
- Don’t use flash. Learn HTML5 and CSS3 instead.
- Remove unnecessary and inactive Wordpress plugins (if using Wordpress). To find out which plugins slowing down your site, use P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler).
After making some changes, test your site’s speed using Pingdom.
Google wants YOU to change your ways from relying on SEO too much to improving your users’ experience. In other words, build a site that is easy to access and updated with fresh, relevant and useful content.
References + Helpful Resources
- Duplicate content and multiple site issues
- Handling legitimate cross-domain content duplication
- The ‘Panda’ That Hates Farms: A Q&A With Google’s Top Search Engineers
- Another Step To Reward High-Quality Sites
- Hit By Panda and Confused About Low-Quality Content? Run This Google Analytics Report Now