There are a number of terms that are used in online marketing that people outside the business aren’t always familiar with. You might be familiar with SEO or search engine optimization since it’s become commonplace over the last few years. Yet, there are other terms that you hear that sound more like something in a zoo, Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird and which you’re confused by.
I’m often asked what is Google Panda and if it’s the reason for their website to suddenly see a drop in traffic.
Google Panda is an algorithm that is designed to lower the importance of websites with poor content. It was first introduced in February of 2011 and wasn’t named after the cuddly bear, but for the engineer that helped create it. According to Google it was designed to lower the rankings of sites with thin content and “will provide better rankings for high quality sites – sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis, and so on.”
Google estimated that almost 12% of all sites ranked were impacted. Since then other updates have occurred and with each revision, more sites were impacted. If you think you’ve been impacted by Google Panda, then you should take a hard look at your site. But before doing that you need to understand what Panda is about. Here are five things you should know and how it might impact a small business website.
1) Defining What a Low Quality Site Is. One of the main reasons for the Google Panda update was to eliminate low quality sites. Often these were sites that scraped content from other sites, spent only a little bit of time on content or just had content that was obviously designed to rank for a single term and not really to provide information that would benefit a user.
Too often a small business would invest all their money into the design of the site and cared little about the content. The design of your site isn’t as important as the content on your site. A visitor is converted by the information a content delivers, and not how well the scrolling images look. I’ve seen sites that succeeded using a simple template from GoDaddy, but which contained all original content.
2) It Doesn’t Mean You Have to Remove Your Poor Content. Many websites began removing what they interpreted to be poor content and which in fact have been ranking for certain phrases. This resulted in even more loss of traffic. Google believes it’s better instead to begin adding new content and build off what you already have.
This again leads to how well your website does with visitors. If you're a plumber for example, just having a few lines that you do sewer repair and hoping to rank in your community isn’t enough. Yet, to develop the page up, simply think about questions your prospects have when they call. Localize your content, as well. This content will show visitors that you know your field and rely on you for their repair.
3) Duplicate Content is a Different Issue Altogether. Many people think part of the Google Panda update is the issue with duplicate content. In fact, it’s not part of this algorithm, but a filter that Google uses to eliminate a number of sites ranking with the same content. For the most part, duplicate content doesn’t result in a penalty for a site, but that the content duplicated from another site is simply ignored.
Where a small business might have duplicate content is from taking content from another site because they don't have time to create their own content. Or they could serve a number of locations and have pages on each location, but most often it’s the same content with only the location changed. Have someone create content for your site that is original, even if it means having new content on the same subject, but which focus on different communities. Done right these pages can generate leads for your business in each of the locations you serve for a long time to come.
4) Quantity is not the same as Quality. Another reaction that some advertisers and business owners had was that they needed a lot of content on a page. Again Google wants quality content and if you can cover a topic in 200 words, there is no reason to pad it simply to get to 500 words or more. If you can have content of that size, great. But if not, don’t dilute it by simply throwing in a lot of unrelated information.
5) User Comments Should Be Monitored, Not Simply Blocked. Another reaction people with blogs had was to begin removing and then blocking the comments on their blogs. In the past many suspect SEO agencies used comments on blogs as a way to generate links back to their client’s site. There are still a number of people who still believes these links help, even though most blogs have no follow links, which negates their value. So when Panda started and people thought part of the reason for their troubles was due to the amount and quality of the comments on their blog. It’s a good idea to always monitor comments, but blocking them altogether isn’t a good idea.
Comments aren't just a way for persons to praise the content. Most often they have additional questions or concerns that come out in their comments. By answering their questions either through a response or through content, you become the main service provider for them.
If you have concerns about your site, then do what Google suggests and have a third party to review your site and determine if there are issues. The ultimate result of improving your site is not that it does better with Google, but with the prospects your trying to reach. Feel free to contact me if you have concerns about Google Panda and want to build your website up to be a marketing tool that works for you 24/7. And which isn't at risk for a Google penalty.