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Surviving Google’s Panda updates

Google’s Panda (or Farmer) updates are a series of changes to the search engine optimisation algorithm and have been troubling webmasters and business owners since they began a few years ago. 

The first Panda update took place on February 24th 2011 and since then, there have been 24 further updates, including this latest one. In some instances, the updates have significantly reduced search results and reduced visitor numbers to sites by up to 50%. But perhaps this isn’t such a bad thing…

What are Panda updates trying to achieve?

The overall aim of Panda is to reduce the rankings of low quality sites that provide little value for users, whilst rewarding those which contain original website content, useful information and which encourage social interaction. Google state that ‘Low quality content on part of a site can impact a site’s ranking as a whole’, and the algorithm is particularly focused on penalising the following:

  • Websites that have little original content or content which has been purchased cheaply from ‘content farms’
  • A high ratio of links and adverts, especially where these do not match the page’s or site’s most common search queries
  • The use of duplicate pages and duplicate content in order to boost keyword results
  • Page content that doesn’t match its search queries
  • Websites with high bounce rates
  • Websites with low visit times
  • A low percentage of return visitors
  • Websites with empty web pages

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So what do you need to do about it?

Using Google Analytics or your CMS statistics is the obvious answer to see whether your site has been negatively affected by Panda updates. By looking at each page’s statistics, you’ll be able to identify which pages are suddenly receiving less traffic and might require more quality SEO.

If possible, remove or limit the number of ads you are using. If you need to use adverts on your website, make sure they are relevant and consider moving them lower down the page, below the ‘fold’. If the ads are more prominent than the content, neither Google’s Panda nor your readers will be happy.

Ensure that your site doesn’t contain empty or duplicate pages and that the keywords you are using are relevant. The most important thing for both your SEO ranking and your business success in general is to ensure that you have high-quality, well-written website content. If you are attracting organic website traffic and and if people are visiting pages regularly to interact with the site socially, it is doing its job and providing a valuable service. This (along with a few juicy bamboo shoots, presumably) is what the Panda wants.

From now on, Google plans on making Panda part of its overall continuous algorithm, so in the future, the updates will likely be smaller and have less impact on your website traffic, but by following the tips above, you can be confident that your website is achieving its goals and providing value for your users, whilst also keeping the Panda happy!