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Google Panda and your Content

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013 by Emily Mace

Google PandaMany business owners have found that (following the launch and regular updates to Google’s Panda algorithm update) their website has seen a drop in rankings. As a result, people have been finding it necessary to review the content on their site to see where they can recover rankings and traffic by improving their content.

This blog will help you get to grips with Panda and discover ways to ensure you’re not hit by it in future.

Outline of Google Panda

Panda is an algorithm update which was launched in April 2011 to target sites offering poor quality or duplicated content.

Initially the Panda update was targeted at sites such as “Content Farms”, which have a large numbers of low quality and duplicated content, often written in poor English. These also include Article Marketing sites, which were used to create content that linked through to people’s sites for link building purposes. Over time, however, more Panda algorithm updates were applied and more sites found that their content was being targeted.

Now, Panda is part of Google’s main algorithm rather than a separate overlay implemented separately.

The core things which we need to be aware of from a content and Google Panda Point of view are below:

  • Thin content – pages with not very many words on them
  • Duplicated content – both on and off site
  • Spun Content – content which is very similar to another piece of content on the internet
  • Overlapping content – content which his similar but slightly different and provides the same information on the same subject
  • Publishing content which is solely designed to earn money
  • Editorial errors – such as spelling mistakes or grammatical errors
  • Trustworthiness – is the information trustworthy and reliable and could you imagine seeing it in printed books or magazines?
  • Use of Adverts – does the content have adverts which interfere with the readability of the content?

Things that Google likes and which can help a site not get hit or recover from Panda include:

  • Unique content
  • Content which adds to the user experience – such as whitepapers, how-to’s, and guides
What to look for on your site

When reviewing your site with Google’s Panda Algorithm in mind, there are some things you should look out for, which are areas in which we’ve often seen issues. I’ve outlined some of these below:

  • Duplicated content your own site – caused by poorly handled URL strings, canonical issues or  content which is posted in more than one place (such as news items posted in multiple locations)
  • Duplicate content on other people’s site – caused by content syndication or scraped content
  • Thin content – where core pages on your site contain less than about 400 words of content
  • Footer/Menu content – large blocks of content on the footer which is repeated on all pages of the site, as well as menus which contain too many links which then increase the level of links on pages compared to content
  • Duplicate content caused by Manufacturer Descriptions – if you sell products manufactured by someone else then it can be an issue for your site as, in some cases, this can lead to thousands of sites having exactly the same content. Your site then gets lost in the crowd and is not seen as offering something new and different by the search engines

It’s worth pulling out a couple of these items to look at them in more depth as they are common issues we’ve found when auditing website content.

Duplicate content

Duplicate content has many forms and can cause issues with the Panda algorithm update.

Onsite duplicate content can be caused by a number of issues, as outlined below.

Having canonical issues on the site can cause duplicate content, so it’s important to make sure that your site has a correct 301 redirect from the non www. version to the www. Version. This will ensure that all pages are visible only as one version.  Another canonical issue can be caused by linking to the homepage incorrectly from menus or breadcrumbs, so make sure you use your root domain for all homepage links and not /index.php or similar.

Having content which is posted in more than one location can also cause issues on the site.  We often see sites where content is repurposed in a number of places, such as news sections, blogs or media centres. Making sure you post your content to only one place on your site is important to avoid duplication issues.

Off-site posting content is also an issue.  Syndicating your news and blogs to other sites can cause this, but you may also find there are sites which have scraped your content. If there are scraped pieces of content out there you can report this activity to Google.

Thin Content

Thin Content can be a real issue for the Panda update and also cause issues for site users.  At the end of the day, you need to convince visitors to your site that they have come to the right place, that your products and services are the right ones to use and that they are in the best place.  It’s difficult to convey that kind of message in just a few sentences.

With thin content, one of the core areas in which we have seen issues is when there are category landing pages a website where groups of products and services are grouped into one landing page for ease of navigation.

In many cases, these landing pages are short on content, which causes some issues with the Panda update. As the site isn’t providing information bout the types of services offered by them, Google then doesn’t understand that the site is about this topic and is less likely to value the product pages, irrespective of the content levels on these pages.

Many sites offer this kind of category landing page with just a list of products on the page without having any content. Adding content to these pages about the category is a great way of improving the level of output and how Google sees it.

Another method of displaying this category level content (which we’ve come across a lot) is displaying a short paragraph of content on the landing page, but not displaying the products or services in that category in the main body text. Instead, sites often have these items listed in a side menu. It is recommended, however, that content promotion boxes with a short summary of each product/service is added into the main body of the text as this will help provide clearer calls to action for both users and Google.

These are just some of the issues we look at when conducting a Panda review of websites but a good start for your to begin looking at any issues you might have on your site.

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About the author

Emily Mace

Emily Mace

Emily joined Vertical Leap in 2008 and is now the Senior SEO Campaign Delivery Manager. Emily previously worked in training, IT Support, Website development as well as SEO and worked for local Government departments and Tourism South East. Emily gained Google Analytics Individual Qualification in 2011, and regularly blogs on the technical aspects of SEO, sharing her expertise with our readers. Follow on Google+