Google has just released its third update of its Panda search algorithm and from the chill it has blown over the SEO world, perhaps Polar would have been a better name.
Originally released in February, the stated purpose of Panda was to reduce the search rankings of poor quality sites, like those content farm sites that produce thin content based exclusively on search terms. Anyone who has searched for almost anything has stumbled across them.
Initially, it appeared to be working. Almost immediately, several of the most well-known content farms saw massive drops in ranking. Freelancer.com, one of the major sites where content producers can connect with content consumers, reported a huge drop in the demand for new content, particularly for writers located outside of the U.S.
Over time a steady stream of small, high-quality sites have come forward to say they too are suffering at the hands of Panda. Some have complained the reason their rankings are suffering is that their content has been stolen and repurposed by the content farms.
It appears that content sites, as opposed to commercial sites, seem to be most affected. Of the 30 or so sites I am most familiar with, only one could trace any traffic drops to Panda. The site was pulling lots of traffic from a sketchy pay-for-your-surfing site and that traffic disappeared about the same time Panda arrived. For the rest, we’ve seen no real fluctuation in traffic, up or down.
So what should you do if you are seeing a negative impact from Panda on your site?
Google has offered two posts attempting to guide web site owners in how to adapt to the new world of Panda (here and here) as well as their more expansive general recommendations. The advice will seem pretty familiar to most of us. Create high quality content, useful to your audience and organize it clearly for both humans and spiders to find.
So what do you do if you are concerned that perhaps some of your content is not passing Panda muster?
Start by dividing that questionable content into three buckets: content that must go, poor quality content that might be replaced with better content on your site and finally poor content that you’d like to improve.
First, lose the poor content. Create a snappy 404 error page with a clear path for the user back to your top quality content. That will tell your visitors to move along, there’s nothing to see here, anymore. For content that is duplicated elsewhere on the site, use a 301 redirect and send the visitor to the better quality page.
Finally, for the content that doesn’t pass muster but that you’d like to improve, add a noindex tag. That will steer the bots away and give you time to make it sing. When you’re finished improving, remove the noindex and let the bots see what you’ve done.
There is some good Panda news though, especially for those of us who toil in the local web. Local search has been kicked up a notch by Panda, to which we say, Hooray!
And for those of you who already have all these things in place? Enjoy the cool new visitors Google will be sending your way.
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