Can I recover after my site has been hit by Panda?

In our last post, Finding recovery after your site is impacted by Penguin, we talked in detail about similarities of Panda and Penguin. Both of these updates are new and significant because of their non-realtime update regularity. Most of Google’s algorithm is based on real time data in the sense that it will adjust to the way it’s seeing the web or your site as immediately as it see’s changes made. Some changes obviously can take time to take full effect, as many as 1-2 weeks for on page or even external changes that impact your rankings because Google’s crawlers need to visit and index that change. But I digress, Panda and Penguin work on their terms, with semi-regular updates every 4-6 weeks.

Finding recovery from Panda

Panda was originally referred to in SEO circles as the farmer update, but was later renamed to Panda after the Google developer who was responsible for its creation. The clear focus of the early stages of Panda in Feb. 2011 were to target article aggregation sites that were essentially wastelands of content spun entirely for SEO benifit. The early releases took these sites down and reduced the intrigue of article spinning that became a increasingly abused link building tactic in the industry.

The first few updates became more and more diverse, incorporating more and morn signs of ‘quality’ into them and more and more sites began to see Panda’s ill effects on their site. Panda was evolving and more small and medium sized businesses were left in the trail of destruction through the later half of 2011 updates. Google’s provided some direction as to what questions webmasters should be asking themselves if they’ve been targeted by Panda. Unfortunately, vague Google speak offers little for webmasters to solidly grasp and act on to improve their sites.

What is Quality?

It’s incredibly simple and incredibly complex at the same time to define a quality site in the eye’s of Panda. The short answer is that you should build a site that is engaging, clean and attractive to users. The long answer becomes much more complex the bigger your site becomes.

For example – Imagine I have a site, luckystuff.com that sells products that bring good luck. The site has product pages, I’ve written custom content for each page that describes each product in detail, I even have reviews but most of my products haven’t been reviewed. Do I have a quality product page?

If you’ve been hit by a Google Panda  update it’s unlikely Google see’s your lucky rabbit’s foot product page as being high quality so you’ll need to step it up.

5 Actionable tips to improve your page quality:

  1. Get those reviews cranking!
    Reviews are an amazing way to establish new, interesting and unique content for your pages. If you’ve had reviews available but aren’t seeing anyone participate it might be time to step up your game.

    1. Incorporate reviews into your email campaigns – Offer a 10% discount on their next purchase for a review of their last purchase
    2. Ask for a review when an authenticated user logs back into the site after a purchase
    3. On the product page, offer a 100$ gift card drawing for reviews submitted after purchase
    4. On your social networks, announce gift card winners regularly
    5. Respond and interact with reviewers
  2. Reduce ads – Above the fold ads are targeted by more than 1 Google algorithm including Panda
    1. Remove all ads from product pages
    2. Display only a text ad, not centered on the page above the fold, if you must have text ads
    3. Only 1 display ad above the fold on any of your site pages
    4. Limit use of non-traditional ads such as pop-ups, hover over text ads etc.
    5. Don’t include advertising in navigation or footer elements
  3. Add “Similar products, articles, pages etc.”
    1. Ad excerpt text that’s not used on the destination page to add unique text to the product page that also captures your users interests
  4. More Media – images/video!
    1. Especially on product pages your users can never get enough images, be sure to provide as many images as you reasonably can on the page. The images should contain anchor text that accurately describes what the image depicts
    2. Additional videos on the products, even if you’re using a manufacturer YouTube video can really add to your user experience and liven up a page. If you’ve created the video, there is the added bonus of the visibility  traffic and links you receive from YouTube for your effort in creating it. Newegg.com has a terrific approach to product videos that really captures the “provide value for your users” intention Google looks for.
  5. Reduce duplicate content
    1. Configure your parameter handling in Google Webmaster Tools for all those, size, color and feature product page URLs.
    2. Don’t reuse the same description text in your affiliate feeds, or product placements all over your site.
    3. Ensure you have properly placed a canonical tag on your product pages
    4. Don’t use manufacturer supplied product details, spruce these up considerably and add your own value and insights to each product

My site is great but I’m still not back to my previous ranking!

For those who have been hit by a Panda update and have spent months trying to recover their previous rankings, it can feel like Google has targeted you and your site. It’s easy to take the situation personally, after all, for many small businesses it’s your family and your income that has been hit.

Clicks and Clients can offer help, starting from the ground up, both optimizing websites to be high quality to avoid updates like Panda but also to help with those who may have already been hit. If you’re wandering the SEO universe blindly looking for Panda so you can bludgeon it with a stick, we can help you spotlight those key problem areas and build a plan to bring your site back out of Panda and climbing the search results.