Change might not always be fun, but sometimes it is necessary to get ahead in the game of Google. Over the last several months, Google has rolled out two fresh updates to shake up the bad content and spammy link world once again: Panda and Penguin. At this point, Panda and Penguin updates should almost be expected. Although the two updates did not rock our world quite as bad as we anticipated, there is almost always someone who suffers when an update strikes.
Panda and Penguin are notorious for rolling out harsh penalties, and it is best practice to stay with the tide and keep those penalties at bay. If you are in need of a content strategy upgrade, these techniques should help repel any pandas or penguins that cross your path.
Panda’s Push For Quality Content
The purpose of Panda’s update is to encourage quality content from websites and downgrade offenders in the SERPs. Google introduced Panda in 2011 as a solution to wipe out low quality content farms. The update was not exclusively designed for this purpose, but Panda offered a helping paw to help make farms disappear.
Content farms were ranking well on Google due to content that was high in volume — not because the content was actually any good. Another ploy that content farms used was over optimizing their articles with excess amounts of keywords. A combination of those two techniques helped content farms rise to the top of Google, while other high quality content websites suffered somewhere on page 2 and beyond. Content farms had their heyday, but Panda has done a pretty decent job of ensuring that low quality content does not have the limelight in the SERPs.
Now that the glory days of content farms are mostly over, there is still bad quality content that needs weeded out. Panda’s first update shook up a whopping 11 percent of the search results, but that number is increasingly becoming smaller. Panda updates are more like tweaks these days, but the update is still serving its purpose.
Drilling Down on Google Update Panda 4.1
Panda 4.1 is the latest version of Panda to occur, with its roll out starting on September 25. Panda’s blow was notably softer this time around, impacting 3 to 5 percent of search queries. However, overall, it is still a somewhat major update with those numbers; just not as major as the original Panda.
Although Panda’s aim is still removing bad content from the search results, Panda 4.1 has been fine-tuned to help promote small and medium-sized websites with high quality content. This is encouraging news for lesser-known websites, as competing against large scale websites can feel like a never-ending endeavor. This could also be an attempt to encourage small, local businesses to produce high quality content. Competition in local SERPs can be tough, but perhaps this Panda update can help small businesses with a content strategy win on Google. Time will tell.
How Panda Picks Its Victims
In order to stay on the safe side of Panda, understanding which websites it chooses to penalize can keep you from the path of destruction. As we already know, Panda is hungry for bad content, and it particularly enjoys plucking low quality websites from the SERPs. However, what exactly does Panda consider as bad content? There are several elements that distinguish this description, and these are a few bad quality content clues.
- Bad user experience. Google strives to provide the best possible user experience for its users. Un-engaging and uninformative content is the perfect recipe for bad user experience; if your content is failing to provide value, it will be a strike against you during the next Panda update.
- Content that is too thin. Great content can come in all shapes and sizes, but long content is what’s hot right now. Long content adds value to your website because it generates more traffic, encourages audiences to stay longer and interact, and it also reportedly has a higher ROI than short form content.
- Duplicate content. Duplicate content has resulted in Google penalties for quite some time now, and this is still the case with Panda 4.1.
- Keyword stuffing. Unfortunately, the days of keyword stuffing are still not over. The fortunate part is that keyword stuffing doesn’t really work. Even if your attempts slip through the cracks, the positive results will be short-lived.
- Outdated content. I’m not talking about that valuable blog post that you wrote a year ago, which still brings value. This kind of content is the kind that sits stale, generates no search traffic, and is not used as a source of reference.
Penguin’s Play in Low Quality Content
Penguin is geared toward eliminating spam — especially in the form of spammy links. Link farms are prime offenders, but so are repetitive and unnatural link building strategies. Although there may be some grey area as to what constitutes as a natural link, it is hard to deny that people will link to content that is strong. Spot-on content that serves as a solid source of reference will likely result in natural links. The key is to create effective content without worrying about link generation. It’s supposed to be a natural occurrence, and most of the time Penguin knows the difference.
10 Tips For Playing Nice With Panda
We just gave you a few clues for low quality content and spam tactics, although there are quite a few more. If you are an offender of these bad quality content traits and need a bit of guidance, read on for an (almost) Panda and Penguin proof content strategy.
Tip #1: Increase Content Quality
Panda typically plays nice with high quality content, so ensuring that your content meets the mark is of utmost importance. It is easy enough to say to deliver quality content to your audience, but knowing exactly how to develop content that is of value is a different story.
High quality content is mostly related to Google’s mission of best user experience. You can increase your content’s quality by:
- Researching thoroughly before you write: What kind of content are your customers searching for? Having your ducks in a row and understanding your audiences’ needs can help you create content that hits the mark almost every time. Not to mention, you won’t waste time creating content that doesn’t suit your audience.
- Keeping up with hot and trending topics: Staying on top of what’s trending in your niche can help feed your audience with useful and timely content.
- Using concrete examples and illustrations: Providing examples and illustrations in your content can help your reader fully understand your thought process. Provide links to relevant sources, or hire a designer to create a standout info graph.
- Don’t forget formatting: The format of your blog post is highly important when it comes to user experience. Break up your paragraphs with snappy headers, and use bullet points to organize thoughts.
- Proof read, edit, and proof read again: Not knowing the difference between there, their, and they’re – well, that’s a really big turn off. If you aren’t confident in your proof reading skills, ask someone to look over your work. Believe it or not, incorrect spelling and grammar can actually hurt you in the SERPs.
Turning bad quality content into something useful can take time and dedication. However, you will be far better off in the long run by taking action now. When another Panda update is looming, you won’t have to wonder if your content meets Google’s quality guidelines.
Tip #2: Stay Updated and Relevant
One of Panda’s pet peeves is content that is no longer relevant or useful. For example, old published studies that contain outdated (and incorrect) information are subject to Panda penalties. If your website contains outdated information, try to make an effort to get the facts up-to-date. Better yet, you can use this opportunity to create new content that is relevant and timely.
Tip #3: Go Evergreen
If you are concerned about constantly staying on top of new content and keeping things fresh, consider going evergreen. Evergreen content is a fantastic addition to any content strategy, as it provides a timeless approach to content that almost never gets old. Examples of evergreen content include:
- Step-by-step instructions for a particular task
- Reference material
- Top tip posts
- Frequently asked questions
- Guides to industry jargon
Evergreen content is great for your content collection and useful to your audience; an all around win-win.
Tip #4: Keep Keyword Density in Check
Your keyword density can make or break your chances with Panda, and it’s fairly safe to say that it has an impact on your audience as well. Your keyword density is a ratio based around the number of times your keyword is used versus how much text is in your content. However, there is a fine balance between too many keywords and hitting the quota that is just right for Google.
In order to generate some organic traffic to your website, you have to implement keywords at some point. Luckily, there is a formula to follow that can help you stay on top of your keyword density. In general, a safe range is around 2 to 4 percent. With that said, it can be challenging to give an exact number because Google’s algorithm is always changing. So, how do you make sure that your content provides enough keyword juice to help with SEO without aggravating Panda?
The truth is that you don’t. Sure, you can use a keyword for direction. But it is highly advised to create your content with a natural tone; forcing keywords into your content is pretty obvious, and there is no doubt that it is a turn off to your audience.
Tip #5: Don’t Duplicate
Remember when plagiarism in school spelled big trouble? This rule applies just the same to Google. You might not get detention, but your website can take a hit. Copying other content word-for-word can land you right in the path of Panda. It’s OK to find inspiration in other sources, but use your own words and imagination.
Tip #6: Go Long
If you are really looking for a way to impress Panda, it’s time to add some serious meat to your content. Long form content performs best these days, and it has a direct correlation with performance in the SERPs. You don’t have to write your life story, but 2,000 words and up is a good starting point for long content.
Tip #7: Stay on Topic
When your website was created to serve a certain purpose, straying from the original topic can actually harm your content and SEO efforts. If your website is a resource for home improvement tips, you don’t want to publish content that pertains to fitness. This might sound like common sense, but this can happen when you don’t know what to write about. To resolve this issue, curate content and use an editorial calendar.
Tip #8: Formatting Matters
As I mentioned earlier in this post, poorly formatted posts can make your content take a hit from Panda. Headers, sub-headers, bullet points and proper paragraph can work wonders for your formatting.
Tip #9: Link Worthy Content
In order to not lose the war with Penguin, creating link worthy content can help attract high quality links from outside sources. Think of the kind of content that you personally would link to on your own website. If you would link to it, chances are that someone else will, too.
Tip #10: Engage and Educate
Content that engages and educates is always highly valued in both the eyes of Panda and your audience. Informative and engaging content translates to great user experience. If overall user experience is high, your content is doing its job.
Remember, Panda and Penguin can wreak havoc, but there’s no need for you to lose sleep. Keep your content strategy in line with Google’s updates, and you’ll be well on your way to developing Panda, Penguin, and people-friendly content everyone will enjoy. These tips overall can help any website and business owner succeed in creating content that Google (and their complete zoo) will favor, rank, and love.
It’s all about being naturally engaging and avoiding anything that’s low-quality. In other words, don’t cut corners. Take the time and make your content investment matter.
Featured Image: Google and designer Josh McCoy
Image#1: Hung Chung Chih via Shutterstock