Panda Penalties, the bane of websites trying to climb the Google search engine rank everywhere. There are dozens of Panda Penalties, which are automatically given for bad website behavior. Google frequently updates Panda. In 2014, they issued a major overhaul of the algorithm, updating to version 4.0. As bloggers, website owners, and businesses struggle to wrap their head around the changes every time they are released, there are some that hurt your rank more than others.
What about website owners that found their rank plummet? More specifically, how do you return from the penalty abyss after Google throws you in? Returning from a large number of penalizations takes time, but there are some great actions to take. SEMGeek is taking you on a whirlwind tour of some of the major penalties, and what you can do to improve your rank.
Before we get started, it is important to note that Google issues several different types of penalties. There are also the malware and penguin penalties, for instance. Panda specifically assesses the quality of your website’s content. So on to the good parts. If you have found your rank plummet, you may have done one of these things.
1. Producing Bad Content
In general, bad content is a little easier to fix. There are a variety of ways that Google judges bad content, so we have to split this into subcategories.
Thin content means that your site has a category page with too many outbound links and not enough actual information. Think of your content like food. If you want your web users to leave your page happier and healthier than when they clicked the link, they want plenty of digestible material. Information that comes in short spurts will not “fill them up,” and Google will recognize this.
The workaround to this problem is simple: write more! You are the expert of your industry, so prove to customers what you know. Inform them. Enlighten them. Challenge them. Filling out malnourished web pages is easy. Most pages hit for thin content usually function as a nice outline for your work anyway.
Automated content usually applies to bigger businesses with hundreds of pages that need to be filled with content. Their workaround solution is to write up some text, then replace the important keywords with the correct variables. For instance, a real estate company that has landing pages for multiple towns in their region may only change the name of each town on each page. If you have done this, you need to roll up your sleeves and write every page from scratch.
Aggregated content is the method by which companies fill their pages with information from other websites. In the past, news sites were popular for generating aggregated content. To improve this, you need to write fresh content that contributes new thoughts and ideas. Linking and copying content is fine, as long as it improves the content on your own page. The information also needs to be properly sourced.
Duplicate content refers to using the same keywords over and over, keyword-stuffing, or having multiple pages with the same information. Like automated content, this will need to be rewritten.
Useless and irrelevant content is easy for Google to find: the algorithm simply measures how much time is spent on your webpage. Pages that fail to convert and have quick turnover punish your ranking. This is trickier to fix. You need to see what keywords are landing people on your page, then figure out why your information fails to deliver. If this is happening to you, consider hiring a digital marketing agency.
2. Terrible User Signals
As we mentioned with irrelevant content, Google cares about click-through rates, time spent on site, the number of returning visitors to your page, and large numbers of people bouncing back to the SERP. If your ranking is dropping on a daily basis, you may want to look at your analytics and judge for yourself. Have people spent less time on your site? Are your click-through rates plummeting?
The key here is figuring out what sections of your site are not working. Are some keywords less effective than others? Can you focus the content on your website to appeal to a specific demographic? Often user signals are low when a company tries to cast a wide net, instead of directing their attention at a target market.
3. Bad Site Design
This is the easiest to judge and to fix. If your site has a lot of broken links, redirects, meta-refreshes, all coupled with a bad layout, your bounce rate is going to remain high. Redirects and meta-refreshes will only stand to confuse web users. A bad UI and design can hurt the eyes, make information difficult to find (which may be a signal that you have too much content), and reduce your ability to appeal to customers. You know if your site design is outdated. If you have no idea, check competitors’ sites.
4. Lots of Interference
By “interference” we mean obstacles that get in the way of the user experience. Pop up ads demanding email addresses seconds after hitting the landing page is usually a sign that the company is pushy or impatient. Lots of ads deter people from reading page content. Sometimes ads can shuffle the information around and make the text difficult to follow.
Another aspect is your website’s loading speed. This is a special kind of interference; Panda judges websites for how long a site takes to load.
If any of the above apply to you, it is time for some site redesign. Remove some ads and figure out exactly what is making your page load slowly. Is your domain host on the other side of the country? Is your website saturated with sluggish apps? How much income are your ads actually generating? Walking into the process of streamlining your site with a machete and an open mind.
A General Piece of Advice
The newest Panda changes do not slash rank for producing too little content. It mostly judges the content that is on your site. What does this mean for business owners? It means if your site is meant to move consumers down the funnel and ultimately make a purchase, then you had better provide the content necessary for directing user traffic.
This also means that the days of scraping together a half-hearted blog to increase hits are over. If you own a small business and want to blog, you had better be prepared to roll up your sleeves, flex your muscles, and do it right. Otherwise, do not even bother.
Finally, site recovery does not happen overnight. Your rank may fall quickly, but restoring your site’s integrity takes longer. Be patient, you will get there.