Ask The Expert – Panda Pandamonium?

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A few issues ago, we started an Ask The Expert column in our print magazine where we invited readers to submit questions they had concerning aspects of online marketing. One such question came from a reader who was wondering if his website for his bike store had suffered a hit from the Panda algorithm update. Here’s his question and the answer from our resident experts:

Q:  For about 3 years I’ve had a website for my small bike store and recently became involved in social media too. Since I sell bikes and biking equipment, I have info that I think bike owners will find interesting and informative, including reviews of new bikes, coverage of bike events, how-to guides for bike repairs, etc. I have some basic knowledge of site metrics and noticed a big decline in my traffic, while my rank in the SERPs dropped precipitously. I can’t help but wonder if Panda dealt me a blow. How can I find out? – JK

A:  Hi, JK. Thanks for the question. The Google Panda updates have been consistently in the news, and a recent adjustment in mid-October caused a lot of concern. Many types of sites were impacted, but Google was primarily targeting “low quality” websites (although how Google defines that term has been a major subject of discussion). Most analysts agree that the types of sites most affected were article, affiliate, scrapper and auto-generated content sites. However, since your site has bike reviews or product information which may include a lot of info quoted from other sources, it may have been affected. If you think that is the case, we suggest you review the following points to increase the chances that your ranking can be restored and traffic will bounce back.

  • Remove low-quality pages on your site, especially those with little or no content. Pages need to present a powerful user experience to the visitor.
  • Remove duplicate content (pages) on your site. This includes any pages of content duplicated from another site, as well as content copied within your own site.
  • Make sure your meta data is unique for each page.
  • Review your site using Google Webmaster Tools to discover any errors or messages Google generates from its analysis. Make sure you are not blocking site content that you want indexed.
  • Check the health of the spider activity on your site from Googlebot. Does it seem low compared to the numbers of pages your site has?
  • How fresh is your site? Google is said to prefer sites with fresher content.
  • If your site has display ads, do they add to the user experience? Is it difficult to find the content on the site because of the number of ads or their placements? Look at the ad-to-content ratio carefully.
  • Does your site have a poor bounce rate or user engagement experience?
  • Look at referring keywords. Do you think users are finding what they are looking for?

When assessing a traffic drop, there are lots of places to look. Panda acts as a reminder to start by looking at the site as if Google had human eyeballs reviewing each page manually. Bottom line — would your site provide a good user experience? If you have any doubt, investigate further and correct any problems. Here are a few resources on the Google Panda updates and traffic drops in general to get you started:

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If you have a question that you’ve been dying to have answered about search engine optimization or search engine marketing, why not Ask The Expert? Visit our online form to submit your questions at www.searchmarketingstandard.com/ExpertAnswers and you may see your question in print or on this blog!

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4 Comments

  1. Great article! Would love more data on the comment... "How fresh is your site? Google is said to prefer sites with fresher content." I am constantly running into stale outdated sites that outperform much nicer, well structured and fresh sites. One site I know of -- that checks all the boxes above -- is having difficulty in ranking above a never updated (with a newer domain) bad HTML eCom site with NO valuable content. I really have to question if Google does prefer sites with "fresher" content -- or if it does -- how far down the list of priorities that falls. Does anyone have anything concrete on this other than "said to prefer"? Thanks!

  2. Joe

    i had the same problem for a few months and one day they have gone, perhaps they was doing blackhat seo.

  3. Hello Judith, I was the initial author of this small piece for the Search Marketing Standard magazine. As with how any site ranks in the SERP's their are many factors weighing in as to why. In your case above I am guessing back links play an important factor in why the each site is ranking. The "freshness" factor is among 100's that Google considers when ranking a site. To be clear freshness doesn't mean just add new pages to add new pages to keep the site fresh. It is about adding unique content regularly to the site to help engage your visitors. Depending on the type of site this might not be needed and will not be as important in the niche. Amit Singhal explains that “Different searches have different freshness needs.” http://insidesearch.blogspot.com/2011/11/giving-you-fresher-more-recent-search.html Feel free to send me a email and I might be able to better explain your specific situation. Thanks, Jaan Kanellis

  4. These are all great suggestions. The Google Panda update targeted low quality content. If the content on your site is not original or is outdated, that could be the problem.