How to Survive a Panda Attack!

It’s been a few weeks now since the Panda algorithm update was rolled out by Google in the UK, so I thought I’d share some of the main findings we’ve found in terms of sites which have either benefited or suffered from the panda attack!

From what we’ve found there are two main reasons for being penalised by this:  a) Google considers your site to be a form of content farm, or b) the site has suffered from a knock-on effect of links being devalued from low quality sites, most notably article directories.

So I’ll look at what you can do in order to minimise the risk and impact of your site being affected for both of these scenarios.

Google considers your site to be a content farm
In my opinion Google’s classification of content farms has gone a bit too far. High quality websites such as Qype, Review Centre, Ciao etc have been hit heavily, in addition to the more likely candidates such as various article directories and content production networks like I’d highly recommend reading this post from Jonathan Stewart outlining how Review Centre have been affected.

The list of winners and losers from the UK update (by Searchmetrics) is interesting reading too, and looking at some of the sites listed, my personal opinion is that they’ve treated some of these too harshly and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are further changes and tweaks ahead. Long-term the panda update makes sense – but short-term there’s probably still a way to go yet until Google gets this completely right.

What can you do about it?

Here are some options for improving rankings if you’ve been attacked by the Panda (is it sad that I’m looking forward to seeing some of the keyword traffic stats for this post?!):

  1. Remove content – if your website has a high volume of pages, then it’s likely that a number of these aren’t generating traffic and are perhaps listed in Google’s supplemental index. This is now a great time to review those pages which may not be having any SEO benefit for you and looking to trim down on the volume of indexed content that you have in the search engines. Obviously this is something you need to consider carefully, but by removing 20-25% of your website’s lowest performing indexed content you could find that your website is now valued more highly as a result of the overall quality improving.
  2. Make sure your content is unique – before the Panda update, automated content was a very effective method of ranking for a wide range of terms in Google – in all honesty this probably worked too well and shows that the Panda update is intended to improve the quality of results. But if you were one of those sites that benefited from this in the past, and has recently lost out, then it’s probably time to look at methods of making your content more unique in the eyes of Google. Often it may just be a small change or tweak which triggers Google’s algorithm, and if you can figure out the reason for this then you’re likely to quickly see an increase in rankings return again very quickly.
  3. Stop low-quality link building – the websites which have suffered the most from the knock-on effect of devalued links are those who rely on low-quality links too heavily. High volume, low quality link building has always been a big sign to Google that this is an unnatural pattern of inbound link, but following the update it’s now going have even less of an impact to search rankings.
  4. Create a natural link building strategy – you’ve heard everyone saying for years that “content is king”, blah, blah, blah. Well if you’ve been affected perhaps it’s something you should have listened to more intently! The biggest winners from the Panda update are those which are providing quality, engaging content – it’s no surprise to see the likes of Econsultancy, The Independent, Mashable and Techcrunch amongst the list of those who benefited the most. So try and look at putting those high volume link building or content budgets into something more valuable. If you focus on quality of content and adding value, instead of quantity, then you’re likely to see a much greater return from your efforts and activity.

So what changes have you found to be the most significant? And how has this impacted your SEO strategy?


By Kevin Gibbons

Kevin Gibbons is the search engine marketing consultant based in the UK.