How to Recover if You’ve Been Hit by Google Panda 4.1

Google’s Panda update has been the scourge of website owners and online businesses since it was first rolled out in February 2011. In the following three-and-a-half years, people have trembled in fear when news of a Panda update has hit the SEO newsstands. That sounds a little dramatic, but if you’ve made sure your content is filled with relevance and depth, your users will appreciate it and Google will reward you with solid rankings.

Panda 4.1 went out on 23rd September, and the estimated impact was 3-5% of search queries. Industry experts have said that it was aimed at better identifying low-quality content, keyword stuffing and affiliate marketing. The 4.0 Panda update was released in May, and its purpose was to strike at thin content and stop it from obtaining good rankings.

The winners and losers of the most recent update was covered in this great post by Search Metrics, and the biggest winners were news, content sites and download portals. The sites that seemed to take the biggest hit were online games, lyrics and medical portals. Basically, if your site has WORTH FOR USERS, chances are your site was going to gain from the update.  Popular content driven favourite, Hongkiat.com, saw a 406% increase in search engine visibility following the update. If that isn’t a sign that great content is king…

How Do You Recover if Panda 4.1 Hit Your Site?
The two best ways to protect yourself against future updates is to completely evaluate your content strategy.
Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the content of my website a priority at present, or a means to an end?
  • Can I improve the quality of my writing throughout the site?
  • Do I need all of my old content? Is it still relevant?
  • Can old content be removed or updated so it can benefit website visitors?
  • Would you read the content on your site if you were a visitor reading it for the first time?
  • Is your website easy to navigate? Does it need a refresh?
  • Do you have social sharing buttons on your posts? Are people sharing them?

Once you have answered those questions, you can start to approach the improvement of your websites content, and better improve the chances of your search rankings improving due to your visitors finding something of worth when they visit your site.  Two sure-fire signs of this are:
1) A potential increase in comments, (although some people have been scared of leaving comments since this became well know as an overused black hat SEO tactic)
2) An increase in social sharing on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and other social networks is a trusted sign that your content is working.

A great way to improve your content, besides better writing, is to link out to reputable sources that back up your theories and opinions. You can also embed YouTube videos into your web pages to add authority and keep users on your site for longer. Before Panda, you could rank well with 300 words of text stuffed with keywords. Not anymore. The more useful content you can add, the better the user experience. Well-researched and written posts of 1,000 words or more are much more likely to gain attention from users and Google than thin content, so put in the extra work and make your content shine.  However don’t add paragraphs of fluff as content fillers, after all your content is aimed at engaging users not just for SEO and the search engines.

Google have released a post that details how to recover from Panda 4.1, where they reiterate what is often forgotten: That Google want to reward sites that bother to follow their guidelines and create content that has long-term value, and they are willing to penalise websites that don’t want to put in the effort and would rather spend more time trying to manipulate the system.

If you are hit by Panda 4.1, the last thing you need to do is sit around and complain about it, because unless you start to take action now, it will only get worse, and soon you will be receiving no web traffic at all. Check out this mention for a worrying scenario you could find yourself in unless you get proactive and improve your web content.

Older websites are prone to Panda hits, especially if they are not updating their sites regularly. Visit any site that hasn’t been updated in five years or more, and the first thing you will notice – apart from the fact that it looks rather painful on the eye – is that the pages are condensed and hard to read, and the navigation is tough to follow. If the user experience isn’t solid, you are going to lose visitors, and you are likely to be hit by Panda as a result.

You should always be looking to improve your websites UX. For example, if you have a WordPress hosted website, look to find Plugins that bring excellent features to your visitors, and buy a Premium WordPress theme that will wow visitors and make them want to hang around and check out what you have to offer. The difference between an old theme and a Premium WordPress theme is night and day, and the best themes are built with search engines in mind. It’s a template that you can fill up with great content and give your website an incredible look and feel.  Don’t over complicate your content and check your pages are set up well technically for SEO before sending live.

It’s important to remember that there is no instant improvement button to press if you are hit by Panda 4.1. All you can do is check Google Webmaster Tools for any manual penalties – and put them right if you can – and concentrate on improving all the content throughout your ENTIRE site. Go through every nook and cranny of your site and be brutally honest. If it isn’t bringing something to your site and is not going to be of use for your visitors, get rid of it, or do everything you can do to improve it. Google aren’t going to penalise a great site, so make sure yours hits the right note throughout.  If you need assistance to get you back on track contact RAD SEO to discuss our penalty recovery service.

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