If you’ve recently noticed a drop in your organic search engine rankings, you might be a victim of Google’s latest Panda update. Panda 4.0 was rolled out in early June, and has been affecting many webmasters. Some estimates suggest that the numbers may be as high as 7.5% of searches having been impacted. Let’s take a closer look at what Panda 4.0 is, why your site may have been targeted, and what steps you need to take to fix any penalties.
The Background of Panda Updates
Panda was originally rolled out by Google in February of 2011, and has been one of the most impactful changes that the search engine has made. Panda was designed to penalize thin sites that were ranking well for specific key terms using unethical SEO practices. As a result, site owners began to pay attention to the length, volume, and quality of their content. There have been several iterations and fine tunings of the updates, but it’s fair to say that Google’s Panda updates played a leading role in setting off the content marketing boom that drives much of SEO and online marketing as we know it today.
The Panda 4.0 update
Panda 4.0 continued the mission of the earlier Panda updates. Thin sites have been penalized. There seems to have been an expanded definition of thin sites. High volume sites such as Retailmenot and Ask.com seem to have been penalized. On the other hand, some experts are calling it the “softer side of Panda,” which means that small businesses have been less affected than anticipated and will continue to recover from previous penalties.
What to do if you were hit with Panda 4.0
If you’re among the 7.5% of sites scrambling to understand what’s wrong and why your rankings dropped, the first thing you need to do is take a step back and look at your website and content. Here are some important questions to ask yourself:
- Does your site have a clear content strategy?
- Is your content in-depth, authoritative, and written with reader/audience value in mind?
- Is the content original, as in it would pass a Copyscape check? Was it written by a human writer, versus spun by a technology product? Did you copy your content from another online source?
- Is the writing high quality and professional?
- Has the copy been edited for spelling, grammar, and flow?
- Is each article unique, or is there a lot of redundancy?
- Are your articles sufficiently detailed, or are you dashing off short posts that create little value?
- Are you regularly publishing fresh content on your site, through a blog or another easily updatable means?
If your answers to these questions are murky, the best steps are to work backwards. Audit the content that’s already on your site. Identify gaps, areas for improvement, and things that should be removed. Take the time to create a content strategy that supports your messaging, business goals, and the value your want to deliver to your audience. Start creating that content and publishing it regularly, after ensuring that it’s well-written and clearly edited. Over time, you’ll recover from this penalty.
Are you facing a Panda 4.0 penalty? If so, contact us today to discuss how our content and SEO teams can help you stage your recovery efforts.