A new Panda update could be a real bear for website owners with low-quality content and a large amount of advertising.  

According to Search Engine Land, the latest Panda Update, the 30th to Google’s Panda algorithm began to roll out last week, and will continue to do so slowly, affecting 2-3% of all web queries.

This is the first official Panda refresh in more than 10 months, giving webmasters who were previously penalized a new chance, had they made the correct changes to their site, while others could see a dip in their rankings for the first time.

Unlike other Panda rollouts, this one is being implemented slowly, and few webmasters have noticed a difference. They might not be out of the bamboo-riddled forest quite yet though.

What Is Google Looking for in the Latest Panda Update?

Panda, unlike it’s cooler brother Penguin, has little concern for your backlinks and is more so centered on user experience. A Panda Update doesn’t care who you are either, as evident by the 80% drop in organic traffic eBay suffered last year after the Panda 4.0 Update.

The Panda Update is Google’s way of cutting the crap. Google wants to direct users to the best content for any given query even if it’s a query the search engine has never seen before. With hundreds of thousands of indexed websites being created every day, Google has to constantly adjust to keep pace with the growing nature of the digital landscape.

If your site has the following problems, there is a good chance the Panda Update could stomp your organic traffic:

  • Unoriginal content

  • “Scraper Content” Pulled in from Other Sources

  • Lack of Original Content Above the Fold/Heavy Templates

  • Empty Content - Pages with the sole purpose of linking elsewhere

  • High ad-to-text ratio

  • High Percentage of Duplicate Content

  • Over-optimization with Low-value content

  • Slow site speed

Doing anything on-or-off page that has the potential to detract from a user’s experience on your website that could contribute to a high bounce rate could possibly lead to a Panda Penalty.

How to Panda Proof Your Website

Panda updates are no joke, and your rankings can continue to suffer and get worse if you don’t do anything about it. Below are five ways to avoid trouble following the latest Panda update.

Panda Proof Tip #1: Take a Hard Look at Your Design!

Many of the websites that have been penalized by Panda have one thing in common: their layout is outdated, and user needs have changed.

Previously, it wasn’t uncommon for sites to contain ads, and an array of helpful links to affiliate websites in modules throughout the site. Google doesn’t view those links as helpful as they once did, while many of these sites lack great content as well.

If your website is stuck in the last decade, it’s time to refresh and choose a more user-friendly template. Wordpress has some of the most user-friendly templates out there, and you can rest assured that your site won’t be penalized because it doesn’t look the part. Lacking a responsive design and having a non-mobile friendly website opens up a completely separate can of worms for Google, so it’s best to ensure your site looks and feels similar and works great on all devices.

A good rule of thumb, especially for e-commerce retailers is this: Does my site look like a place I would be comfortable putting in my credit card information? Half of trust is looking the part.

Panda Proof Tip #2: Make Sure Your Content is YOURS!

Aside from the obvious detriments that is plagiarism law, Google doesn’t want you trying to rank for content that someone else is already ranking for. If content can be found in multiple places, the original content will always trump competitors. Again, e-commerce retailers are under extra scrutiny, because product descriptions are often sent from the manufacturer to various retailers.

When posting new products to your website, ensure that your content looks different than the same description for your product on a competitor’s website. This means re-writing manufacturer's descriptions while ensuring the message remains the same.

Your risk of a Panda penalty is magnified if your site is pulling in content from other sources. If you are pulling in an article from an outside source, be sure to add some value, and that any content reproductions receive a “noindex,nofollow” tag.

Panda Proof Tip #3: Write Content That Matters!

Don’t write content just for the sake of writing content. Get to know your target audience. What are they looking for? Ask yourself, “does this content solve a problem or is it just filler text?” Keep your targeted keywords pertinent to your content and don’t over-optimize. If you put your core product and city together 60 times on a page, your grammer can’t and won’t look good, and you’re doing little else than stuffing keywords onto the page. We get it, you’re a St. Louis Digital Marketing Company! Stop telling me this over and over and over again!

Panda Proof Tip #4: Remove All Duplicate Content!

Duplicate content can pose a problem to search engines, because they are unsure of which content version should be ranking.

  • Set a preferred domain (www. or non-www. it doesn’t matter, just pick one!)

  • Utilize canonical tags to specify page versions

  • De-index duplicate page versions from search engines

  • Properly 301 redirect duplicate versions to your intended page

Panda Proof Tip #5: Ramp up Your Site Speed and use SSL!

Remember, that Panda is on the lookout for low quality websites and those that detract from a positive user experience.

If your site is slow, remember that users don’t have dial-up patience anymore. This can often lead to a quick bounce. Find out the reasons why your site is slow and correct these issues. Maybe your images aren’t properly compressed and are taking up too much bandwidth. Maybe you’re not leveraging browser caching or have too much javascript on your page. Do yourself a favor and run your site through Google’s Page Speed test. Do you like what you see or not? Identify and correct these technical issues to enhance your user experience.

Remember when we said that Panda was about trust and asked you if you would trust your credit card information to your website? Adding secure socket layer protection (SSL) and having an https: url adds additional trust to both search engines and your customers.

Let’s get to work Panda-Proofing your website

Don’t go crazy over the latest Panda update. With the right website, tools and people you won’t have to worry about a thing. SteadyRain is a full service Digital Marketing agency featuring an awesome design and development team that knows how to get your site out of the early 2000s. After designing your site with one of our user-friendly CMS options, our talented Digital Marketing team can set your site up for success, utilizing the best tools and knowledge in the world of search engine optimization.

Chat with us today to see how we can help fend off those hungry Pandas. Nothing in our Soulard office is made out of bamboo.