I’ve kept away from writing How-To posts for a while but this has become like a necessity. Because the one question that keep popping up in conversations time and again these days are ways to recover from a Panda penalty. Some folks are genuinely hit but many others are just pure paranoid about it, that they suspect any drop in search engine traffic to be a Panda penalty. Well, so I hope this article serves as a bookmark article for those looking to recover from Panda and those looking to stay away from it.
First off, let’s get the air cleared with some Google Panda myths busted.
Should you really be worried about Google Panda Penalty?
Well, depends. But the way I look at it is, not as a penalty, but as a “corrective measure”. Whether you’re hit with a penalty or not, I think it would be great for everyone to just be cautious and stick to the guidelines.
– Google Panda is a quality measure for websites where quality is measured through the perspective of a visitor.
– A Google Panda penalty could happen even if you had great content.
– Google Panda penalties can be fully or partially fixed.
How to recover from Google Panda penalty?
1. Check your code to content ratio
One of the common factors in sites that get hit by Google Panda is their content to code ratio. There are many SEO tools that will help you analyze your code to content ratio, but I would suggest that you take a look at it manually. There are no thumb rules to what the ratio should be but when you look at a website, you’ll know if its overdoing it. Remember those websites, with super thin content pushed to one corner and everything else highlighted? Well, you don’t want that.
Try to keep the highlight on content. And make sure the visitor is able to find and “use” what he’s looking for (and promised on the SERPs) easily without having to sieve through junk on your website. One might argue that its all great suggested content out there and not junk. Well, for a visitor, anything that he’s not looking for, is junk, be it however entertaining.
2. Strategically position content making it useful
Quality of your website depends on where and how you position your content. Is it above the fold, below the fold? What template format do you follow? Again, there are no thumb rules to it, but if you’re unsure ask your not-so-net-savvy uncle if its easy for him to find and read through content on your site. If he takes more than 3-4 seconds to spot the real content, then you might want to change the way it is aligned.
Placing content above the fold is a great way to pull it off, but let that not be an excuse to put everything in there. Prioritize content based on what is useful to the visitor and place them accordingly. When in doubt, use your uncle.
3. Reduce bad user experience
What is bad user experience depends on how standardized your theme and template is. Ask questions like is it accessible to everyone? Is the font large enough? Can mobiles render the theme effortlessly? Hire a good UI/UX designer/team to check how your website performs on various platforms. Ensure that its all taken care of.
You don’t want a website that only works on Chrome or Firefox but Internet Explorer as well.
4. Keep a tab on the number of Ads
Sometimes, it so happens that the webmaster is so concerned and obsessed with making money from the website that he cleverly placed Ads on the most “clickable” areas. However users these days can figure out what an Ad is and what content is. Many a times, too many ad placements can prove detrimental for users. There have been situations when Google AdSense team would recommend you to try different ads, to the maximum number for maximum profit, but the QA team would not appreciate it, especially if your content is thin.
So, keep a tab on the number of ads, and use your judgment wisely.
5. Poor linking structure
A good linking structure is one where the most relevant and important pages related to a subject/topic are linked with the most appropriate anchor texts. We see many instances where webmasters do random linking to articles with irrelevant anchor texts like “Check this” and “here”. While this is good, if you think about it from a usability and quality perspective, it could be a lot better if made descriptive.
6. Auto generated content
How many times have you had to go through the pain of sieving through auto generated content on websites? Even mainstream news websites have this addiction to showing off their “related articles” while all you want is read the given article properly. Automatically generated content is a great way to improve user engagement, but if over done, it can kill the user experience.
Pagination is supposed to improve the user experience and help people navigate better, but may a times, because of the way paginated pages appear, people rarely use paginated navigation. And pagination proves to be an inefficient way of presenting navigation. Its non descriptive, non contextual and even kind of mis-leading sometimes.
Instead of pagination with numbers, a more descriptive and semantic approach would be more useful to present information. All the more, pagination if not “designed” well, can create several duplicate content issues as well, where the same content get presented in different forms and places across the website, pulling down the overall value of the website.
8. Zero social footprint
One of the easiest ways to add value to stale content is to enrich/rewrite it and use social media to leverage it for traffic. This will not ensure that the content/page will break out of Panda penalty but more socially driven traffic means more value and authority to the website. And having said that, its not easy to get that traffic from social media. It will only happen if your content is super compelling/entertaining. So the crux is to create top quality compelling content and use social media as a catalyst to take it places.
9. Improve your mobile experience
In a scenario where volume of mobile visitors are improving day by day, search engines have been emphasizing the importance of having a mobile friendly (that is a understatement) version of your page. Better yet, if you can have a responsive design, nothing like it!
10. Fix HTML errors, set microformats and structured data in place
Importance of having proper structured data on your website cannot be emphasized more. Essentially, having your website standardized with standard HTML and microformats in place is a way to improve the code quality, which might improve your overall authority and quality factor. This is probably not an absolute way to break out of Panda penalty but when done properly at the right scale, can give boost for your website content on SERPs.
Google Panda is more of a quality check on websites, if vaguely put, emulating human behaviour. From what I’ve seen, Google Panda is fully recoverable in most cases, if steps are taken sequentially, fixing one problem at a time. Like I said, rather than looking at it as damage control, I’d like to see it as a “standardization” process. Where by, you try to improve the quality of your website by installing the good practices of almost all aspects of web and UI design. Having said that, the best way to check if you have a good quality website is to run it by your not-so-tech-savvy uncle, noting their feedback and doing corrective measures accordingly.