For any webmaster, the loss of traffic due to a Google rankings slip can be a complete disaster, with a lot at stake for what is often just a few mistakes, errors of judgements or bad management from a business point of view. When it comes to the Google Panda Penalty, rather than worrying about what happened offsite, you need to start looking onsite, as Panda tends to concentrate on the optimisation and standards of your website, rather than looking at offsite factors (which Penguin covers).
It is not just content that Panda looks at onsite, indeed there are a range of factors that come in to play, but this article focuses purely on content and why the thing that often makes you rank, can often be the thing that makes you tank if you do it incorrectly. Please do not get me wrong, you must have content on your site, but it needs to be QUALITY, RELATED and RELEVANT content, as there are certain types of content that are going to cause you massive issues, which is what I am focusing on here.
So, let’s have a look at deadly content types and why you should be avoid any of these at all costs.
Duplicate content is often one of the biggest harm factors when it comes to Panda, as it is one of the most easiest things to find and identify from a search engines point of view and also one of the most damaging when they cotton on. Gone are the days when you can write an article and then reproduce the same article on various other sites, directories, blogs and the like, these days you need to make sure that the content on your site is unique – 100% unique, else you are going to run into issues.
If you have issues with onsite duplicate content then fix it and also try to use Rel=”canonical”, which is where you can tell Google which page is the source and the correct credit for the content and therefore to almost discount other duplicate forms of it, meaning you don’t get penalised. Generally, in an ideal world all of your pages should be unique, but if this cannot happen use the Rel=”canonical” to help Google know what is going on and where it should credit the most authority.
Scraped content is a really bad practice these days and if you are practising this method, it really is time to stop and start again, as scraped content is really frowned upon and will cause you massive issues with ranking and penalties. Not only is it against Google guidelines but taking someone else’s content and using it as if it were your own is illegal, so therefore, a really bad idea. If you don’t know what it is then basically, scraped content is taking content from other sites and using it on your own site, as if it were your own work.
There are some cases where scraped content is not totally against guidelines, like latest news headlines or various small intro paragraphs leading to the real content, but generally, if you have more scraped content on your site than unique and original, re-write your pages and stop doing it, as you must make sure at all times the content on your site is yours and yours alone. If the reason you add other peoples content offers no extra value, original content or worth, then you are doing way more harm than good.
Years ago in a different search engine land, many naughty little webmasters used to write (or buy) an article and then run it through a bit of spinning software, which would then give 9 more articles for the price or time of just one. Replacing a few words here, moving a few paragraphs there and even making some of it less readable than a two year olds scribbles, they all thought Google will never see through this and everything would be ok.
When reality came knocking, it was quickly clear to see that Google could indeed see through this and people started to get a right kicking, falling from grace due to being lazy and slightly ignorant. You see, in my opinion, spun content is lazy content because it’s from webmasters that really couldn’t be arsed to sit and write enough content that means anything. If you have or are still doing this then it’s time to shelve it, because this is one form of content that is going to cause you major issues long term.
Poor Quality Content
Content needs to read well, offer accurate spelling and punctuation and also flow naturally, which is why before you publish anything online take the time to proof check it and make sure it’s near perfect. Of course, you will always get the odd little error (this is where I cover myself) but if your article reads more like a drunken ramble on a night out than a well written, informative and engaging article, then do not put it on your site.
There is no way you would spend £5,000 on an offline marketing campaign and not read the brochure a few dozen times, before asking your family, friends and even the people you do not really like to check it, so take the same attitude with your content. The search engines can see what crap really is, so do not put yourself in the firing line by filling your site with it, take time, effort and have a bit of pride about what your write, as this is the only way that your content is going to stand the test of time when it comes to ranking.
If you are selling blue cars and your content is about SEO, computers and Adwords, then it is fair to say you are not going to get ranking or keep ranking for blue cars anytime soon, as the content you have onsite is totally unrelated. To judge a site in terms of ranking, the search engines need to know what it is about, so therefore if your title tags, product descriptions and blog all talk about blue cars, but you have a load of articles about something else, you’re giving them a major headache. Of course, if you cover a range of areas then you can have a mix of content, as long as it’s related to what you do.
When it comes to your website, try to make sure that everything you produce is related to your overall ranking aims, which means cover the subjects that fit into the context of your site, and don’t just write about stuff because you need content fill and therefore think that Google likes words more than good content, as quite frankly, it does not. The search engines are so clever now that they will see this as deception anyway, so rather than waste time writing about things that are not related, spend time researching and writing quality things that are!
Little Or No Content
This is a weird one but something I am seeing more and more over the past few years from people looking for short cuts when it comes to ranking. One of the biggest areas I see this in is location pages. So, you have a location based title tag, a location rich url, a map and then a paragraph that says “We sell blue cars in XX” and then another page following the same suit, but a different location, and so on and on. So, these weak and worthless location pages are seemingly a popular way of getting rankings that you are probably not entitled to, which is why Panda is really gunning for this kind of thin content.
Not every page has to have hundreds of words of content, sometimes less is more after all, but if you look at your pages and your menus are longer than the content or you have more pictures than words, then you have to ask yourself if that page has or offers any real value to the visitor, because if the answer is no, re-write it or get rid of it, as long term, it’s an issue for sure.
So, to sum up…
If you don’t have time to read my article, which is a shame and will probably cause you issues and suffering in later life with various emotional factors (ok, maybe not) a summary of what good content should be:
- And …. The best it possibly can be