Google constantly makes updates and changes to its search engine algorithm which can affect your site rankings. This post will address the two most talked about updates over the past couple years: Panda and Penguin.
Before I launch into Panda and Penguin, I’d like to mention “The 3 Cs of SEO” which are the three essential components of a sound SEO strategy: (quality) content, (clean) code, and (link) credibility. I’ll reference these throughout.
What are Panda and Penguin?
In the past two years, Google has made a series of significant updates to the search engine algorithm that have essentially boiled down to two major initiatives: Panda and Penguin. In short, Panda’s focus has been on content — targeting low quality, thin, and duplicate content. Penguin’s focus has been on credibility — targeting link spam including paid links, farms, and overly-optimized anchor text.
The primary no-nos targeted by the Panda and Penguin updates include:
- Parked domains or publishers with too much advertising above the fol
- Keyword-stuffed title, meta tags, anchor text, and navigation links
- Cloaking, redirects, and doorway pages
- Duplicate or low quality content, thin content affiliate sites
How to diagnose Panda and Penguin penalties
The question that’s running through your head is “How do I know if I’ve been penalized?” The first and best indicator that you’ve been penalized is based on whether or not you received a warning message via Webmaster Tools. The warning message alerted you to Google’s detection of unnatural links on your site. The next step is to review your analytics. Look for dips in traffic associated with the timing of the updates, which can be found in this SEOmoz resource. Once you’ve confirmed that you’ve been hit by Panda or Penguin updates, the next step is to determine why you’ve been penalized. The best way to do this is to conduct a detailed forensic SEO audit of your website and overall presence. Pulling from the “3 Cs” methodology, evaluate your content (freshness, quality, relevance, and originality), code (clean, unstuffed with keywords), and credibility (quality links).
Once you’ve thoroughly diagnosed and identified your Panda/Penguin issues, it’s time to make good. The first and most obvious step is to fix the problems. If you’re not sure how, you can hire SEO pros like me, or you can read and understand Google Webmaster Guidelines. Since time is of the essence, I’ve provided a checklist below of the most common Panda/Penguin penalty fixes:
- Consolidate similar pages to reduce duplicate content
- 404 the offending pages or move them to a new domain
- Be thoughtful with placement of advertising on your site
- Get more high quality and relevant links
- Vary your anchor text
- Cancel or remove unnecessary footer links
- Take it easy on the internal “SEO” linking
- If you are purchasing sponsored links, be careful!
- Delete, destroy, or dilute offending or suspected low quality links
Best Practices for a Post-Penguin World
Now that you’re out of penalty and back on track, how do you avoid issues like this in the future? For starters, remember the “3 Cs” and frame the Webmaster Guidelines. From there, maintain a laser focus on creating a compelling user experience (aka good web design). Secondarily, only create compelling, unique, and timely content, especially multimedia (images, audio, and video).
For a more in-depth look at Panda and Penguin, check out my feature article on iMedia Connection.