With Google’s Panda 4.1 updates in full effect, many brands have questions about why they have experienced a drop in search rankings. The recent update rolled out new algorithms focused on delivering valuable content to users and improving their experience in search. Consequently, content that does not seem to offer users high value has been targeted in search. It can be difficult for marketers to identify why exactly search rankings have decreased, but commonly it is due to duplicate, light or inferior content.
To identify the effects of Panda 4.1 and reclaim search rankings, follow the seven steps below.
1. Check Google Analytics
One of the biggest indicators that Panda has affected content rankings is a sudden drop in organic rankings. Isolate visits from organic search over the last 6 months and check for any dips in traffic. Depending on the industry, drops during the weekends and specific seasons can be common.
Locate organic traffic by clicking the following path as seen below (Acquisition -> All Traffic -> Channels -> Organic Search -> Primary Dimension -> Source -> Google). If traffic has dropped, proceed to leverage the tools below to identify the problem.
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2. Check Google Webmaster
Leverage Google Webmaster to identify any site errors or duplicate pages in the HTML improvements tab. Some duplicate content is fine, but large numbers will often indicate a problem. If Google has indexed blog wp-content and wp-admin links, use the Google Webmaster URL removal tool to get rid of the complete directory. Make sure to add those directories into your Robots.txt file to prevent future indexing.
Additionally, scrub all web pages for errors in content and links. Website errors indicate to Google that a website may not create the optimal user experience and subsequently will be lowered in search rankings. If your site has experienced penalties or has been banned from search, submit a reconsideration request and watch for changes in traffic and search rankings over time.
3. Search Google for Indexed Pages
Google will show how many pages it has indexed for a website to help webmasters identify issues with content. To examine indexed pages, type “Site:WEBSITEURL.com” into the search window and count the results as seen below. Often, a high number of pages can indicate there is an issue with duplicate pages or low quality content, depending on industry and website focus.
4. Remove Light Content
One of the biggest factors drawing penalties in Google search rankings come from light content. Analyzing Google Analytics to identify pages with low traffic, high bounce rates or low time on site may help identify pages with content users do not find valuable.
To increase visibility in search rankings, start by improving the content on your page. If necessary, remove these pages or combine with additional content to establish value in condensed outlets.
5. Eliminate Duplicate Content
Google defines duplicate content as on-site duplicate, near duplicate and cross-domain duplicate. This means content can be identified as duplicate when found on-site or on other sites around the web. Depending on the industry and website design, a frequent problem for brands are product pages with similar content.Google recommends consolidating, removing or redirecting pages to eliminate redundancy and minimizing multiple links to unique pages.
Additionally, brands can update their Robots.txt files to remove pages from search engine crawls. Panda 4.1 is another push from Google for brands to create more concise and consolidated websites in an effort to offer value; keep that in mind when looking to identify solutions.
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6. Ensure Content Is Quality
One of the less defined factors analyzed by this new Panda update is the quality of content. Google has not openly shared what exact parameters they use to identify content as quality; making it difficult to analyze and implement solutions. The best practice for improving content quality is to examine the lowest performing pages on the site. Remove or adjust any content not performing well and look for pages that are not completing the task users are asked to do such as email signup, download, purchase, etc.
Another factor to look for is over-optimization. By attempting to stuff too many keywords or links into web copy, content can become less user-friendly and be identified by Google as spam.
7. Produce New Content
The best way to combat low search rankings is to create new content that offers value to users. Develop a content plan that corresponds with recent updates from Google and maintain a frequent and consistent content publication schedule. Syndicate content to increase search authority through links and visibility across all channels, but avoid duplicate content by only posting content that does not already appear on your website or blog. Additionally, cite all sources when possible to increase the authority of written content.
Content calendars can help organize content timelines, focus and optimization, as well as hold team members responsible for measurable goals. Focus on offering more value in one place by offering education and entertainment alongside sales and promotions. Encourage users to share content by including on-page share icons and promoting content across brand networks.
Reviews can also play a big role in search quality so encourage users to discuss their experience. Monitor engagement within Google Analytics to ensure content is seen as quality by target audiences and subsequently, search engines.
Auditing content for effects of recent Google updates requires extensive resources to identify and resolve conflicts that prohibit high rankings in search. Nevertheless, it is an essential step to improving the visibility of digital content. Results may not be seen immediately, but continue to produce new high quality content to expand brand reach and authority in search.