It has been a few weeks since Google launched their latest major algorithm update, Panda 4.0 and the fall out continues for sites with duplicate or low quality content. The Panda algorithm was originally launched in February of 2011 to eliminate sites with low quality or duplicate content from the search rankings. Since then, there have been a number of updates with Panda 4.0 being the largest since the initial launch.
So what can you do to avoid penalties from search engine updates like Panda? Let’s revisit some of the basic principles for ranking well in the search engines and what you should avoid like the plague to keep from being penalized in the future.
Yes, I know that using all caps can be construed as yelling. However, we are constantly asked to conduct site audits for prospective customers and it is amazing how much duplicate content is in use by reputable companies on the web. If you are doing any of the following things, please stop immediately and pursue alternative ways of generating content, namely creating your own.
1. Scraping articles, the practice of copying and pasting from another website to your own, will definitely get in trouble with Google and will very quickly cause your website to get penalized and result in the loss of some or all of your organic search traffic. Please don’t participate in this activity.
2. If you are currently using syndicated content, and not using the proper code to attribute this to the original source, then you run the real risk of being penalized as well. Even if you did manage to fly beneath the radar, this type of content wouldn’t provide any type of search value and would jeopardize any other unique content on your site from ranking as well.
3. Don’t duplicate your websites in hopes of ranking well across multiple domains. You wouldn’t believe it, but we have come across large clients who literally have 4 different carbon copies of a website, but have different brand names, domains and logos for each one. This old school way of thinking is usually so a business can have a different website for unique geographic areas when they open up a new location, but will usually lead to a penalty for all sites involved even if the content for the first site was original.
Creating unique and compelling content doesn’t have to be rocket science. I always like to refer back to a Matt Cutts video from 2013, where he clearly states that you need to “make sure that you’ve got high-quality content, the sort of content that people really enjoy, that’s compelling, the sort of thing that they’ll love to read that you might see in a magazine or in a book, and that people would refer back to, or send friends to, those sorts of things.”
That’s really it. We have gotten to the point on the web where your content needs to provide inherent value to your readers and website visitors in order to have it rank well. If your content meets this parameter, it will likely be shared by others and you will naturally begin to build links and social signals back to your page resulting in higher search rankings for not only this page, but your site in general. Plus, you won’t have to worry about algorithm updates anymore to boot!
If you are associated with a business that has been hit by a penalty, or have a website that has somehow avoided detection, it is best to conduct a content audit immediately. By identifying any content issues, you can take the proper steps to either remove, rewrite, or add rich new articles to your site. Ultimately, this may not be a quick fix, but will be a necessity moving forward with your recovery efforts.
Also, if you are a small business owner, or an executive who isn’t involved with content generation, you may have tasked outside sources or employees to generate content. If you have been outsourcing your content generation, there are tools that can be used to detect whether or not they have been submitting duplicate content and putting you at risk. We also recommend that you continue monitoring any new content that is generated from employees who may be looking to cut a few corners.
By keeping a close eye on whomever is generating content, it will help to keep you out of trouble for future versions of Panda 4.0 and ensure that your quality content will be part of a cohesive strategy that will keep your organic search efforts moving in the right direction in the future.