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Google’s Panda 4.1 – How You Should React

If you think Google is done with their algorithmic updates, think again. The start of October saw the rolling out of their latest update, dubbed Panda 4.1. Google Web master Trends Analyst Pierre Far stated that this update allows the search engine to better identify low-quality content. He further claimed it has already resulted in improved rankings for a number of small- to medium-sized sites.

If you noticed significant changes (positive or negative) in your site’s rankings this past week, then it’s most probably the result of Panda 4.1. Far goes on to suggest this update could be a big help to small sites struggling to compete in the world of SEO. Google is implementing a slow roll-out for this update, so web masters can expect to continue feeling its effects in the days to come.

Update Winners and Losers

Although many sites have just begun to feel the effects of Panda 4.1, Search Metrics has already posted a list of the sites deemed as the biggest winners and losers following the latest update. Upon viewing the list, it appears that the initial roll-out had the biggest negative impact on game and lyric sites as well as a few medical portals. On the other hand, news and content sites were the ones that benefited most.

There are also those who have observed affiliate sites taking a huge hit from this latest update. It remains to be seen, though, whether the Panda 4.1 will indeed be a significant help to smaller sites that regularly post high-quality content. Although there are already some small sites that saw improved rankings, others are feeling a bit left out. There are also small sites that are generally just skeptical and are waiting for more evidence that the update will indeed be beneficial to them.

Note that the Search Metrics list was created and published after the initial roll-out of the latest Panda update. It is therefore likely that the biggest winners and losers have changed. Sites that have been hit early on may already have made adjustments to improve their rankings. One should also remember that the list needs to be taken with a grain of salt, considering there are other factors that may have affected rankings at the time Panda 4.1 started rolling out.

How to Recover

What if your site has been hit by the latest Panda update? Is there anything you can do to get back on track? As with all the other Google algorithmic updates, there are a few adjustments you can make to get your site back on top of search results pages.

Since the update is aimed at recognizing and filtering out low-quality content, your best move will be to trash all low-quality content found on your site and ensure a consistent stream of high-quality content from here onwards. To be more specific, you may want to put your team to work doing the following:

1. Remove or revise low-quality and duplicate content.
Before this update, sites were still able to rank well by using well-chosen keywords and phrases in short-form content. Since the latest update, however, short-form content with several keywords started being considered “thin” and isn’t likely to get you to the top of search rankings the way it did in the past.

To determine whether your content is likely to be considered thin by Google, conduct a site audit using Google Web master Tools. Identify the specific pages that fell off the grid and see how you can improve the quality of the page’s content and the page itself. Perhaps you simply need to add outbound links to authority sites. Perhaps you need to add a few images or video to your content. Or maybe you need to completely revise the content and offer a more in-depth analysis of the topic.

If, after the site audit, you realize there is no viable way you can improve the page and the content therein, you’d do well to consider removing the page instead. Remember that a single low-quality page can drag down the rankings of your entire site with the latest Panda update.

2. Update old content.
Check the existing content on your web pages. Pick out the ones that are most likely to still be deemed of high-quality by Google in light of the recent update. Revise them such that the details and information they contain remain up-to-date. This should keep your web pages fresh and improve your trustworthiness rating with Google. Note that updated information is one of the factors Google looks into when it ranks the authority and trustworthiness of a particular site.

Worn-out Jeans

You can revive old content the way you jazz up old jeans by updating the information they contain and offering a more in-depth analysis of the topic.

3. Consistently produce high-quality content.
This is a no-brainer. Since Google is becoming more adept at identifying low-quality content and is penalizing more and more sites with what they deem as low-quality content, it’s essential for you to post only high-quality content on your site. But, what constitutes high-quality content? What should you do to make sure the quality of your content is always top-notch? Here are some tips:

Go Long-form. Choose a topic you know your target audience will find highly interesting. Identify the most interesting aspects of the said topic. Create a piece of content that covers all the aspects you identified and contains at least 1000 words. Targeting long-tail keywords is now a much better strategy for ranking high on search results pages than focusing on 1- or 2-word keywords.

Get experts to write for you. When the writer is obviously an expert in the topic being covered, the content is more likely to be deemed of high quality. This is especially true of content that covers such topics as healthcare or personal finance. If you can provide on-page proof of the author’s expertise, that would be even better. You may then just have an editor polish the content by correcting grammatical and syntax errors. What’s important is for the author to know exactly what he or she is talking about.

Go social. By now you should know that high SERP rankings and strong social signals are directly related. SEO professionals may not have identified exactly where and how the two are related, but most experts agree that social signals such as likes and shares can have a direct effect on rankings. Therefore, it wouldn’t hurt for you to place social share buttons conspicuously on your site and promote your content on various social channels.

Cite expert sources. As mentioned earlier, Google places a huge value on trustworthiness when it comes to determining site quality. One of the things that improve your trust rating is the existence of expert sources for your content. When your content is written by experts and the information you provide comes from industry experts, you will be deemed more credible and therefore more trustworthy.

Pay attention to details. The devil is in the details. You may have heard that line before, but perhaps you didn’t completely understand what it means. Well, that line is definitely true in the case of content marketing and SEO. Note that Google now places significant value on supplementary content. Therefore, even if you’re simply writing footer info, you still need to ensure quality. You should also be sure to prominently display such details as contact info and customer service info.

4. Encourage your online audience to post reviews on your website, on Google+, on Yelp, and other review sites.
Other than trustworthiness, Google also places a huge value on brand reputation to determine site quality. Wherever possible, encourage your customers and social media followers to leave positive reviews on review sites, particularly on Google+ (it is, after all, a Google site) and Yelp (it is perhaps the most popular review site currently available).

With a strongly positive online reputation, you’ll be more likely to get high SERP rankings. And though it is possible to still get high rankings without a strongly positive brand reputation, you can definitely kiss your hopes for high rankings goodbye if your brand develops a negative reputation. This is why it is important to encourage customers to post positive reviews whenever you get the chance.

5. Ensure a user-friendly site design.
High-quality content isn’t the only thing Google has set its sights on when rankings websites. It has also placed a strong emphasis on user-friendliness in terms of website design. This means every single page on your website should have a functional design that makes it easy for visitors to focus on the page’s main content. At the same time, it should be easy for site visitors to use supplementary content.

If you saw a marked improvement in your rankings following the roll-out of Panda 4.1, congratulations! You must be doing something right. If you haven’t seen any changes (positive or negative), then you should be thankful you weren’t hit. At the same time, you should start making adjustments to as to improve your rankings.

If you were unfortunate enough to get hit by the latest update then you should definitely do something about it NOW. Remember that it can take a while for your website to recover, so the earlier you start making the necessary adjustments, the better.

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