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December 7, 2011

How to Become Panda Proof – Safeguard Your SEO

SEOptimization

If you’re reading this, you probably appreciate that I’m not talking about the cuddly bear type creatures, but the algorithm updates by Google that are reputedly designed to increase the quality of the sites ranking near the top of the results pages.

There have been 2 major ones this year and they have stricken fear into the hearts of Internet Marketers the world over. People have lost rankings left, right and center and there has been widespread panic.

First of all, a disclaimer. I don’t know precisely how Google works. Only Google does, and they’re not telling. My points of view, opinions and advice are based on what is currently working for me and other people in the field of SEO with whom I am in contact.

The following very simple thing has made most of my websites Panda proof.

I make good sites.

How simple is that?

Google’s mission is to give their user base the best possible experience, and that means positioning the best possible websites high on search results.

So, it makes perfect sense to create the best sites you can. What constitutes ‘best’ in Google’s eyes however might not mirror your beliefs.

As an example, I’ll compare a couple of my niche websites.

One sells fitness equipment, is monetized by Adsense and Amazon and was the very first website I made. For the sake of this explanation, this will be known as Site 1.

Site 2 is relatively recent, 8 months old and is also in the fitness niche, has Adsense and sometimes I review Amazon products, but mostly build a list and promote Clickbank products.

Site 1 is very thin. There are 10 pages, 1 a 600 word article and the others are 300 word product reviews. Up until 13th October 2011 it sported two #1 rankings, four top 5 rankings and a couple more in the top 10. I got plenty of traffic and this site made me about $200 a month. I was happy with it, it took no maintenance and it performed well month after month. It now has 3 top 10 rankings, and traffic has slumped to less than 20 UV (unique visitors) a day. Ouch! My revenue fell to about 1/8th of pre-panda.

Site 2 is the opposite of thin. 40 pages and growing by 1 or 2 a week. 1000+ word articles with pictures, photographs and videos. The sort of person that is interested in the niche covered by this site will find an absolute goldmine of information presented in a coherent, easy to use way. In fact I wouldn’t hesitate to say that it’s more valuable than the average $50 ebook on the subject. I have half a dozen #1 rankings, 5 times that in top 10 rankings and the difference that the most recent Panda update made was negligible. It may have actually improved my overall positioning.

I should have seen that coming. Had I spent 10 more minutes per page on Site 1 fleshing out the content, giving better advice and making it more valuable to buyers and information seekers I may well have been spared the drop in rankings and revenue.

It’s taught me a great lesson though, or rather confirmed that the path I’d been on for the past year is the right one. Delivering real value is appreciated by customers and Google and is one of the most important aspects of modern SEO.

Substantial Content

Now, it’s true that sometimes 300 words is enough to convey your message adequately, but most of the time that’s barely enough to get past your introduction to the subject. If your page is about “how to create a hyperlink in html” you probably don’t need to flesh it out past 300 words, but a page entitled “how to make a living with affiliate marketing” may need a great deal more information.

So, when Google is considering how to rank your 300 word article on how to reduce acne scarring don’t be surprised that they rank a 1500 word article with pictures and video, recommendations and Twitter activity, far above you.

Remember – awful content will turn customers off and your bounce rate (how many customers just click ‘back’ or close the page), will increase, which isn’t a sign of a good site or a site that should rank highly.

Spelling and Grammar

Nobody’s perfect in this area, but proof read your content and maybe get someone else to.

Keyword Stuffing

Ensuring your page has your chosen keyword 20 times isn’t important any more. In fact it might be detrimental. If your content makes no sense because you’re too busy trying to fit in your keywords, don’t be surprised if your rankings suffer.

In the title, description, URL, H1, alt tag and naturally in the flow of the content. That’s enough.

Visuals

Having a site that is just bland black on white won’t impress anybody. It’s fair enough to have the most awesome content in the world, but if your site looks like a dog’s dinner, nobody will want to read it and you’ll miss out on the SEO benefits of having pictures and video. While those benefits might not be widely advertised, it’s definitely true that pages with relevant video and pictures perform better.

Subtlety

Yeah, have a call to action. Place your foremost ads above the fold, right in the reader’s face, but don’t go overboard with ads in the sidebar, ads above the header, ads below the header, ads on the other sidebar, popups, popunders, corner peel ads, slide-in ads.

The first rule of selling is that people don’t like to feel they’re being sold to. That’s what too many ads will make people think. And Google won’t like it. Low bounce rate, little informative content, a thin affiliate site. You go down.

Go the Extra Mile

Don’t try to skimp on your sites. What so many people forget is that IM is a career. And like any other, if you go in with no real effort you are never going to be as successful as the guy who puts everything he has into his work.

This endeavor, for many of us, is how we support our families. Why would we want to do a second rate job?

And if you actually do a second rate job, don’t be surprised when you lose your rankings.

We’ll never know what Google will pull out of their hats next, but the simple truth is that they can supply us with highly qualified traffic in large amounts. If you’re into getting organic traffic, play Google’s game by their rules and you’ll be glad you did.


If this article makes no sense, please read What is SEO. If it does make sense, check out my SEO and internet marketing blog because you’ll find out much more about ranking sites and making money.

5 Responses to “How to Become Panda Proof – Safeguard Your SEO

    avatar Anonymous says:

    Nothing makes sense anymore — it has become a lottery — one week our site is #1 in search results, this week we are #7 — Could it be Google is cycling sites around in the search results to optimize their own revenue? I tried an experiment which was to “do nothing” and sat back and watched our position in the search results bounce from top spot to last spot on the first page. My conclusion, stop wasting your own time — if you have relevant content you’ll appear on the first page — beyond that, ie: targeting a specific postion on the first page is fruitless.

    I am new to the world of SEO. I have a IT consulting business, and I am trying to save money by learning and doing the SEO for my site by myself. but now I am thinking if professional are having trouble keeping up, then what chance do I have.

    avatar Chris says:

    My Jaco hotel website started cycling long before Panda. Every once and while, Google appeared to take the 7-14 place or so and bump them up a few positions for a couple days. I think google then measured whether nobounce traffic for the top positions went up or down and adjusted the results accordingly.

    Nice article, I have noticed that Google is not using exact word anchor text links as often now for on-page SERPS.

    avatar Justin says:

    Very interesting, thank you. I am going to improve my website. Keep up the good job and Happy New Year.

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