Google Panda Update Slams Content Farms

Whether you call it “Panda,” as Google prefers, or “Farmer,” as the media labeled it, one thing is certain: the search engine’s latest update sent shock waves through the Internet. Many sites lost their positions in the SERPs, while others were apparently unaffected. How can you maintain or regain your standing?

Before you can figure out what you need to change, it’s worth looking at what got devalued. There seems to be a consensus emerging. If a site’s pages are thin on content, or have a poor ad-to-content ratio, or contain content that has been copied from elsewhere, chances are they lost some Google love. So what is Google looking to reward?

Aaron Wall came up with a list of defining characteristics for “useful” content. These include the ability to pass a human inspection; not being a copy of another document, or ad-heavy; being well-linked externally; being created by a brand with a distribution channel that goes beyond the search engines; and not having “a 100% bounce rate followed by a click on a different search result for that same search query.” But how, exactly, has this change to the algorithm taught Google’s search engine to figure out whether the web pages it analyzes could pass a human inspection? That’s just one of many questions that Wall’s suggested criteria raises.

Nevertheless, there are certain things you can do if the Panda Farmer took a swipe at your rankings. Start by looking at your ad-to-content ratio. If your site seems to be ad-heavy, you may be able to improve your rankings by reducing the number of ads you run on your pages, or beefing up your site’s content. Feel free to do both in combination.

Vanessa Fox, writing for Search Engine Land, pointed out a telling quote from Google: “In addition, it’s important for webmasters to know that low quality content on part of a site can impact a site’s ranking as a whole…Removing low quality pages or moving them to a different domain could help your rankings for the higher quality content.”

The third thing you can do to help boost your website, according to Scott, is get involved in social media. This way, you’re interacting with customers and potential customers outside of search. That’s a good idea regardless of whether your rankings fell with the Panda Farmer update. With Facebook alone accounting for one out of every ten page views in the US, social networking and social media is one part of the Internet that is here to stay.

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