By Attorney Michael P. Ehline, Esq. - The Google search algorithm has seen many updates, and once in a while webmasters find it creates a situation, where they have no choice, but to make some major changes in SEO strategies to keep their site ranking. While some changes have had a big impact, the most recent Panda update is one that cannot be ignored, and you cannot pretend that you are not affected.
Understanding Panda For Attorneys
First of all, Panda is not just a search algorithm update, like the many that have been seen over the years. There are some special things about Panda, one of which is that it uses human reviewers to rate websites. Not all of the sites are rated by humans, but a sampling of sites is evaluated by humans and once a pattern in reviewing is noticed, then it is continued by machines. Supposedly the job the machines are doing is using the same criteria as humans. What this means, is if you have made the mistake of optimizing your website for bots, you are going to get smacked down.
The aim of Panda is to improve the quality of search results, by removing low quality, and spammy sites from the first positions in the search results. The first sites that fell victim to this were the sites referred to as content mills, but then with the later updates, it hit many other types of sites too. These sites had something in common, what they had was lots of useless content, which was being used to artificially push the site to the top of the results page. There were many websites that did not consider themselves to be content mills were hit hard, because they exhibited similarities to the so called content farms, if you have been already hit, or fear that you could be the next victim of the updates, there are some tips on how to get your site back on the right track, or to avoid being next on the list.
Taking any step to remove low quality content, will be helpful in dealing with panda, but there are some particularly helpful steps.
Clean your entire website! Panda works as a site-wide penalty, which means if you have some really great pages, but have others that are only so-so, your whole site will suffer, including the really good pages. The solution is to either remove or fix the low quality pages and then wait for the crawlers to come back. I recently pulled off a lot of thin pages from my site, only to do improper 301 redirects, so any benefit I may have received was probably eaten up by the sudden loss of thousands of backlinks. Finally fixed the 404 errors. So we shall see.
Bottom line is that less is more. Pull off garbage and redundant pages. Look at the sites beating you. They probably, with few exceptions, have very few pages, in comparison to your mega site.
Stop Using Multiple Pages with the Same Keyword
One of the main reasons that content mills were hit hard by Panda is because they had many pages, in some cases thousands of pages using the same keyword. Having multiple authors, and giving them freedom to choose what they will write about, then the end result will be having multiple pages that use the same beneficial keywords. Content mills are not the only place that has hundreds of pages like “the benefits of acai berry” or “ten tips for getting an ex back” or other titles. When you have a website with multiple pages that you have targeting the same keyword, it is pulling you down, it is time to get rid of them, now, don’t wait, do it now.
This can cause a lot of consternation with someone like me, who is a personal injury attorney in multiple cities like Long Beach, Laguna Beach, and Los Angeles. I want a car accident page for each city. What I am seeing is that my site does fine for searches like “Los Angeles personal injury attorney”, but that it appears Panda is pulling me down for national terms, since I have a personal injury page for each city using the same types of keywords, even though each inner child page is unique. I am interested to hear what AJ Kohn has to say about this.
Pages with 1 or 2 Paragraphs—is a No Go
In the past many webmasters began populating their websites with short pages, because they are easier and faster to create, plus they increase the number of pages on the site. The rules have changed and by using pages with only one or two paragraphs of text, you can damage your search rankings. The solution to this is either add more text to the existing pages or remove them. There are only these two choices, in this situation. So if your one of those lawyers who likes to do news rewrites, you better remove those pages, or make into editorials or something.
New Content—Panda Likes It
Search engines have always liked websites that have new content, but with Panda it is crucial to have new content. News can be included in this, but it is recently updated pages that get the most attention. Approximately 35 percent of searches are going to be affected by this, because the search results are giving preference to current pages. This is not to say, turning your website into a news outlet is going to drastically change things, but updating content on the site frequently will help.
Duplicate Content—Decrease it
All content on a page is included in this, even posts. Using the same template for all of the pages on a website can mean having a lot of duplicate template content. What this means is the same text blocks and links used on each page. You need to review the blocks that are repeated on each page and only keep the most essential ones. Always embed your authorship snippet into your posts so Google sees it you came first in time, making your first in right. To learn more about DMCA takedowns, click here.
Scraped Content—Forget it
Scraped content is just as bad as duplicate content, with Panda. Using spun content articles, will cause serious harm to your website. The two schools of thought on this are if you have an article website, you have the ability in rewording your content. If you have a shopping site, it is going to be a little more difficult, because you need to remain factual, but the way to reword short descriptions is limited. The only thing that you can do is to make the description as original as possible, while remaining factual.
Low Quality Site and Article Directories Duplicate Anchor Text and Links
Everyone knows that backlinks are important, but you also need to know it is only quality backlinks that make a difference. Panda penalized websites that had a ton of backlinks from content sites and article directories, as it determined these were sites of low quality. In the event that the anchor text of your backlinks is always the same, plus has a keyword in it, then it makes it even more suspicious that it was not created naturally. This makes it essential to use multiple variations of your keywords or to be even safer, use multiple keywords, as the anchor text of backlinks. An example of this is if the articles are “benefits of acai berry”, then you could also use “acai berry the healthy fruit”, “the vitamin rich acai berry”, and other titles like this.
Bad Internal Linking Structure
Both humans and bots like clean navigation structures and with Panda, it is even so much more important. Checking your internal links and ensuring you streamline your navigation, it will make a difference. If you do not want to be on the outs, then you need to make your site clean and Panda compliant. This is the only way that you will be able to get your website back to the top of the search results. The Panda update caused a lot of commotion, and for sites that got hit, changes had to be made, but were welcome ones, since there was tons of search spam. It had to happen and it did. Use more click here’s and “learn more” links when linking internally and scrap exact match money anchors.
Outbound Links with Money Keywords—Have too Many?
When you have too many outbound links, it is bad, but if they are keywords like anchor text it is really bad. It is assumed that these links are a link exchange, which means they are not natural. This can be a big problem, if you have guest posts, since the poster will usually include keywords in their byline and links. Make the anchor text of your outbound links varied and also limit the keyword that is in the anchors as much as possible. Since a link is a vote, the voter should be editing the article, or story and deciding what the link should say (click here, view website, Ehline Law Firm PC Home page, etc.)
Autogenerated Content and Roundup Comparison Pages—Make Them Gone
Autogenerated pages are extremely unpopular now, because they have absolutely nothing to do with quality. The roundup comparison type pages will also hurt your site, since they do not have any original content to speak of in them. Panda hit many of the shopping sites, who had comparison pages, which are numerous and the main factor in getting hit. It is not possible to et rid of all of the comparison pages, if you run a shopping website, but you can add original content to them, which will increase the chances of getting rankings back.
Affiliate Links and Ads—Use Extreme Caution
Having a lot of outbound links is bad, which is common knowledge, but what is even worse, is having a bunch of affiliate links on a webpage, and if you have to many of them you will be slapped by Panda. You either need to be cautious in placing affiliate links or cut down the number of them on your page. When possible it is even better, if you make them nofollow. Of course, if you are voting for a fellow member of the Circle of Legal Trust, you would want to let the link juice flow. Just vote for someone you trust, and no follow everything else. One example would be to consider writing an article about the jurisdictional differences in different states, and cite to a great article on a trusted friend’s site, as a source for your section on California, if your in Illinois, for example.
Panda also looks at the amount of ads on a page, so for this reason, the fewer the safer you are. The way to look at this, is to keep the most profitable ads, these are the ones that are really making money and get rid of the others. As an attorney, with all that overhead, and your phone stops ringing, it can be catastrophic. Clean up your site now!
Posts by Michael Ehline
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- SEO Search Terms and the Legal Field
- Attorneys and Penguin 3.0 - Winner and Losers
- NAPIL Bites the Dust?
- Was It Panda or Was it a PBN?
- Insights into Google Quality Rater Guidelines For Legal Websites
- Google's Local Pigeon Thinks Legal Directories are "Law Firms"?
- Politically Appointed Donors & Courts Move to Erode Net Neutrality
- Circle of Legal Trust Inundated With Membership Requests Post Panda 4
- New California Rules Codify Politeness