Nearly all consumers (97 percent) now research products or services online before making a purchase, according to a study by BIA/Kelsey. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of enhancing website content to maximize its ranking potential on organic (free) search engine results pages (SERPs).
Search engines award high rankings to websites with high-quality content and high credibility while “de-ranking” or “de-listing” websites with low quality content or low credibility. Panda, Google’s latest algorithm update, aims to do just that. Over 12% of all U.S. websites have already been affected, sending shockwaves through the industry.
While Panda’s aim is to take down content aggregator/spam sites, link farms and websites with poorly written content or low credibility, many legitimate, high-quality websites have unfortunately also reported being adversely affected. Many websites have been severely “de-ranked” and even “de-listed” altogether.
To make matters worse, many smaller businesses and brands that aren’t aware of the Panda update may suddenly find themselves suffering from lower website traffic. If your website is hit by Panda, your organic traffic could literally get cut in half overnight, or worse!
What makes your website vulnerable to the Panda attack?
Although Google keeps complete details of its algorithm a secret, the two Google engineers heading the Panda program, Matt Cutts and Amit Singhal, gave strong clues in their March 3, 2011 interview with Wired.
Panda attacks websites or web page considered “low-quality” i.e. websites with low quality content or a high percentage of duplicate content, low amount of original content, high bounce rates, low visit times, low percentage of visitors return rates, low quality of inbound links and other factors.
How to know if your website has been hit by Panda or is vulnerable to an attack
The best way to tell if your website has been hit by Panda is to conduct a deep analysis of your website analytics. If your overall website traffic has declined, especially from organic search engine results pages (SERPs), it’s time to take a deeper look and prepare to make some changes.
• Look at the overall number or unique website visitors.
• What is your overall website bounce rate?
• What’s the average time visitors stay on your website before leaving?
• Do all of your web pages have proper titles and descriptions – do they match your website content?
• Does your website contain high-quality inbound links?
• Is your website properly connected to your social media networks?
• Are your social media networks properly integrated into your website?
What to do if your website has been hit by Panda
If you feel Google may label your website “low quality” or “low credibility”, it’s time to make some changes – fast. After all, Google is the #1 used search engine in the world. If you rely on your website to generate sales or leads, a low ranking or a de-listing could be devastating and difficult to recover from. Here are the top steps to take right away:
1. Review your site content. Make sure each webpage is labeled with appropriate page titles, descriptions and key words. The name of the webpage in the URL should also be consistent with the page content.
2. Link only to credible, high-quality websites and review the websites linking to you. Request that any low-quality websites remove links to yours. Focus on cultivating backlinks only from high-quality websites.
3. Create high-quality, original content that captivates readers and keeps them on your website. Lower website bounce rates and higher visit times help increase your website quality score.
4. If you haven’t done so already, set up a blog within your website. It’s a great way to continually add original content and keep your website fresh. Be sure to integrate your blog content with your social media network profiles. Both Google and Bing have recently confirmed that search engine results are now connected to user ratings, recommendations and interactions.
If your business or brand lacks the internal resources or expertise to properly search engine optimize your website, develop quality content or integrate social media, consider consulting an expert or aligning yourself with a specialized agency. As digital marketing continues to evolve and become increasingly complex, it’s no longer a task that can be assigned to an intern or something you try at home.