In the fallout from Google’s late-February update (coined the “Farmer” update after the content farm sites that were largely affected, and also known as the “Panda” update after one of the Google engineers responsible for the algorithmic change), we’ve already learned a great deal about what types of sites were penalized as well as what you can do to avoid a ranking disaster and how you can reap the benefits of a competition decline.
As I mentioned in my last blog post, the sites hit hardest were those with low-quality or duplicated content. We now know, however, that even sites with a large amount of high-quality, original content can also be penalized if even one part of the site matches up with the items on Google’s hit list. Your best bet is to check all pages in your site, and if needed, update your content, remove low-quality pages, or move them to another domain.
If your site is holding steady, there are a few things you can do to ensure you are positioned to fill the ranking voids left in the update’s wake. First, narrow your focus on your specialty or niche, and create content that adds value rather than keyword-loading, as many of the “content farms” did. Do keep the long-tail keywords associated with your content in mind, however, as these can further increase value. To find out what some of those terms might be, type “your industry” + how/what/who, etc. into Google Instant to see what people are searching for. Other tools, such as Google Trends or Google Insights for Search, can show you how people are searching and what terms are most popular.
Another major focus area is inbound links. If Google’s algorithm is focusing on awarding high-quality sites, then the amount and quality of inbound links will play a significant role in determining how many people think your site is relevant and useful.
Finally, pay close attention to your site’s user experience. The appearance, navigability, spelling and grammar, and low amount of ads above the fold will all help your site to fare better after this update.
If you are unsure whether or not your site has been negatively affected, your best bet is to check your analytics data. If your traffic dropped significantly, and you previously had high bounce rates, it is likely Google saw your site as “low quality”. Your best bet is to make some of the changes mentioned above and wait for Google to re-index your site.
As many other bloggers have noted, this update is further proof of the value of using an SEO agency that can ensure your site is utilizing SEO best practices; many of those not using these practices were an unfortunate part of this update’s collateral damage.
Contributed by Amanda Finch, VP Operations