How to Recover from a Panda or Penguin Attack

Are you a representative of one of the many companies that got body slammed by a panda? Google Panda, that is. Or maybe you were taken down by a penguin.

When these recent updates to the most famous search engine rolled out, a lot of formerly well-ranked websites got dinged in a major way. Ostensibly, Google Panda and Google Penguin were designed to deliver better search results to Google users, but the auxiliary consequence was that some businesses that were living high on the search results hog suddenly found themselves practically invisible to web searchers.

What do those businesses have in common? Company websites without the kind of high quality content that Google wants to serve up to searchers.

But Wait, My Site Has Quality Content!

Let’s stop right here because we’re sure that there are some of you out there reading this and thinking ‘but my site has plenty of quality content!’

Are you sure about that? Really sure?

What constituted quality content way back in the day has changed–especially now with the Panda update and Penguin update.

The fact is, Google has declared war on web spam and if you’re not providing Google’s users with a quality experience, good luck staying ranked.

Do keywords still matter? Sure, and that probably won’t ever change.

But stuffing your old text with a mess of keywords isn’t going to cut the mustard anymore. Your meta descriptions? Don’t delete them, but don’t rely on them to make up for the lack of well-written information on your site. H1 tags? Ditto.

That’s Great and All, But What Now?

This of course leaves us all scratching our heads and asking exactly what we’re supposed to do to stay competitive.

And that’s where the quality content comes into play.

Without it, you’re going to sink. With it, you might just stand a chance of going viral.

But we know from experience that looking objectively at one’s own content isn’t easy. If you enjoy writing, your words may feel like your babies. So here’s where we get harsh…sometimes you have to murder your textual children to get ahead. The upside to all this editing is that you get to create new babies, and we all know how fun that can be.

But What Exactly is Quality Content?

To answer your question–finally–here are some characteristics shared by all quality content:

  • There is a clear theme, which means both people and search engines can see what the page is about.
  • It is original; remember kids, plagiarism and duplication are both bad.
  • The information contained within the content actually adds value to the reader’s experience by informing, educating, or entertaining him or her.
  • It is clear, concise, and credible because the depth of the content makes it clear you’re an expert.
  • The writing is NOT stuffed with keywords.
  • It’s not just another advertising message.

And here are some examples of what quality content is not:

  • A diagram of your product specs with no explanatory text.
  • A full duplication of an article about you in the local newspaper.
  • A list of your services or service areas.
  • A random paragraph of keywords or overly-optimized rhetoric.
  • Anything you bought en masse from a content farm for one low price.
  • A sales message.
  • Spelling errors, grammar errors, etc.

Some SEO companies are decrying the Panda update and Penguin update as the end of SEO as we know it, but we think the future looks a lot less dire.

We’re not obsolete quite yet!

In my expert opinion, Google’s latest updates just represent a sea change in the world of optimization. Over-optimization, a key strategy still used by shady online marketing companies, is out.

Black hat? Forget about it.

Catering to the end user is in. From here on forward, SEO is going to be all about the user’s experience. And it all starts with that, yes, quality content we’ve been opining about for the past however many paragraphs. SEO is going to have to transform into a much more collaborative process involving talented writers and designers who are fairly compensated for their efforts.

Is Your Website Waving a Red Flag in Front of the Panda and the Penguin?

If we’ve put the fear of Google into you, good. Maybe you should be afraid. Now is the time to take a long, hard look at your company website to see if it truly meets the standards of quality content. And by that, we mean today’s standards.

Here are some first steps:

  • Kill duplicate content immediately, whether that means rewrites or nuking a page from orbit until you can make a rewrite happen.
  • Scour your pages for typos and fix them. If you’re using any black hat techniques, stop right now or suffer the consequences.
  • Ask yourself where you can start adding content–real quality content that your customers and potential clients can actually use.
  • Create a content development plan that adds pages to your site on a regular basis.
  • Hire a writer if you need to.
  • Stop assuming that the basics of old school SEO are going to cut it anymore.

We can’t say it enough… content is the new marketing. Yes, you’re spending time and money to give people something for free, but we promise that they’ll love you for it. And Google will, too.

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