According to Moz, the last Panda update (4.1) was launched in 23 September, 2014. As of today’s writing that’s 261 days, or 37.29 weeks since we’ve had a reported Panda update.
Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends Analyst @ Google Zurich, announced at SMX Advanced that the next Panda update would happen in the next 2-4 weeks. If you’ve been tracking your keywords, you may have noticed a recent fluctuation in rankings, on or around the 6th of June.
Based on the websites we’ve been tracking through our innovation projects we’ve surmised the following insights:
- The latest change affected a large amount of websites and was not industry specific or discriminatory towards specific niches
- Keywords that saw positive movement generally had good quality content on a page targeted specifically to that keyword.
- Keywords that saw negative movement were either loosely or not at all targeted on a page.
Was this the start of the Panda update? Google have been known to test updates prior to their full launch and the last Penguin update had at least three rollbacks after its initial launch in late November. It is too early to say, but given the fact that the symptoms of increases and decreases are very much Panda related, and the next Panda update is days away, I’d be strongly inclined to say yes, this is Panda related.
If I’m right, this gives us an idea of what we can expect from the next instalment of the Panda algorithm; a tightening of content-based rankings, putting the best on the top and the lacking to the back.
TL;DR: Blog Summary
- Investigate Internal Duplicate Content with Siteliner
- Investigate External Duplicate content with CopyScape
- Add more content to pages that have >30% duplication
- Combine similar content as part of an Evergreen content strategy
- Minimise Thin Content by combining pages
- Noindex thin/duplicate pages, like Blog categories, tags or page2/3/4
Preparing for Panda 5.0
In anticipation of the Panda 5.0, I’ve put together a few SEO tips that will allow you to get on top of your duplicate and thin content issues so your site doesn’t get turned into bamboo over the next few weeks!
1. Identify Internal/External Duplicate Content
One of the biggest triggers for Panda penalties is duplicate content. Use Siteliner to identify internal duplicate content on your site.
Siteliner is the internal duplicate content analysis tool, a version made by CopyScape which detects external duplicate content (don’t forget to check this as well!).
Simply enter your URL (we’re using ebay in this example) and press Go.
Siteliner will crawl 250 pages on your website without needing to sign up or pay. Once you’ve completed your report, click on ‘duplicate content’ from the sidebar menu to get your duplicate content report.
Now you’ll see all the pages that have been scanned within the free version that have duplicate content. Click ‘match percentage’ and this will sorts by highest match percentage. My rule of thumb is anything >= 30% needs attention.
2. Classifying your Duplicate Content Issues
From here you should copy and paste all pages that have a match percentage >= 30% into an excel spreadsheet for analysis.
Things to consider when evaluating URLs:
- How much traffic does this page receive?
- Is this page’s content unique and valuable to visitors?
- Are the author/category/tag/page2 pages necessary on my blog?
- Is my e-commerce CMS dynamically generating duplicate content?
- Can I combine similar pages that are duplicates into a single page that gives my visitors more value?
3. Taking Action to Cleanse your site before Panda 5.0
There are a number of resolutions available for duplicate content:
1. Write more content to bring content into acceptable level of duplication
If you’ve got pages that are at 40% duplication, you could simply write more content to shift the ratio of unique-to-duplicate content out to an acceptable level. The easiest way to do this is to write a few hundred words on what your product or service is, why it’s important to your customers’ lives and how your service can benefit them. If you do this for each of your duplicate pages you should be out of the red, while simultaneously adding value to your existing content!
2. Combine similar content into a single page
It’s sometimes the case that duplicate content can arise from replicating information, such as USPs or product and service information across multiple pages.
In this case, you could combine these pages into a single page and use the above strategy to add additional, valuable content (evergreen strategy).
3. Remove pages from Google’s index
Problem pages are everywhere, and that’s why Panda was created; to clean up the mess! If you’ve got dynamically generated duplicates from your CMS, author/category/tag/page2 pages on your blog that don’t get any traffic, or any other pages you don’t see value in, you should consider removing them from Google’s index.
You can do this by 301 redirecting duplicate to original pages, adding them to your robots.txt file or adding the following code to the head section of the page:
<META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX, FOLLOW”>
If you’ve got WordPress SEO by Yoast, you can go to the page and select Advanced > Meta Robots Index and select noindex from the dropdown box.
Note: ALWAYS open Google Analytics and assess the traffic these pages receive before noindexing them! When you noindex a page, you’ll likely lose all organic traffic to that page. I can’t stress this enough!
Don’t Forget About Thin Content!
Thin content was a big focus on Panda 4.1 and targets low quality pages. Here’s a video from Matt Cutts that explains why thin content is bad for SEO!
Thin content can be summarised as pages that contain:
- less than 125 words of content
- no images or video content
- only a list of external links
- a high ad-to-text ratio.
If you’ve got pages that meet any of the above criteria, these will need to be subjected to the above mentioned process. Make sure these pages have an absolute minimum of 125 words, contain 1-2 images and aren’t heavily spammed with banner ads or external links. Pages that are the worst offenders are testimonials, author/tag/category, product page descriptions and links pages.