Understanding the Panda Update
There’s a lot of affiliates and webmasters out there that have got hit by the Google Panda update and aren’t sure how to fix there site.
Overall, I think I’ve worked out how Panda operates which I’ll explain below.
There’s still a lot of consternation on this subject, but personally I think Panda is 80+% all about content.
Panda targets sites that have a good proportion of weak/redundant/similar content across their site. Panda rewards sites that have lots of unique, deeply researched content that engages users.
While I previous thought Panda might be more about user-metrics, I’ve decided this is unlikely. When you consider affiliate sites or any websites in general, most of them are probably getting a bounce rate of 35-50%. I think it’s too close to call for Google to be penalizing websites with such arbitrary figures, unless of course your website is pure spam and receiving 90% click-back to Google’s search page. The same goes for metrics such as time spent on site or total page views. It’s not really giving Google that much information about your site.
The majority of gambling affiliate sites will have low metrics for these sorts of things. I’d imagine that if Panda penalized high bounce-rate sites then it would hit most affiliate sites across the board, rather than a select percentage. The typical gambling affiliate site offers reviews with a news section, that’s it. Average page views are going to range from 1.2 for a bad site to 1.5 for an OK site and 1.7 for a good site. There really isn’t much difference. Longer articles will keep users on the site longer – but then why aren’t sites with lots of short 300 word news articles like OddsChecker.com punished? This is my point, short articles would decrease time on site but that doesn’t necessarily make it poor.
Also think about your keywords – some sites are built for converting visitors and so I doubt there can be any differentiating metrics between them.
If you look at any of the success stories from forums such as Webmaster World, or even check Google’s own blog on Panda, they both proffer the same advice: remove or merge weak content to make better content, or even move your good content to a sub-domain. I doubt Google would be giving this advice if Panda was just about user-metrics, since moving content to a sub-domain or moving content around is hardly like to improve your user metrics to that extent. Instead Google would just be telling you to tailor your website around the user if it was all about user metrics.
Regardless of the above, I still think strong user metrics could be used to stop false positives, or as a smaller part of the overall ranking algorithm. I’m also pretty doubtful about social signals being related to Panda – why would Google penalize a site just because it has a lack of social activity?
What sort of Weak Content does Panda Target?
I think Panda tries to target weak/redundant/low quality content which is often repeated across your site (e.g. best poker sites, top poker sites, top 10 poker sites, top EU poker sites, best poker sites for beginners etc). While I don’t think Google can tell the difference between a 7/10 article and a 9/10 article, I do think they can assess weak and repetitive content across the board.
Remember that short articles don’t necessarily correlate with weak content. Updating your site with regular 350 word news posts should be good for your site, and feed users important information.
The difference however is that news posts tend to have long, original titles with informative content. On the other hand, if you start adding short, static pages on a generic subject such as “poker bonus” and “poker sites” then it’s much easier for Google to penalize you – especially if it’s a main part of your site that you’re linking to.
Remember that Panda was originally designed to target content-farms – websites which churned out content with little or no value. This means that you need to make your site look the opposite. Add images and videos to your posts, break up your articles and edit your structures (add paragraphs and bullet points into posts etc).
I think boiler plate content and too many repetitive CTAs or tables could really be hurting some sites which are otherwise OK.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got to say about Panda. In order to fix a site, I strongly recommend removing any weak/low quality static pages and investing in more high quality 600+ word articles.