Last February’s first Panda Update was a devastating time for websites that were almost totally reliant on search traffic.  An algorithm update, called Panda, caused many site’s rankings to suddenly drop which reduced the amount of traffic coming to that site. The update was primarily focused on content farms, however, it also effected many other sites as well.

The goal of Panda’s future updates is to continue to filter out low-quality sites from it’s search results. Many SEO’s, including myself, are paying very close attention to Panda.  Here are a few ways to protect yourself from future Panda updates.

Fewer Ads

We’ve all seen them.  Websites littered with Google Adwords.

Panda is looking for websites that are clearly devoted to advertisements.  If you think your site has too many ads consider removing some of them.  If you are not sure if you have too many ads ask someone from your target audience if your ads get in the way of your content.  I’m sure that they will be more than happy to let you know.

Longer, More Engaging, Content

350 words a page… Right?

Not so fast webby!  Users are not satisfied with content that is written for just SEO purposes.  They want engaging information complete with images, info-graphics, and videos.

When you were in school which books did you enjoy more – a dry textbook with no personality – or a book that you are interested in complete with graphics and photos?

Yep, that’s what I thought.

I recommend increasing the length of articles to 550 – 600 words, add photos from Flickr Creative Commons and videos from YouTube.  The idea here is to avoid adding just enough content to please the search engine gods. Your content should be enjoyable… just like mine.  :)

Lower Your Bounce Rate

Panda updates are looking more and more at user metrics like Time On Site and Bounce Rate.

If a site’s bounce rate is high it is a clear indicator that users are not finding or liking the information that they just found.  Panda is paying attention to this and will happily adjust your rankings accordingly – without your help or consent.

Google Analytics can tell you everything you’ll ever want to know about your site’s bounce rate. Let’s start by looking at the bounce rate of traffic coming to your site from search engines using particular keywords.

To see your website’s bounce rate, go to Traffic Sources > Sources > Search > Organic. You should see a list of keywords that visitors have typed into a search engine to find  your site. Next you’ll want to click on is the Landing Page link under the graph and above the keywords, then use the drop down for Secondary Dimension and, under Traffic Sources, select Keyword.  No sweat, right?

Now, you will have a list of your most visited pages and the keywords that brought visitors to those pages. If you look to the right, you’ll see the bounce rate in relation to those pages. You will quickly see which keywords cause the highest bounce rates and get you thinking about what you can do to optimize the page so that it will:

  • Give visitors everything they need to know about the keyword on that page.
  • Give visitors looking for that subject a reason to continue perusing your site.

It’ll take some good thinking and implementation, but once you fulfill both of these items on your top landing pages, you will start to see a lower bounce rate for your site.  This is a good sign that your visitors are getting what they want and spending more time on your site.

Less Reliance on Search Engine Traffic

This one was so simple that I laughed out loud when I thought of it.  Just like our country’s dependency’s on oil, and it’s fluctuating prices, a website that is too reliant on organic search results is vulnerable to Google’s whims.  While your site builds the trust of the search engines also spend time and energy on quality link building, networking, and local business directories.

I recommend keeping search engine traffic to 45% or below.  This way the effects of Google future Panda updates won’t have such a drastic effect on your site’s traffic.

Increase Social Engagement

With the introduction of Google +1 there is no question that Google is interested in social engagement, and that is likely to spread to their search engine results as well.

Social signals, such as tweets and Facebook likes, are already influencing search results. To get in on the action you’ll want to make sure that your site is getting its share of tweets, Facebook likes, and +1′s by the simple addition of social sharing buttons to your home page and your content. These shares and votes will essentially tell search engines that your content is so awesome that people want to share it with their network.

If you don’t have these three major buttons on your website, it’s time to go grab them. You can find them by visiting the official Tweet Button, Facebook Like Button, and Google +1 pages. Alternatively, you can use add-ons such as Add This and Share This (just to name a few) on any website to have the main three networks and more added to your site.

While we are on the subject feel free to share this article as well.  :)

Obey Webmaster Guidelines

Ever hear the saying “when all else fails read the book”? When you have a moment take a break from promoting your website and business and take a look at Google’s own Webmaster Guidelines to ensure that a future algorithm update, or random penalty, does not negatively affect your site. These include, but are not limited to, simple things like creating a sitemap to not participating in link schemes to boost your rankings.

What ideas do you have to protect your site from future Panda Updates?