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A look at how the Google Panda algorithm is affecting web sites and e-commerce stores

by Tim Rimington | July 5, 2011

The Google Panda algorithm (also referred to as “Farmer”) is already having an effect on web sites and e-commerce stores, and has now been active long enough that results and observations are coming in thick and fast. Back in March we announced via this blog what Google Panda meant to web sites and what impact it would have on a site’s Google search rankings.

So 4 months in, let’s take a look at how Google is penalising sites that feature scraped and duplicate content. Contrary to Panda’s announcement earlier this year and the publicity surrounding it, I still see long-established web sites that have chosen to ignore Panda; I guess some businesses see Panda as hyperbole. Well, hyperbole it isn’t, and the sites I view are slipping in search results. But it needn’t happen.

Google Panda is about Google positively ranking web sites that feature quality, original content. This means that web sites using content pasted from other sites (such as manufacturer web sites) are being penalised by Google, and rightfully so. Avoiding this problem is simple: replace all pasted copy you may have derived from 3rd party sources and write your own copy. This rule applies to every single page on your web site. Google will penalise site-wide if you’re focusing your attention on just a handful of quality pages such as key products or services, and ignoring remaining pages that still using duplicate or scraped content.

For some organisations this is a huge undertaking but nothing compared to the repair job required if the site eventually drops off the search results map. So consider the task of reviewing your page and store content as preventative medicine.

When creating web content it’s important to go back to square one, which is keyword research. Remember that keyword research is like “picking fights that you can win”. Avoid targeting keywords that high-street stores rank for in the first few results on Google page 1. This is especially true if the site in question is long well established. So research and research well before jumping in to site pages with a fresh pencil. New Internet users arrive online every day so there’s never going to be a shortage of new searchers and search terms.

Google is apparently taking notice of pages with lots of Facebook “likes” (although Google asserts that it doesn’t troll Facebook or Twitter). So, place the Facebook ‘Like’ button on pages to encourage user participation. Do not ignore social marketing.

Do not create “sniper” sites that reside on a new domain featuring a strongly optimised set of pages for a specific search term or phrase. Instead, increase the size of your existing, established web site and optimise the pages for the keyword featured within each. It’s much easier to get a new page ranked on an existing web site than a new page ranked on a new web site.

Remember, too, that you must optimise individual pages for specific keywords, it’s no use dropping every keyword relevant to your organisation on to every single page. If the content on a page bears little or no relevance to the META keywords and page title assigned to a page’s content, then the site as a whole will be penalised.

Your Google Panda checklist:

  • Eliminate scraped and duplicate content
  • Write original content for every single page and online store product page
  • Include media-rich content such as video
  • Build up your existing site to become larger
  • Engage users through blog comments and social media
  • Multiple pages = multiple keywords
  • Choose the right keywords and target those words relevant to the content on every single page

The checklist is small enough that it can be broken down into manageable chunks. Google have written a long guide on what they consider is important when building a "high quality" web site.

Click here to access the Google article discussing more guidance on building high-quality sites.

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