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Panda-Proofing Your Content in 2014 (& Increasing Google Traffic to Your Blog)

google traffic

Image Credit: SearchMetrics

As an online marketer or business owner, you know that traffic, leads and sales are the bloodline of your business.

Am I right?

Your sales come from the traffic coming to your pages. And there isn’t a better, higher-converting cold traffic source than Google traffic.

This post is going to give you some recommendations for getting more Google traffic. With just a few tweaks and some re-energized focus, you can significantly grow your Google traffic, and provide a long-term boost to your online business.

Google continues to adjust their algorithm by releasing updates (like Panda) that affect the way bloggers and webmasters should conduct their content strategy. It can really mean the difference of doubling or tripling your organic traffic, so it’s worth “playing into their algorithm”.

The latest major update was Panda 4.0, which began rolling out in May 2014. This major algorithm change may have already had a noticeable impact on your blog traffic. Even if you are not noticing the effects of Panda 4.0, you need to take action now to protect yourself against future Panda updates, which roll out approximately once per month.

What is Panda 4.0?

Short version: Panda 4.0 attacked content that was thin, un-original and aggregated from other sources.

The purpose of all the Google Panda updates is to promote sites that contain high-quality content, and push those that have low-quality content down in the search engine results pages. The better the content, the better chance your website has of attracting Google traffic. But what do “high-quality” and “low-quality” mean in this context?

After looking at the sites that were most affected by Panda 4.0, I identified the recurring mistakes that triggered these sites to lose organic traffic:

Thin Content

Pages that contain very little content have been blasted by this latest iteration of Panda. For example, eBay.com and Ask.com suffered major traffic drops following the release of Panda 4.0. Search Engine Journal suggests that the reason for the drop could be that these sites contain many pages with very few words.

Aggregated Content

Many of the biggest Panda losers previously thrived by compiling content from other sites. Reproducing content that was first published elsewhere on the web is a very risky SEO strategy, as Panda strongly prefers original content.

Also, the days of using keywords a certain number of times in your content are done. Instead of optimizing for keywords and SEO, get traction for your content by putting out great content and using social and online PR strategies that will attract higher quality exposure. History.com is an authoritative website that appeared to be hit by Google because of aggregated content. Even though the content was legit and thorough, the content was not completely original.

Duplicate Content

Not only is copying content from other sites a problem as far as Panda is concerned, but duplicating content between pages of your own site can also be an issue. Many sites that were reproducing a standard boilerplate text on many different pages suffered under Panda. For example, creating dozens of pages targeting different locations makes a site a target for a Panda punch-down, unless the content on each page is highly unique. Also, large e-commerce sites (like Overstock.com) that have duplicate category pages have had issues with Panda in the past.

How to Panda-Proof Your Blog

To protect your blog’s Google traffic against either Panda 4.0 or future Panda updates, you need to pay attention to the following key principles:

Avoid Thin Content

There is no absolute minimum number of words that a post needs to have, but if your blog consists primarily of very short entries, your search rankings are likely to suffer. Make a vow to write some longer posts. But, before you put fingers to keyboard, make sure you have something valuable to say!

This simple review page by Multiple Streams turned into a community (80+ comments) because of the thorough, in-depth content that sparked discussion and shared knowledge. The page gets several hundred hits a day and ranks well for the intended keywords.

Be Original

Originality is key when it comes to getting out from under the Panda’s paw. If you have fallen into a habit of copying and pasting content from other blogs and simply adding your own comments between the copied paragraphs, then it is time for a new approach. Copying word-for-word, even with attribution, will not do you any SEO favors at all. If there is content on high-quality sites that you want to reference, include a link to it instead. Linking to high-quality sites is fine and natural – as long as the link placement is relevant.

Be Specific

Thin content doesn’t always refer to content that is very short. It is possible to write long articles that are still very thin. One mistake that many bloggers make is to try to target too many keywords in each post, with the result that none of the keywords are well targeted. Instead, try creating content that addresses a specific search query. “How to” posts are very useful for targeting specific long-tail keywords, but don’t make the mistake of wandering off the topic in an attempt to cram in a bunch of other keywords at the same time. Stay focused.

Be Patient

Every month (sometimes, even several times a month), Google refreshes the Panda algorithm, which means that it takes a fresh look at each site and re-ranks its quality according to Panda’s criteria. Once you have made changes to your content, you might have to wait for a while for your rankings and your traffic statistics to recover. Do not make changes and expect to see next-day reactions from Google.

Your Challenge

Always remember, traffic is the bloodline of your online business. So, if you can increase your organic traffic 10% or 20%, your sales will likely follow.

Your challenge is to, at minimum, start writing your own, original content that is not aggregated from other sources. Provide thorough, expert-level content that can’t be faked or imitated. As up-and-coming bloggers, we can out rank big-name brands on the web by providing expert level and genuine content.

By following this counsel, your content will appear more often in Google search results and deliver more traffic to your site.

And remember, more traffic equals more sales.

What are your biggest challenges with Panda 4.0?  Or with getting more Google traffic in general? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

About Jeremy Page

Jeremy Page is a digital entrepreneur and strategist for Top Ten Review's online marketing services department. Connect with him on Twitter and Authority.org.

16 comments

  1. Hi, Jeremy.

    You mentioned that

    ” Reproducing content that was first published elsewhere on the web is a very risky SEO strategy, as Panda strongly prefers original content. ”

    I was wondering if you could clarify if bloggers should allow guest authors to re-post their content on platforms like Medium. Can the host blog be punished for posting unoriginal content? Even though it appeared there first? I guess my main concern here is that Medium is much more authoritative, compared to my blog and I fear that it may prevail in search results.

    Immediate follow-up question: how powerful is the “First appeared on …” line? Is it ok to allow re-post on Medium if this line is included?

    1. Jurij ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Great question.

      I’ve heard that waiting at least 30 days before pushing your own original content is a good idea.

      Also, make sure you clearly put (First seen on: youroriginalsite.com) if you do publish it on other platforms such as Medium, Storify, Patch, etc.

  2. Razwana ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Whilst organic traffic from Google is great, it’s because the algorithms keep changing that’s the very reason why I don’t rely on it for traffic. I do create a variety of content, but for my audience alone. I rely on other methods to get traffic to my site – SEO just seems like swimming upstream.

    Thoughts?

    1. Jeremy Page ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Not swimming upstream if you put out baller content, like Ryan (next comment above) outlines.

      Find your voice, and spend more time on your posts to make them more thorough and comprehensive.

      Google will always love that.

  3. Hi Jeremy,

    I went SUPER in depth on my new blog, from pages, to posts. Any piece needs to be thorough to Google proof myself.

    Over deliver. Think this way; when we search for answers on Google virtually all people I know enjoy finding a massive resource. In doing so you can sift through and get your answer or you can dig in and really sink your teeth into in depth information.

    I go above and beyond each post, and I create all of my content, telling my story. Nobody can re-create my voice, or can take my travel photos, and nobody I know is blogging from paradise, specifically. Since that’s the case I’ll play my angle/brand to the hilt.

    Be patient. I dig each tip above, this one really vibes with me. To grab Google’s eye, create 2 to 3 really in depth, exceptional posts weekly. In time, you’ll rank well no matter what changes Google makes, because serious value is rewarded in the long run.

    Thanks Jeremy. Tweeting in a bit.

    Ryan

  4. Mark Chase says:

    Hi Jeremy,
    I have received some requests to link to posts outside of my site. Do you see any issues providing a link directly to a blog post on another site vs allowing a guest post on my site? Also, I have a library page with links to my cornerstone content from my blog. Any issues linking internally back to your own posts?

    Thanks

    Mark

    1. Jeremy Page ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Nope, both of those practices are fine…there should be no concern there. However, only link to these outside links if they provide value to reader.

  5. Marcy McKay says:

    Hey Jeremy – well, you’ve reassured me that it’s worth all the blood, sweat and tears that I’m doing in trying to crank out original content. You give great suggestions and advice. Thanks.

    1. Jeremy Page ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Yep, Marcy. At the end of the day, it’s more about blogging quality, and less about blogging frequency. Panda will like you more 🙂

  6. Kathy G Lynch says:

    My take on what Panda expects is when creating content, your FOCUS should be on Fabulous Original Content U (you) Share.

  7. Daryl says:

    Great post Jeremy! Personally I’d say that another extremely important way to increase your Google rankings and traffic is to have social interaction, particularly comments. I noticed a huge difference in one of my personal blog posts, where my page moved from being ranked on page 5 for a particular search term to being moved to the #1 listing after I received 3-4 genuine comments and a few social shares. Having genuine persons comment and share your content is a great way to show Google that people actually like what you’re posting, and also encourages them to rank it higher because it’s obviously content that people love!

    1. Jeremy Page ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Yep. Rand Fishkin showed a similar example at Mozcon. He tweeted a link out and saw that (because of the hundreds of clicks it got) that the page ranked a few hours after…interesting stuff, there.

  8. lita.doolan says:

    This is a powerful update. Thank you for the heads up! It’s heartening to read that the solo blogger can outshine bigger blogs by shooting for original content. Our own stories will become more valuable because of this.

    1. Jeremy Page ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Absolutely, Google surprised me there. Good to see them show more love for the little guy.

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