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Demystifying SEO: Google Panda

In February of this year, Google released an update on their search algorithm focused on eliminating low quality sites from search results. The release is known as Panda and was named internally after one of their engineers. The good news for bloggers is this update rewards content creators who focus on creating well researched, original and useful articles.

There has been a model of content generation known as content farming. Previously sites that utilized this strategy churned out as many posts or articles as possible with little regard to the usefulness or quality of the information provided. If you’ve ever tried to research a medical condition you’ve probably run across these sites. Frequently the model is based on user generated questions followed by answers that are not vetted.

You do remember how babby is formed, right? Before Google Panda was released the sites responsible for this *ahem* high quality content would rank highly on Google’s search due in part to the keyword density of the format.

When Panda was first released, it affected approximately 12% of US searches and put a huge kink in the income stream of many sites.

The good news is smaller sites, like personally run blogs will often have an easier time recovering from a change in Google’s algorithm. If you noticed a drop in traffic in February of this year, there’s a good chance Google Panda may be at least partly responsible for this change in traffic.

To bounce back from this change, you’ll need to go through your old content, one article at a time. Look over each piece and determine if it can be improved to meet Panda’s new standards of content.

Keep an eye on your site for thin content. These would be posts or categories in which there is very little text. Some memes like Wordless Wednesday would easily fall into this category. Don’t worry, you don’t have to quit participating in the memes, you just need to take advantage of a fairly simple coding trick that tells Google’s spiders not to index those categories on your site.

Kevin from WP Recipes has the very simple code you’d add to the header of your template. You would swap out the number 8 in the example with the category ID number of whatever category you plan on excluding.  This technique can save a lot of time over individually blocking robots with a plugin like Robots Meta or by using settings in All In One SEO*, a theme already optimized for SEO like Thesis.

*I do not recommend the All In One SEO Plugin, it can cause your site to be throttled if you use a shared hosting provider. This plugin creates many calls to your server using more bandwidth than necessary. Keep this in mind before choosing to use it over a theme specifically created to meet your SEO needs.

Finally, if you choose to remove posts that don’t meet Panda’s standards, be sure to use a plugin like Broken Link Checker to ensure that you don’t leave your site full of broken internal links.

Good luck and happy traffic building.

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