If you haven’t read the latest Google news, Matt Cutts announced that the web spam team is working on a new “softer” version of the Google Panda algorithm. The news comes after small businesses have struggled for years over major search engine changes since 2011. A softer algorithm change sounds great to most online business owners, but what does it mean for you?
Panda: The Poor Content Algorithm
Google names its large algorithm changes after animals, and the change that shifted most of the search engine results was Panda. Panda goes after low-quality sites, which means any keyword-stuffed, machine-generated or poorly written content is its target. Other factors affect your rank, but Panda is designed to target low-quality content.
How Google can identify poor quality content is in its secret sauce, but you can generally identify content that isn’t written for users. Machine-generated content and content that focuses too much on keywords are two big Panda issues. Content that isn’t written for users provides a poor experience for users, which is why Google wants to keep this content out of its search engine results. When you write your content, the target should be readers and not search engines.
What You Can Do to Take Advantage of the Softer Panda
The first step is to check your content. You especially want to check any user-generated content. User-generated content is typically low quality spam that’s generated for backlinks. You also want to check pages with several user-generated comments. While a few spam comments won’t affect your rank, pages with dozens of spam comments with backlinks to shady sites can affect your website results.
Check for any duplicate content. Press releases are sometimes relevant to your site, but they are distributed to hundreds of other sites. If your site is comprised of too much duplicate content, it can affect your rank.
You don’t need to delete content from your site if you think it’s useful to users. You can use the “noindex” meta tag at the top of your pages to keep the content but remove it from search engines. You place the “noindex” meta tag in the “head” section of your HTML using the following syntax:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, nofollow” />
Notice the “nofollow” part of the statement. The “nofollow” directive tells Google not to pass PageRank from any of the links on the page. Even if your page isn’t indexed, Google will still crawl it and check for links. A page that isn’t in the search results will still pass PageRank if you don’t include “nofollow” in your meta tags. The “nofollow” directive is beneficial if you think outgoing links are affecting your rank.
While no one can guarantee your search engine rank, reviewing your content and placing “noindex” on low quality pages can help improve your search engine results. With the softer Panda in-the-works, you should be proactive with your current content to take advantage when Google runs the updated algorithm.