4 Tips to Protect and Build Your Ranking

Where were you in February 2011? That was the month that Google rolled out its algorithm nicknamed Panda and it was the month that many monster sites saw their rankings plummet. What about yours?

If you survived the Panda algorithm then odds are your website was brand new or…you had populated your site with quality, user friendly content. The whole purpose behind Panda is to provide a better experience for the searcher. Too many top rankings were going to sites that were keyword stuffed and consisted of low quality content that offered little or no value to the visitor. Unfortunately that process also slapped down legitimate sites with good content but who had questionable links pointing at their pages. Just as before, the Panda algorithm relies on the opinions of others to determine how useful your content is. Unlike before, Panda scrutinizes those “others” that are referring people to you through links to determine which are likely human beings making a conscious choice and which are likely to be artificial. Legitimate e-commerce sites who offer real value to consumers but who suffered up to a 60% reduction in traffic after Panda, are still struggling to rebuild their position in the SERP. Here are a few ideas that will help you hold, and improve your rankings and avoid becoming an unwilling victim of Panda and its pal, Penguin.

What the Panda Wants

  • Quality Content. The key to ranking is natural backlinking and nobody is going to backlink to you unless you have content that is worthy of referring. Make certain your pages offer value to the visitor. That means professional, well-constructed content that either informs or entertains and most importantly, delivers on the keyword phrase that it is optimized for.  In other words, if the phrase you are trying to rank for is “kitchen remodeling” make the content a “must read” piece that will inspire visitors to share it with others. Panda also likes pages that use both the h1 and h2 tags to help it scan the page. The h1 should include the targeted keyword phrase and the h2 should be relevant to the phrase.
  • Quality Backlinks. The surest way to get Panda’s attention is through backlinking. This can be a good thing or it can kill your site. What Panda wants to see are links from sites that it already considers as having “quality content.”  For example a link from authority sites like most university domains or professional associations or brand name publications is golden. Links from webmasters who have smaller sites but high quality content are also treated favorably. But links from low quality sites, like article directories, are assigned no value and will do nothing to improve your ranking in the SERP. Suspicious links, which are typically the result of buying into black hat SEO, can result in a Google slap down basically ruining your chances for traffic.
  • Penguin Peeves. Panda’s cousin, Penguin, was introduced in April of 2012 and that was bad news for over 700,000 websites that received letters from Google advising them that they were in violation of the Webmaster Guidelines. Nobody has yet figured out just how Penguin works but those sites that did take a hit had a few features in common. Almost all had used the same “anchor text” in their backlinks. In other words all of the anchor text pointing back for example said “kitchen bar stool.”  When Penguin sees 1,000 links from 1,000 different domains and the anchor text is all “kitchen bar stools” it asks itself “what are the odds of 1,000 different webmasters using the exact same anchor text to point at the site?” The odds are slim and none so Penguin assumes these links are not “natural” and penalizes the pages that they point to. In your backlinking campaign, be certain to mix up the anchor text like “best kitchen bar stools” or “kitchen bar stool” or bar stools for kitchen counters.” Include “brand links” like “Bob’s Kitchen Stools” or use generic links like “click here” and “contact us” to dilute the frequency of your targeted keyword anchor texts.
  • Avoid duplicate content. If you sell products and you are using product descriptions that come from the manufacturer then you have duplicate content. You want those descriptions to be unique. Invest the time and budget to make certain that they are and those product pages, which could be big conversion pages, will be more favorably treated in the SERP.

Remember, the objective of Panda and Penguin is to provide the most relevant return for a given search. Follow these guidelines and you’ll protect your page 1 returns and build better SERP rankings for your other keyword phrases. It takes time to do a total review of your site and backlinks. You can do it yourself or you can contact us and we’d be happy to share our recommendations with you.

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