If your web site’s traffic from Google dropped off dramatically sometime since February of 2011, the site was probably filtered out by Google’s Panda update.
The Panda Update was not one update, but rather was a series of ranking algorithm updates that were launched during 2011. The targets for Panda are sites with low-quality content, and in particular, duplicate content and spun content. Spinning content is a process where several words are changed within text to make it appear to be unique. Prior to Panda, web site owners could make a few minor word changes to the content on a web page and it was likely to escape Google’s duplicate content filters. That no longer works.
If your web site recently dropped out of Google’s organic search results, take a look at the uniqueness of your content and start re-writing any pages that are not unique.
Which Sites Were Hit the Hardest by Panda?
The sites that were most likely to get hit are sutoblogs and sites using syndicated content, spun content, product data feeds (affiliate marketing sites) and e-commerce sites using manufacturers’ product information.
Autoblogs are sites that automatically populate themselves with content from other web sites. The site owners may or may not have permission to use this content, but even when they do have permission, such as the use of syndicated articles from news sites, they will still get filtered out by Panda. Google doesn’t want to see 10 web pages with the same article show up in their search results.
Spun content is mostly the same as the original article, but a few words have been changed to make the content look unique. That no longer works unless the content is substantially rewritten to make almost every sentence unique.
Product data feeds are a source of product information provided to affiliate marketers. The affiliate marketers use a data feed to create web sites that promote the merchants’ products. When a user clicks on a link in the affiliate’s site and buys something from the merchant’s site, the affiliate receives a commission. Data feeds are no longer a source of good product information because thousands of affiliates receive the same product descriptions and information via data feeds.
Many but not all e-commerce sites were hit hard by Panda. The sites that did get hit are the ones that use product information supplied by product manufacturers or distributors. In some cases, the manufacturers’ site were hit because they allow their resellers to use the same product information that appears on their sites. There worst case scenarios that we have seen are when manufacturers and merchants allow duplicates of their product information to be posted on Amazon.com. Very few web sites can compete with Amazon. The Amazon product page will almost always be viewed as the original and your web page as the duplicate. Allowing the unique product descriptions from your site to be posted on Amazon is the proverbial “kiss of death” for the content on your site.
How to Check to See if Your Content is Unique
It is fairly easy to check to see if your content is unique.
Test 1: Use a content monitoring service such as Copyscape to check to see if content is unique. Copyscape analyzes web pages using multiple factors extracted from the content on a page to determine if another article is substantially similar. Google is believed to use a similar method to determine the uniqueness of a page’s content.
Test 2: Simply take a sentence that looks very unique from one of your web pages, plug the sentence into a Google search box, surround the text with double quotes and view the results. The search is called a phrase match and the results will display all of the pages in Google’s index that use that exact sentence. If more than just your web page shows up, review each one to see if someone is stealing your content. If the content is unique, only your web page will show up in the results.
The only fix for a web site that has dropped out of search results due to Panda is to start re-writing the content for each page in a web site that is not absolutely unique.