What Should You Do If You’ve Been Hit By The Farmer / Panda Update?


I’ve already written a fairly in-depth post on how Google’s most recent update has affected SEO, which concentrated on avoiding penalties in the future and improving your SEO campaigns with the farmer/panda update in mind. Since the publication of that post however, I’ve had a few emails from people asking what you can do if you’ve already been hit by the update, and have seen your rankings drop dramatically over the last few weeks. As usual, rather than answer people individually, I thought I’d cover the topic in a blog post.

Google have been particularly quiet when it comes to providing website owners and marketers with actionable techniques to recover their rankings, presumably because Google believes the drops to be a fair reflection of the quality those websites were providing. However, Google have set up a Webmaster Forums Help thread, where webmasters can appeal to Google if they believe their site was hit unfairly.

Amongst the generic advice and tips reposted from the Google quality guidelines, Google employee Wysz posted some genuinely useful advice to those looking to repair the damage done to their rankings by the algorithm update. In a reply to a question, Wysz posted the following pertinent advice:

If you think you have been impacted by this change [referring to the farmer/panda update] you should evaluate all the content on your website and do your best to improve the quality of the pages on your domain … removing low quality or duplicate pages or moving them to a different domain could improve your rankings for the high quality content.

I think this is sound advice and frankly, something a lot of people should have been doing before this update. If you know you’ve got low quality content on your site, or content that you’ve directly taken from another source, your first step would be to remove this content altogether (or move it to another domain if you like, although I don’t see the point of that particularly).

On top of removing obviously low-quality content, you need to be aware of any original content that may appear as shallow content to search engine spiders. Finding such content can be a little tricky, but it is possible (particularly when you’ve got Open Site Explorer at your disposal). Rather than writing my own version of how to locate this content, I’ll direct you to the single best post on that exact subject on the SEOMoz blog: Weed Out Your Lowest Performing Pages.

You need to ensure the level of quality content on your website remains as high as possible – if you’ve got the time, it might be worth going through previous blog posts and organic search landing pages and adding additional content to these posts and pages. Your content is far more likely to be considered high quality if it’s in-depth and above a certain length. Adding complementary media never hurts either; placing suitable pictures, video and audio to your content can not only improve its’ quality, but bring you additional traffic through organic image and multimedia searches.

You might also want to think about improving your overall social media activities, which we’ve already established can have a direct impact on your SEO. Check out my post on how social media affects SEO, or my infographic on using social media links to improve your SEO for further information. While I’m on the subject, you might also want to follow us on Twitter.

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Post by John Pring – Follow him on Twitter (@john_pring)

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