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Respect the Panda, but Don’t Be Afraid

Pandas are so cute and sweet and adorable — unless they know kung fu, in which case you’d better be on your guard. Actually, that’s just a stereotype. You’d need to be on your guard anyway, because here’s a newsflash: they’re bears! Wild panda bears can be as dangerous as any other wild bear. Just because they’re adorable doesn’t mean they can’t be vicious. (Ask any housecat.)

If you’re wondering why we’re going on about pandas, you might not remember our articles about Google Panda, so here’s a refresher: Google Panda was a major revision of Google’s search ranking algorithm.

Google felt that too many sites were gaming the system to rank highly in search engine results, mostly by delivering little original content, having too much duplicate internal content, having too many ads, or having lots of purchased inbound links.

Google wants the sites that provide the most useful content for users and solid organic SEO to rank the highest (which is understandable). So when the Google Panda revision kicked in back in February 2011, a lot of sites that didn’t meet Google’s optimal criteria plummeted in search results.

Although Panda is more than two years old, Google isn’t done putting its fuzzy little weapon to use. It recently released an update to Panda, and the effects from that update will become clearer in the coming months as various websites’ rankings either rise or fall. In fact, Google is now incorporating its Panda tweaks into its standard algorithm, so site owners and webmasters won’t be getting a head’s up in the future.

We’ve touched upon some of the key ways to work with Panda, not against it. (You can’t really work against it, because Google demands

servitude, and opposing it will only be deadly for your search rankings.)

The basics are these:

Be sure your site has plenty of original content. If it’s thin on content, the Panda will attack. If the content is copied from other sites (even if it’s slightly tweaked or “spun”), the Panda will attack. Sites that have lots of links and ads with poor content (copied/stolen/purchased from a content farm) will get slammed. Content is king, so do what you can to populate your site with strong original content, and that includes images and video in addition to written copy.

Avoid lots of internal content duplication. Some sites try to artificially influence SEO by using very similar (or even verbatim) keyword-packed copy on all of their pages. Slightly changing a keyword here or there won’t evade the mighty claws of the Panda. While some of the copy on each of your pages will naturally be similar, large chunks of duplication are going to be penalized.

Be sure not to have too many ads. As a local business, your site probably doesn’t have a lot of ads for other businesses, because that’s not your main focus. You’re trying to drive traffic and conversions for your own business. But if you do try to generate additional revenue or mitigate operating costs with site-based advertising, be sure it’s balanced with — you know what’s coming — even more original, high-quality, on-target content. The Panda chows down on ad-driven sites like a forest filled with bamboo. (We’re pretty sure that’s what pandas eat, anyway.)

Don’t take shortcuts. If there’s one main takeaway from Google Panda (and its sister Google Penguin, another adorable-but-vicious algorithm tweak), it’s that you can’t take shortcuts to effective SEO. They might give your ranking a jump in the short term, but they will send you falling off a cliff as soon as Google catches wind. Focus on strong, legitimate, white-hat SEO practices to ensure a website that’s loved by both your human visitors and Google. At Ring Ring Marketing, we can help you bolster your site by using the best practices that Google desires and will make your site rank well and convert leads into customers.

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