As stated in an earlier Marketing Mixer newsletter, when approaching the updates of Google Panda and Penguin, your content is always king. Because your content is so important, and Google’s algorithms for SEO rankings are changing so regularly, it is imperative to keep your content fresh and clean for each new Panda implementation. Google is continuously improving their search techniques to satisfy the millions of users that survive on their service every day almost as fast as they roll out each new Panda update. However, even though Google is no longer announcing exact dates of when they are implementing new Panda updates, there are a few ways to make sure you keep your content up to Google’s standards.
Before you start deleting pages and posts left and right, you’re going to want to perform what’s known as a content audit. In short, a content audit is the activity of checking all of the content on the website and compiling it into a big list. The main purpose of this is to produce an easy to navigate listing of the site’s content in order to clean house more quickly and more efficiently. That said, having a comprehensive list of content isn’t the only benefit of this process. By performing the audit you’ll get a much better understanding of the content. You may find things you didn’t know existed, spot duplication, and identify all kinds of relationships in the content, making it easier to pinpoint what needs to go, what needs to be reworded, what is good as-is, and which pages can be linked together to establish priority.
When collecting the information needed for a content audit, you may want to consider having each of the following as necessary information:
- Navigation Title: The name of the main navigation link to the content, also known as the link title.
- Page Name: The displayed page title
- Content Type: Determining if it’s a basic page, a blog post, a service page, news article, etc.
- Basic content description: a brief description on the exact content of the page
- Meta tags: Title, description tags, as well as other SEO tags on the given page
When it comes to auditing your content, there is no right or wrong way to do it, though creating a spreadsheet is a great way to keep all of the information for each page organized in a way that allows you to locate specific information at a given time when you begin the house cleaning process.
Knowing What to Keep: While it is important to give your website a design lift from time to time, updating the design without cleaning up your content is the equivalent of painting the outside of your house and expecting your old furniture to magically look fresh and new again. As each new Panda update rolls out, it is important to take stock in what your website is presenting—what is crucial, what needs to be updated, and what needs to go. Your website, and more importantly your website’s content, is a reflection of your company; good or bad, visitors to your site are going to make judgments about the legitimacy of your business and your overall professionalism. Additionally, duplicate content, broken links and old or unvisited pages will all negatively affect your SEO and lower your SERP (Search Engine Results Page) placement ranking.
Some of the most important recommendations to maintaining a positive SEO ranking in terms of content include:
- Keep content relevant to the site to maintain its overall theme
- If you have user-generated content in the form of articles, look to have an editorial input in the content to ensure its quality
- Put the focus back on longer, more in-depth feature articles
- Regularly update content in all parts of your site to ensure it doesn’t become stale or irrelevant
- Unique content is key – so cut down on aggregate content
Knowing What to Discard: As long as your content is unique, of a proper length, and well written, Panda updates should not have a huge effect on your performance. The Panda filter also contains spam flags. Content triggers for Panda’s spam flags include things such as:
- Duplicate Text Content
- Duplicate Design Content
- Thin Text Content—meaning < 240 words on a blog post, page, etc.
- Bland Text Content—content that doesn’t go into any detail about what it is addressing. With each new update, the Panda filter is getting closer and closer to reading like a human. Re-read your site content, if it doesn’t sound good to you, odds are that it won’t read well to Panda either, and Panda will put up a spam flag.
Cleaning house means getting rid of anything that could set of the Panda spam flags. No matter how tedious or tiresome it gets, there’s no getting around negative SEO results if you have a cluttered website. Other than the aforementioned suggestions, one of the best ways to clean house is to find and retire all old duplicate content. Go through old blog posts and delete ones that don’t qualify against the latest Panda update’s standards. Check your website’s traffic report and delete any pages that haven’t been visited. Redirect retired URLs to their appropriate newer experiences—make sure to use 301 permanent redirects, as these pass link juice (net lingo for the aspects of a website that make visitors and others want to link to it).
Additionally, it is as imperative to rid your site of thin content as it is of duplicate content. Content that is too short is just as negative as duplicate content to your SEO ranking; you don’t want your content so scant that it doesn’t offer anything worth reading. Use however many words you need to get the information across—and it’s nigh impossible to disclose and explain useful information in less than 240 words. Also, be sure to use short, concise sentences, and bullet points.
Once you’ve squared away what content is critical to your site and taken care of the content that needed to go, it’s time to put it all back together again, or if you are remodeling the entire site, put everything together in a way that will be intuitive to a new visitor to your site, as well as a pleasant surprise for returning visitors.
Though it is time-consuming and can be monotonous, cleaning one’s content is imperative to maintaining positive SEO rankings, so take all the time you need to clean your content up—you’ll be happy you did!