On May 20th, Google began to roll out the brand new update to their search algorithm that aims to penalize low-quality websites with spammy or useless content: Panda 4.0.

Being in the Fort Collins area for the last four years, I’ve seen one common mistake that many small businesses make: outsourcing to the wrong person. Typically, the decision is always based around price. Now, believe me, I understand and actively promote being conservative with spending, but the biggest mistake that can be made is to choose an individual (or even a firm) just based on price. If you are unable to afford to hire a writer that you know will not just take your money and use an article spinner to “carefully craft” your content, consider having a bit of sweat equity in your website. Besides, no one knows your business better than you do. It can be more detrimental to your rankings (and ultimately, probably your revenue) to go with the “cheap” option than to have done nothing at all.

So how do you Panda-proof your website? It’s actually quite simple. Here are a few steps:

  1. Rewrite your content if you’ve copied and pasted it from anywhere. Yes, that includes that sweet bio you wrote on Facebook and pasted on your About page. Duplicate content has always been a major player in the SEO game, so just avoid it, and write everything from scratch. Period.
  2. Don’t write short blog posts with no substance. Take the time to write an in-depth piece that is actually useful to your readers. Offer suggestions to fix their problems. Create something that actually helps them. This helps attract links from other websites to yours; a huge SEO factor!
  3. Don’t skip the meta description for your website. The meta description is the text in your Google result that talks about what your website is, does or exists for. Make this something that people want to click on. Panda tends to attack websites with lower click-through rates!
  4. Reduce your bounce rate. If your website’s content sucks, so will your rankings. Plain and simple. If people read your content and absolutely hate it, why would Google deem it relevant to show in search results as authoritative content? Install Google Analytics, write better content, and get people to stay on your site with compelling copy!
  5. Get rid of all the ads “above the fold.” Now, I hate the term “above the fold” on websites because all monitors are different sizes so “above the fold” is an inaccurate depiction of location on a page. However, if the first thing your readers see is a bunch of ads, that doesn’t scream quality content for Google to index. Put the ads toward the bottom of the page if you absolutely must have them, and limit the amount of ads you display. And if the ads have nothing to do with the content of your page, get rid of them.
  6. Stop overusing your keywords. I know that you took a web authoring your freshman year of college, and I know they told you to use your keyword as much as possible, but knock it off! It doesn’t work! It will hurt you. Period. I have a page that’s all about how I offer freelance services for SEO in Fort Collins, but you don’t see the phrase overused. Believe me, you’ll kill your rankings. Stop it.
  7. Speed up your website. I know you’re a WordPress plugin expert and  a photographer that loves to upload high-resolution images to your home page, but think about this: the more stuff you add to your pages, the more it slows down. And everyone knows that images need to be compressed and re-sized to work with the web, because otherwise, they’re just too big! Declutter your website and shrink those images. But if you must install plugins, at least install a caching plugin (Quick Cache is my personal favorite).
  8. Don’t show a different website to Google than you would to your users. This is, and has been for quite sometime, a big no-no. It’s called cloaking. If you’re savvy enough to know what this is, then you know how to fix it. Some SEO scammers will actually do this, so if you’ve hired someone to optimize your website, its best to find out immediately if this has been done!
  9. Vary the anchor texts used in your internal linking strategies. It’s good to link to your own pages from within your website. It shows Google a relation between all of your content, and they’re great for your readers So instead of making every single link to your home page use the keyword as the text you’re trying to rank for in Google, vary it up a bit. Besides, your customers will get very annoyed with the overuse of pointless links in your content, leading to lower click throughs and abandonment (which will mean higher bounce rates).
  10. Fix the errors and warnings on your website. The World Wide Web Consortium has a tool to validate the code of your website. It tells you what’s wrong. Go to that link and type in your domain and see what the W3C has to say about your website.
  11. Start getting active on social media and get your customers engaged. There’s still no proof that there are “social signals” in search, but they can’t be too far away. Think about the likelihood of Google using what people talk about on Facebook and Twitter impacting how you do in search engines. If you’re popular on social channels, chance are, you’re important and possibly the authority on your subject. Get some shares and likes, and get added to some Google+ circles immediately!

See? That list wasn’t so bad. Now you know how to avoid getting slapped by one of Google’s most important updates ever. These items are exactly why its important to hire the right person to create your website, write your content and promote your business. It goes beyond Google too; it’s credibility in your market, notoriety in your niche.

If you’re unsure if your website is about to get attacked by the mighty Panda, not to worry. We can help. Give us a call at (970) 480-5878 and we can meet up to discuss your website!