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Panda 4.1 Update Hits ‘Thin’ Content Websites

By Adrian Berry / October 14th 2014

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On the 27th September Google announced that it had rolled out the latest version of its Panda Update – Panda 4.1, indicating that it is a filter designed to penalise “thin” (AKA content that is very similar except for a couple of keywords) web pages from ranking highly.

Google is serious about removing poor quality content from its search listings. We’re now into the 27th algorithm update from Google since Panda began in 2011; Google has informed us that this would be a slow rollout which would influence between 3-5% of all search listings.

As with all Google updates there’ll be winners and losers. In Google’s eyes, the winners to algorithm changes will primarily be users: your customers, the people who read your web pages. In a business sense though, there will be a mix.

Winners and losers

So who wins? Well, websites that have adhered to current Google Webmaster Guidelines and created lots of unique, informative, authoritative and well written content will still continue to be successful and not be affected by the changes to Panda.

Who are the losers? If your site has lots of duplicate content or thin content, it’s time to worry.

Many websites – unfortunately – are still using the strategy of generating large numbers of web pages with similar content that geo target specific locations. For example, Google’s Panda 4.0 update in May saw payday loan sites suffer dramatic traffic and ranking losses.

My own research shows many finance related sites are still using this strategy. While they may be getting away with it for now, it’s only a matter of time before one of Google’s updates addresses the issue – and their rankings plummet.

How do I avoid being a victim of the Panda 4.1 update?

It’s pretty simple: don’t produce thin or duplicate content. If you already have, look into how you can remove this content quickly and effectively.

If your website has lots of poor quality content then it’s time to get a content audit done. A content audit will identify any content on your website that is:

  • Geo targeted or template content
  • Duplicated elsewhere on the internet
  • Poorly written / badly optimised for search

A focused content marketing strategy

Removing poor quality content may not be enough for Google. The search engine giant now requires you to be producing unique content on a regular basis. Only add high-quality original content to your website that provides value to your readers. This is where a focused content strategy and an editorial calendar will become important. This will help you to:

  • Identify what types of content will appeal to your audience
  • Understand which channels are most suitable for you – niche blog sites, trade websites, information sites, and so on
  • Plan when your content will be published
  • Produce suitable content such as website news, blog stories, press releases, guest articles, online industry features, rich media such as video and infographics and downloadable content such as PDFs
  • Ensure content has value and can be considered shareable by your readers, or which can be repurposed for traditional press

More to come?

This latest 2014 Panda update comes approximately four months after the last, which suggests that this might be part of a new quarterly cycle that Google is implementing. Whatever the cycle of update what is really important to understand is that you can’t afford to ignore any of the updates that Google implements.

If you’d like to know more about SEO and content marketing strategy, see here.