In October, those in the SEO community could finally stop holding their breath as Penguin 3.0 was finally released after a year of waiting. With so much focus on the long-awaited Penguin update, many SEO folks forgot that, before the Penguin update, there was another major Panda algorithm update. Admittedly, we here at GNGF got caught up in the Penguin hype and were eager to see the changes after the rollout was complete. We began digging into data, monitoring traffic, and keeping a close eye on impressions over the extended rollout.
After analyzing all of the data, it seemed inconsistent with what we should have seen after Penguin 3.0. Backlink profiles were clean, disavows had gone through, and still we saw a slight decline in impressions over a one month test. It was at this time that we stepped back and realized that Penguin had no effect on our client sites—Panda did. The (not so) sneaky rollout of Panda had caught us off guard, and like many others we overlooked its influence.
What is Panda? Panda is an algorithm update that is rolled out by Google that focuses on content. Panda will flag and penalize sites that have duplicate content, thin content, or spammy content. The major shift that is happening is that sites are being rewarded for producing quality content that matches the reader’s intent. After the discovery that Panda could be causing issues, we were confused. Panda has always helped our client sites, and we always saw a boost in impressions and traffic after a major rollout.
What changed? After looking through the data, one piece of information was consistent across all sites that were hit. Word count. We noticed that sites that were losing impressions also had really short content. A page or blog post with only a few hundred words may be a very high quality piece of content, but something else was flagging these pages.
This is when we discovered the disclaimer. Most law firm websites feature a disclaimer located in the footer, which is at the bottom of every page. Disclaimers are generally over 100 words and match the thousands of other law firm websites in the state, or even country. We then looked to the sidebars and menu bars and noticed that, if we add all of that up, we are easily over 200 words of duplicate content. We saw pages that were only 400 words, but with 200 words of duplicate content. This means that half of the page is being flagged for duplicate content!
We knew from the previous Panda updates that we wanted to strive for under 20% duplicate content, but it seems like now Google is getting stricter on how much duplicate content they can stand. Now, we are shooting for 15% or less. This means that a page would need to have over 1000 unique words on each page to pass the filter and not be flagged by duplicate or spammy content.
We recommend going back and adding more detail to your most visited pages on your site, starting with the homepage. There is no doubt that the game is getting harder, and we here at GNGF are striving to stay ahead of the curve.