Why was my Site Penalized by Panda? – Panda Part 2

Note: If you are unfamiliar with Google’s Panda update feel free to read Part 1 of the Panda series. It explains what the Panda update is and why it was created.

Without working for Google no one knows for sure what will get a website pandalized (panda + penalized). But using correlation studies along with some tips from Google we have a good idea of what the Panda is after. Below are possible factors that put a website at risk of the Panda Penalty.

  • Duplicate content between websites on the web
  • Duplicate content within a website
  • Poor visitor interaction

Duplicate Content Between Your Websites and Others on the Web

In my personal experience having duplicate content between your website and other websites is the quickest way to getting slapped with the Panda Penalty. This has been a problem for nearly every Panda affected website I have come across.

As mentioned above in the “Why Was Panda Created?” section, Panda was put in place to target websites who were stealing content. So there is no surprise that having duplicate content will get your site penalized.  Here are some examples of how this  duplicate content can about about:

  • You take content from other websites and post it on your own site to get some extra ad revenue. Panda comes along and sees hundreds or even thousands of pages of duplicate content. You get a much deserved panda penalty.
  • You are the ideal webmaster and spend hours writing all unique content. Other sites take your content and post it on their website. Google doesn’t know who the original source is and just sees that you have the same content as a bunch of other websites. You get penalized (yes this does happen) and punch a hole in the wall.
  • You have an eCommerce website with hundreds or thousands of products. To save time, you (along with all the other eCommerce sites) use the manufacturer’s provided product description. Google sees that you have hundreds or even thousands of pages of duplicate content. Your website gets penalized and your sales plummet.

Duplicate Content Within Your Website

Duplicate content within a website can also get your site penalized if you are not careful. This type of duplicate content usually comes in two different forms:

  1. Multiple pages with identical, or nearly identical content: All the content across your website should be unique. Copy and pasting content while only changing a few keywords can get you into trouble fast. To avoid a panda penalty write all unique content on all your pages.
  2. One page with multiple URLs: In Google’s eyes every different URL is a different page. This mean that to Google www.opencart.com and www.opencart.com/index.php are two different pages with duplicate content. Make sure all webpages only have 1 URL per page.

Eliminating duplicate content within your website is good in general, not just for Panda. Search engines have trouble deciding which page to index and rank when duplicate content is present. Having duplicate content caused by multiple URLs can divide link juice between the different versions of the page and lower rankings.

Poor Visitor Interaction

People usually don’t stay on a spammy website very long. In fact I would bet that the majority of visitors to spammy websites leave almost immediately. Why am I telling you this? Think about it, if all spammy websites share a high bounce rate wouldn’t Google want to factor this into their Panda algorithm? Yup! And that’s why many SEOs, including myself, believe that usage metrics such as bounce rate can affect whether or not your website gets Pandalized. But having a high bounce rate alone isn’t what Google cares about. Let me explain with two examples where the user bounces from the website…

  • Good User Path: Joe wants to know when the next Olypmics are. He goes to Google and searches “when is the next olympics”. He ends up at the Olympic Games page and quickly sees that the next Olympic Games are July 27 – August 12 2012. Joe is satisfied with his result and leaves the page.
  • Bad User Path: Mike wants to buy Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. He goes to Google and searches “buy call of duty modern warfare 3”. He ends up on a page at www.buycallofduty.info and realizes that this ad filled page will not help me buy the game he desires. Mike goes back to the search results and clicks on a page from www.amazon.com. This time Mike is satisfied with his search result and goes on to buy the game.

The first example above shows that there are times when you can expect to have users bounce from your website. These are usually times when a user is looking for specific information such as a phone number for a business, capital of a country, a food recipe, etc.

On the other hand, the second example shows a user path that could indicate to Google that your website is crap. Sure a few of these types of visits won’t hurt you, but if this occurs a regular basis you may be in some trouble.

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Jeff Oxford is the founder and lead SEO consultant of 180 Marketing. Jeff has managed many successful SEO campaigns for clients all around the world.