Panda-Proofing your Content

September 13, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

Annnd we’re back! How was your lunch? Yummy? How nice for you. I used mine to trek over to Verizon to score a new MIFI. Only…they wouldn’t give me one and then my cabbie left me stranded.

Lisa, 0; Life, 1

Getting back into things our friend Chris Sherman is up on stage moderating Horst Joepen, Heather Lloyd-Martin, and Chris Silver Smith. They’re going to talk about content and pandas. Or what panda did to your content. Or why you shouldn’t feel pandas after midnight.  Hmm, I guess we’ll let them take it away.

Google said only 12 percent of their Web sites were affected. However, that’s 12 percent of about a TRILLION Web sites. That’s a significant number and why there are so many SEOs with The Rage right now.  Google says “quality content” is important, but what does that mean?

Up first is Heather to tell us.

The cool thing about Panda is that it provides sites with opportunities they may not have noticed they can leverage. Like it or not, we are all content marketers. If you have a Web site/blog, YOU are a content marketer. The cool thing is the content we’re writing is helping us reach our business goals so it’s really important. Heather shares that 57 percent of blog marketers say they have acquired new customers via their blog. – Brafton

Marketing people are going to need to become more like content engineers. Some folks saw Panda as a slap. They saw it as “how could Google do this to me?” But really it’s about emphasizing “quality content”.

Pre-Panda folks focused on the search engines and forgot about their readers. Create content for the search engines was their cry, but the engines don’t pay your bills. Your customers do.  Heather talks about how businesses were paying writers $10 for a page of content. That’s cheap content where the writer is incentivized to write FAST to make it worth their time. They’re not helping you to meet your goals, you’re just throwing it against the wall to see what fits.

We all know what quality content is. Like porn, it’s hard to define but you know it when you see it. Yes, that was a porn reference. You’re very welcome. Heather says Panda has given us all a reason to go back to producing quality content. HUZZAH!

We want to create it, but we don’t know how to start. 92% of marketers say content creation is ‘very” or “somewhat ” effective as an SEO tactic but it’s the most difficult to implement. People want to be able to do this, but they’re not sure how to start.  The solution is to view your content as parts of a whole. Create an editorial calendar that makes it possible to slice and dice your content and repurpose it for different mediums. Quality content allows you to do this easily.  Cheap content is content you’re only going to get to use for one season and then it’s going to fall apart. You know, like my dress that just broke. Kind of like that.

Develop Content Around

  • Keyphrase research: What are your customers interested in reading?
  • Customer question: What are some frequently asked questions that you can answer?
  • Sales Funnel: What content do you need to inform prospects about your products or services throughout the sales cycle?
  • What stories can you tell about your product or service? Even though this is a basic copywriting fundamental, there are so many companies out there that have never done this because they didn’t know they could do this.

Strategically repurpose your content across different mediums.

  • White paper: Create a blog series based on the white paper, tweet a stat and link back to the white paper, post a fact on your FB page or Google+, pull out an except for an email newsletter.
  • Blog post: Tweet something from the post and link back to it. Aggregate related blog posts and turn them into an ebook. Create a video that links back to the blog post. Post on LinkedIn/FB and start a discussion.
  • Sales pages: Have video testimonials? Share them on FB. Tweet something from the case study and link back.

It’s not just creating one piece of content and leaving it. You have a lot of different options. You can also do this with past content. Keep track of these content assets with an editorial calendar.

Action Steps

  1. Evaluate your current content assets. Consider what you can repurpose.
  2. Get everyone on the same page about SEO content. This could be a quick discussion or an in-house training.
  3. After researching topics, develop an editorial calendar. Assign monthly content to your in-house team or outsource.
  4. Watchdog the quality. Even post-Panda, some folks are confused about how to approach SEO writing, so their content may not pass the print test.
  5. Have fun with content development. It’s the only opportunity you have to tell a story, showcase your company and convert like crazy. Leverage it!

Next up is Horst Joepen. He says this is a panda-image free presentation.

He shows the history of some noted penalties.

  • 2006 – BMW penalized for spam
  • 2009- Vince + Canonical
  • 2010- Mayday Brand Update
  • 2011 – JC Penney, Overstock & multiple iterations of Panda

He shows the impact Panda had on by showing a graph of their organic performance and how it suffered major drops with each iteration of Panda.

Can You Detect Warning Signs

If your site ranks well right now, why should you change? Because badness may be coming.  He advises everyone to look at historical data or competitor data to see if you can find warning signs. If you’re not pushing the most in your niche, it’s likely you won’t get hit first. So you can use that. – first signs of Panda in France on August 8.

Pan- English Release in France on Aug 12

The impacts can almost be very different in different countries. vs There was no change in Germany, but the French site lost 39 percent of its visibility.

Warning Signs

Naturally, reason for penalities will be built into Panda and algorimic improvements. It indicates what will hit you later.

What to look for

Which competitor got away? Why?

Who got hit? Why?

  • Compare backlink structures
  • Compare content and structure of competitor domains
  • Compare Adsense and Affiliate load
  • Compare social network activities
  • Compare user experience

SEO 2.0 Winners

  • Sites with original content, but not always the original wins
  • Brands and established businesses
  • Google (price comparison/shopping, video)

And When It Happens

  • Adjust your SEO strategy
  • Focus or go Long Tail
  • Short Term: Compensate with PPC traffic or other Universal channels
  • Distribute content on subdomains
  • Worse Case: Relaunch


  • Benefit of time gap between US and international roll outs
  • Country specific advantages
  • However, the same rules do apply.

Key Takeaways

  • SEO 2.0 – t he line has been move up toward quality
  • Peer group monitoring
  • Learn from others
  • Don’t stand back – walk the line

Next up is Chris Silver-Smith.

What is Panda?

Panda isn’t simply an algo update, it’s a platform for new ways to understand the Web and understand user experience – Vanessa Fox

It’s not a new algo, it’s a new factor – Danny Sullivan

It is easier to reliably detect social spam than link spam – Stefan Weitz and Maile Ohye

Combination of automated metrics and human factors- Chris himself :)

Usability and user experience have become more influential in ranking determination.

Have we seen an earlier incarnation? Chris thought panda seemed very familiar to him. Years ago Google went after “thin affiliates” and their ability to rank. Panda isn’t much different. It attacks sites with low value.  He mentions the Google spam recognition guide for quality evaluators that was leaked years ago.  That doc specifically called out “thin affiliate doorway pages”. Panda has taken this philosophy and taken it even further.

Google hires Quality Evaluator Temps to looks at results for Google and rate those Web pages.  One thing that can be helpful to you is to look at how your pages show up in the search results and whether that’s something a user would want.

Google Uses Combo Factors for Quality Evaluation

  1. Machine detectable human factors: clicks from search results, bounce rate, time on site, linking behavior, social media, etc.
  2. Paid Human Evaluator Staff
  3. Algorithmic Analysis/Applications for Factor Values

TrustRank: Part of TrustRank describes having human evaluators rate a subsample of pages from a site and link analysis allows those ratings to be applied to a larger body of pages. He thinks something similar is used to apply the Panda score across your site.


  • Remove/noindex pages of low quality/worth
  • Site  search for error pages, check server status codes for error pages
  • Combine similar pages, redirect one to the other.
  • Include more value-add features on your pages like relevant images, videos, maps, links, charts
  • Coordinate strong social media PR campaigns with relaunch to change usage profile model.
  • Don’t force users to click to secondary pages to view vital information.
  • UX testing: Focus groups, usability testing, follow clickstreams, personae
  • Clean spam out of comments/forums
  • Use of rel=author tagging may help consumers trust in your pages
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic or factual errors. Fix those to improve your quality perception.
  • Remove excessive ads or ads which interfere with users’ access of content
  • Become an authoritative source
  • Publish a book about your business.
  • Avoid “over-optimizations”.

And that is. We’ll be back in a bit. :)

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