If you’re an SEO junkie like me, you’ve almost definitely heard of Google Panda. This cute, cuddly destroyer of websites has been roaming the internet for almost 2 years now, chomping up bad websites and spitting them back out like gum.
And now the folks at Google WebSpam are sharpening Panda’s claws.
2014 will be an absolutely ground-breaking year for SEO. There have been so many changes over the last couple of months that doing what worked 6 months ago won’t necessarily bring you any results right now.
The name of the SEO game in 2014 is keeping the task masters at Google happy. Google Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird need to be avoided at all costs, otherwise you could end up all the way back on Page 50 with zero traffic.
The first thing you need to do is understand these algorithm changes. Most bloggers who get hit by Google Panda aren’t even trying to be dodgy. They just didn’t know better.
Having said that, here are some step by step tips and improvements you could use that will ensure Google Panda remains cuddly and friendly towards your site. These are all actionable tips that you can use immediately to get your shields up against the next Panda attack (I mean, I’m not going to tell you to put up good quality content, you should know already!)
1. Sign up for Google Authorship
If you don’t already have a Google Plus account, get one now. It only takes all of 5 minutes to sign up for.
Why do you need this? It’s because having a Google Plus account gives you access to Google Authorship. You know that image that pops up next to certain websites? That’s Google Authorship speaking to you.
Google gives your site more weight if you have Authorship set up. It shows that you are a credible writer and your posts automatically rank quicker and higher on Google, so go here and set things up if you haven’t already done so.
You can check detailed guide on blogging cage to get Google Authority here.
Also, it has been proven that by having your image showing up next to your website on the search results, you’d be drawing more clicks than you would have otherwise.
Google Authorship can take a couple of days to kick in (depending on how often you put up a post), so don’t sweat if your good looking face doesn’t show up immediately.
2. Fix the errors Google Webmaster Tool tells you about
Contrary to popular belief, Google WANTS your site to rank high, IF you have good quality content. They even gave us the amazing Google Webmasters Tool to guide us along.
Go here to set up the Google Webmasters Tool. It takes a bit of work to activate (you need access to your site’s FTP files), but once you get that done you are good to go.
Once you have access to Google Webmaster Tools, click on the HTML improvements tab and out pops a list of errors you need to work on.
What are these, you ask? These are suggestions from Google themselves on the things you need to do to improve your site’s rankings on Google. If you've been pretty good at website building so far, you won't have many of these errors to fix. But most bloggers will have their work cut out ahead of them.
So get your game on and fix these errors. Your site will rank higher and quicker without these little anchors weighing you down.
Don't worry if the errors do not go away after you've fixed them. It can sometimes take some time for Google Webmasters Tool to update.
3. Stop over optimizing for keywords
2 years ago, ask any SEO guy and they’ll tell you the best approach to your blogging was to fill up your posts with as many keywords as possible. Everyone was obsessed with things like keyword density.
In 2014, this isn’t going to work at all. Google’s gotten way too smart for that.
Over optimization will cause your site to be slapped silly by Daddy Panda. So articles that read horribly because they’re stuffed full of keywords aren’t going to do very well at all. One keyword in the title is pretty much all you need.
The idea right now is to ensure your posts read well and provide good informative content. As a general rule of thumb, I always read my posts out loud after writing them to make sure everything ‘flows’.
Your blog should read smoothly and sound exactly like how you would speak to someone during conversation. So stop over optimizing, and start focusing on building a post that sounds ‘conversational’ instead.
4. Speed kills… Pandas
This is a pretty big one, and something most bloggers don’t think about.
It’s no secret that nobody likes a slow site, and Google is no different. Matt Cutts of the Google WebSpam team has openly stated that website loading speed is a huge factor when it comes to deciding who ranks on Google. So fasten your seatbelts and make your website drive faster.
If you’re rocking a WordPress blog like I am, there are many different things you could try out to optimize website speed.
I’m not going into a whole load of geeky detail, but here are some great ideas to help you rank. My favourites are the W3 Total Cache and jQuery Lazy Load Plugin. Just do a quick search on the Plugin feature of WordPress, install and you’re good to go.
After you’ve made all the modifications, you can go on to websites such as Pingdom to find out how your site performs in a speed test.
5. No-index weak content
This is probably a big one. If you’ve been blogging for a while, you’ve probably been guilty of writing a couple of not so good blog posts in the past.
I know I have.
When the Google takes a look at these posts and identify them as low quality, your site becomes less attractive in the eyes of Google, and you’d end up ranking lower as a whole.
What qualifies as a sub-par post? Posts that are short, poorly written and do not provide sufficient value to your readers will be deemed unattractive in the eyes of Google.
So the idea here is to either delete these posts, or just add the no-index tag to each one of them.
The no-index tag tells Google that you do not want this particular page to rank on Google, so in a few days Google deletes it from the search engines. Check the ‘no-index’ box to activate this feature.
If you do not have a no-index check box at the bottom of each post like I do (this feature comes programmed with a Thesis theme), consider downloading the WordPress SEO plug-in by Yoast.