Panda and thin content – what’s the deal?
We reported in the Digital Hothouse blog back in July that Google had started the roll out of the Panda 4.2 algorithm update but that it was going to take some time to complete the full roll out. Fast forward 4 months and it appears as though the update is still rolling out with many sites who have previously been hit by a Panda penalty still showing no signs of recovery so what gives? Is there still time to fix up any Panda related issues (if you haven’t done it by now, what have you been doing!!)? And what does the future look like for those who have not recovered from a Panda Penalty?
Removing low quality pages or fix them up?
Jennifer Slegg of The SEM Post recently reported on an interesting Twitter conversation with Gary Illyes from Google regarding the best way of dealing with ‘thin’ content which is deemed to be low quality.
— Gary Illyes (@methode) October 7, 2015
As you can see above, Gary recommends updating and improving poor quality pages rather than removing them altogether. This probably goes against what most people did if they had been hit with a Panda penalty – in most cases, a penalty relating to poor quality content led to a mass culling of any content perceived to be poor quality but could this have done some potential harm?
For us, this was one of the more telling comment from Gary, ‘Careful what you trim’ – this gives a strong indication that a lot of business caused harm to their site that didn’t previously exist by cutting out good content that added value to their user. Instead of mass culling content, it appears that it would be better in Google’s eyes to update the content and make it ‘thick’ and of a high quality.
Similarities with Penguin?
Reading these comments immediately made us think about the similar kneejerk reactions to a Penguin penalty. As we know, the Penguin algorithm targets poor quality links pointing to your site. Those sites hit with a Penguin penalty often reacted by immediately heading to the disavow option and disavowing hundreds if not thousands of links. Whilst this is definitely a good tactic for removing potential dangerous links, it was often done in a ‘mass cull’ approach and you have to wonder how many links went by the wayside as part of that mass culling.
Recovering from penalties
What we learnt from this post and others surrounding both Penguin and Panda penalties is that taking your time is often a much better approach in the long run than just trying to fix everything in a day. If you identify thin content on your site, instead of just removing it, flag it for review and make sure your penalty recovery team takes the time to look at it properly. Although there might not be much content on a particular page, are visitors still going to that page and engaging with the content (as thin as it might be)? If they are, this should be moved to the ‘fix up’ pile rather than the ‘remove’ pile.
Penalties are not recovered from overnight and as much as it is good to react and act quickly if you have been hit, the reality is that you often have more time than you think so don’t be hasty; fix things up in the right way rather than just removing/deleting potentially valuable content and links.
Whether you have been hit with a Panda penalty or not, make sure you are reviewing content on your site on a regular basis and if you identify content as being ‘thin’, don’t immediately reach for the delete button; review it and improve it where possible and make it more relevant and valuable to your end user. To quote Gary Illyes, ‘Overwhelm your users with great content that’s created for THEM’ – that way, you know that you are providing the best possible content for both your users and for Google.