This guest post is by Sophie Lee of IBS Tales.
In February 2011 my website lost 50% of its traffic overnight, and a further 20% disappeared two months later. I was a victim of Google’s infamous Panda update, and like many other webmasters, my first reaction was to assume that Google had messed up—my site contains nothing but high quality, deathless prose, and I’m sure yours does too.
As time went on, though, I began to realize that my site had been penalized because it deserved to be. I hadn’t deliberately set out to produce thin content, or put duplicate URLs in the index, or make other amateur SEO mistakes, but that’s what I had been doing, regardless of my good intentions.
I set about fixing aspects of my site that should never have been broken in the first place, and one year on, I believe that my site has markedly improved. I need to be honest and say that I haven’t recovered from Panda, and so I can’t promise that this article will help you recover your rankings if you’re a fellow Panda victim.
However, I can tell you that Panda has been a massive wake-up call for me, and opened my eyes to some horrible mistakes that I was making as a webmaster. Are you making the same mistakes? Are you sure?
Mistake 1: Thin or shallow content
Panda quickly became known as the update that targeted thin or shallow content. I checked my site and found that around 10% of my pages had less than 100 words on them. Now, word count alone may not mean a huge amount, but what, exactly, can you say in less than 100 words? I had intended to develop these pages as I went along, but I’d never got round to it. They had to go, so I removed them completely and left them to 404.
I also looked at pages that might be useful to my visitors or to me, but could easily be flagged as thin content by an algorithm. For example, I had a page named
blank.htm that I used as a template page. It was, of course, blank, and it shouldn’t have been on the server. I had an entire page that showed my search box and nothing else. Another page showed my mailing list sign-up box and nothing else. If I worked at Google, I’d have penalized these pages too.