Escaping the Panda Havoc
The Panda is loose and creating havoc. On February 25, 2011, Google released its version of the anti-content-farm software that went on to take out legitimate websites, as well. Webmasters have been scrambling to fix problems associated with duplicate content and other issues raised by the Panda release.
However, Google provided guidance to those who have been caught in the Panda problem. Here is specific guidance on these issues for e-commerce websites, distilled from Google’s instructions.
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Remove Low-Quality Pages
This is advice that is continually ignored, especially by e-commerce sites, but it is one of the biggest keys to getting Panda off your back. Panda does not like what it see as low-quality content; hence the push to downgrade pages with duplicate content. This is a problem that plagues e-commerce sites where duplicate pages are often the norm due to lazy site creating habits prior to the Panda invasion. Sometimes, you may have to bite the bullet and redesign your site. However, sometimes you can fix the problems without such drastic measures.
Here are some ways you can raise the content quality of your pages.
- Add content to product pages. If you have few products, add useful and unique information to each page. You can also use product reviews for this purpose.
- Use variations rather than separate pages for variables in products. Do not have pages that duplicate your content for size, color, or other variables. Instead, use your product variation tools to allow for separate web pages only for unique products.
- Remove poorly performing products. Take off pages for items that are not selling. You can always put these collectively on some other page and reduce your page numbers in this way.
- You may have to get rid of your product pages. If you were already hit by Panda, you may have to start over. Redesign your site to include category pages, remove all links, and move the content to your category pages. This greatly reduces your page count, an added bonus as far as Panda is concerned.
- Add nonindex, follow tags to all products. This will eliminate the problem of generating what look like pages from your shopping cart selections.
- Use Googlebot to identify pagination problems. Use your rel=”noindex, follow” command or a “rel=canonical” tag to solve search result problems.
If you follow the rules, Panda will eventually reassess your website and give you a higher ranking. On the other hand, if you have not yet been hit, it makes sense to take care of these problems before you ratings suddenly plunge. Take a pro-active stance to follow the rules and you will be rewarded with higher Google rankings.