Hi Everyone! I would just like to take a moment to thanks the guys here at Blogging Your Passion for giving me the honor of being a guest blogger. For me it is a milestone in my blogging career. It was because of Bob’s post on his other website Christian PF that I started my blogging career on April 12th and when I found out that he was involved in this website, I started following it regularly. It is because of some of the great blog posts here and especially the one about having a keyword strategy, that I was able to increase my traffic from a handful of friends and followers on Facebook in June, to averaging 2,000 visitors a day by September 20th.
I will wholeheartedly admit that I am a total noob when it comes to blogging, SEO, and being a webmaster. It was because of my inexperience, at least in part that on September 25th my site suffered a Google panda attack. What is a Google panda attack? For those of you that haven’t heard, Google has implemented a separate algorithm in their search engine program that evaluates websites to try to ensure quality content gets the best rankings. No one knows for sure what all that is included in this algorithmic ranking system but thousands of websites have been demoted and hurt by what I call being pandalized. It is because my website was devastated by Google Panda and the desire to help all of you protect yourself from having this happen to you that I am writing this post. I lost 70% of all my search engine traffic for a month because of the Google panda update. I have since fully recovered and I want to share with you 10 tips to protect yourself from a Google panda attack so you don’t make the same noob mistakes that I made.
5 Tips to Prevent a Google Panda Attack
Eliminating thin, duplicate, and copied content.
Thin content is blog posts and pages that have a small amount of words. I eliminated all the content that was less than 300 words. You can do this by either deleting the blog post or placing a “no index” tag to the blog post so it will be removed from Google’s index of your site.
Duplicate content is content that is repeated on your website. I thought I had all original articles on my blog but after doing a search for what Google had indexed I found out that they had indexed my archives, categories, feed, ect. You need to put a robot.txt file in your .htaccess file that tells the googlebot not to go to those places to index them. Now if you are like me when you read that statement you went “huh?”. No worries. You can get a WordPress plugin called PC Robot.txt that will do it for you. Clear out their recommended robot.txt file and use the one I provided for Blogging Your Passion.
Copied content is content that you have copied from another website. Now I thought that I was free from this until I understood that part of the Google panda update took into consideration snippets of content. I had places along with my affiliate links, snippets from the descriptions of the products. So my Amazon links had copied content from Amazon. Secondly I also had blog posts that were copied from blogging friends of mine. I gave them full credit and links back to their blogs however I didn’t want to take any chances so I removed those posts even though I followed the rules for syndication.
Monitoring your advertising.
Check the amount of advertising you have both above the fold and below the fold. The general rule of thumb is that you need to have more content above the fold minus the header than you do advertising. When a person first sees your blog, do they see more ads or more content? Make sure they see more content! I had made the mistake of having too much advertising above the fold. I had started a test to see if Adsense would perform better now that I had done a migration from Blogger to WordPress. I had too much advertising above the fold. For my total blog, my advertising is less than 30% of the total blog content.
Beware of affiliate links in your blog posts. Too many affiliate links in your blog posts makes it look spammy and only designed to make money. I came across a handbook to train manual human inspectors from Google’s “Search Quality Ratings Program”. (Do not ask me for a copy since it is copyrighted material and I won’t break the law.) You can do the search work yourself to find it if you want it. In that manual it plainly states that if a website looks like it is designed to just make money, it is spam. I moved all my affiliate links to Amazon to a page that has the “no index” tag. I suggest you do the same.
Increase your page speed.
Page speed has become an indicator of user experience. Google has determined that users do not like to go to websites that take an eternity to load. When I first started optimizing for page speed, my blog loaded at about 8 seconds. Now it loads between 1 and 2 seconds according to Pingdom Tools. In fact using the Google Page Speed Testing Tool, I get the same rating now as Facebook! I did this with 3 easy and free steps.
I installed the WordPress plugin called Smush.it that optimized all my graphic files.
I installed the WordPress plugin called W3 Total Cache. This plugin caches and compresses all your files and scripts. I tried WP Total Cache but it didn’t integrate well with my WP premium Headway drag and drop theme. I used Headway because like I said, I am a total noob and it was more noob friendly and had all the SEO features already in the theme. What I didn’t realize is that it would beat the pants off of Thesis in page speed. (Ok I digress)
I signed up for Cloudflare. Cloudflare is a FREE content delivery and and website protection service. They take all of your requests for content and send them to the hub that is closer to your visitor reducing lag time and enabling more requests to be processed at the same time. This addition alone increased my page speed by 50%.
Lower your bounce rate.
Bounce rate is the amount of people who come to your blog and look at 1 page and then go away either by clicking the back button or clicking on a link on your blog that takes them to another website. Google has determined that if you blog is a quality blog then people will stick around. I did 3 things to lower my bounce rate.
I changed the color scheme of my blog. Colors have a psychological effect on people. I changed to the blue that Facebook uses, and to a purple that gives a sense of spirituality. Since my blog is in the religion niche, that works well for me.
I added more links in my sidebar to promote people going to other pages. I added a popular posts widget and a featured posts widget.
I added an interlinking plugin that interlinks all my blog posts similar to how Wikipedia does. It allows you to take keywords and urls and when it finds those keywords it places a link in all your posts. You can limit how many times per post links are placed.
Become diverse in your traffic sources.
Although I happen to agree with Bob that search engine traffic is one of the best sources to gain visitors and blog followers do not make the mistake I did. I totally centered on getting Google traffic. When I was pandalized, it almost crushed me. If it hadn’t been for my social networking traffic, all would have been lost.
Build a Facebook Fan page. If you haven’t already done this, then do it now! I have over 400 followers on this and they were a lifesaver.
Start using Stumbleupon. When I first started using Stumbleupon, it did nothing. However because I used the service, promoted other pages, (mainly of my friends blog posts) and because of my blog achieving a page rank of 3, Stumbleupon became a major source of traffic in the month that I was hit with the panda penalty. In fact just before I recovered, Stumbleupon became the number 1 source of traffic to my blog. Every time I do a blog post now, Stumbleupon sends me between 200 and 700 visitors.
Build a Twitter following. I can’t emphasize this enough. When I released my blog post entitled “I shot the panda” one of my Twitter followers that is in the SEO business picked it up and I am getting tons of traffic from Twitter and getting a lot of links from sources I never would have gotten otherwise.
Well before I get labeled as being a long winded preacher, I will let all of you go. It has been my privilege to be allowed to share some of the things I have learned with all of you. God Bless you in all of your blogging pursuits.