I almost missed it – but Google has announced in the Google Webmaster Central Blog that they have released the Panda algorithm to the rest of the world.
Well, I did miss it for two days, but I knew it was coming and prepared for it. However, if you were caught off-guard and you have seen your localized (or even non-localized non-English) pages drop like rocks in the Google ranking then it’s your own fault. You were warned. Specifically, I told you so in my April’s post Website Localization Impacted By New Google Algorithm.
Google specifically highlights that this algorithm change (for non-English pages) affects 6-9% of the queries. This is much lower than the original 12% that the English-language panda algorithm impacted, but still significant. If you are one of those that are hit, you had it coming, I was not the only one that told you that it was just a matter of time before Panda was rolled out to the rest of the world.
But don’t despair. People have recovered from Panda when it hit their English pages, so there should be no issue that you can recover in a similar way for non-English pages if you are hit.
First, remember what Panda is all about: Its intent is to “reduce rankings for low quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful.”
So the first thing you should do is make sure that:
- You have original content. Remember that duplicate content is a no-no. If you DO need duplicate pages, use the “rel=canonical” tag to the duplicate pages.
- The content is not just a few words, but a significant amount of text, or it might be considered “low value”. I am always amazed by how many people think that their website should rank #1 because it has lots of text in images. Sorry, search engines don’t read that! If your site has a lot of images (e.g., a photo or video blog), add text!
- Check grammar and spelling! As I pointed out in my previous post, this qualifies as “poorly written content”, and in the words of a Google employee “Bear in mind that people searching on Google typically don’t want to see shallow or poorly written content“.
- Do not use RSS feeds from other web sites, if you can avoid it. If necessary, try that your own text is significantly more than that of the RSS feed.
- Get rid of spam comments in your blog. Apart that those comments may link to bad neighborhoods, it’s likely to reduce the quality of your pages. Keep only useful comments.
- Reduce the number of advertising. If the ratio text-advertising is too high, you’ll drop like a rock.
- Reduce the number of keywords linked with your post and/or page. An overkill of keywords can literally kill your page.
- Accelerate the loading speed of your site.
- Log in to your Google Webmaster Tools account, and check in Diagnostics what issues your site has. These will be typically content issues such as duplicate content, but also duplicate meta descriptions, short meta descriptions, and duplicate titles. For some reason, people forget that meta tags are also crawled by Google, and they can also be considered duplicate content. Fix those.
- Use social networks for the promotion of your blog or web site.
- Use the robots.txt file to prevent indexing of the pages that could violate some of the Google guidelines but that for some reason you cannot remove.
- If everything fails and you think you are perfectly complying with every single Google rule, then notify Google.
Now, those are the SEO tricks that you would apply to your English pages to recover after Panda strikes. What about your localized pages? Well, the rules are exactly the same! The difference is, that you have to comply with these guidelines in the other language(s) in which your site is. Specially important is recommendation #3, grammar and spelling. This means, among other things: No machine translation! Yes, you can include Google Translate to translate your pages (see my post How to use Google translate on your site), but as I pointed out in my post Does Google Translate provide you additional SEO Juice?, this will not help your SEO because the pages are created “on the fly” and do not really exist. But NEVER use machine translation to create ages and then post them on your site. Such translations stink, as I pointed out in my post Be smart and fetid #1 with machine translation. And the new Panda pays a lot of attention to poorly written content. Machine translation is a very good way to get poorly written content and be penalized. Use it at your own risk!
An important thing that you must also remember is that your site is the totality of your pages. So, if you have your pages in two languages (say, English and Spanish), your site might get penalized because you have a lousy translation from English into Spanish, say, a machine translation. So you may have the perfect Google site for your English pages, but if the localized pages fall under the “low quality” criterion of Google, you might be in trouble… an emergency solution could be to apply recommendation #11 to all your Spanish pages, while you ask a Spanish expert to review that part.
So careful: While website localization expands your business, a bad localization might bring it down because of the new world-wide Panda!