Last week we took a look at some of Panda 4.1’s biggest winning and losing websites in terms of change in actual traffic referred by Google. Now that some more time has passed, there’s a lot more we can learn by using SimilarWeb PRO to take a closer look at some of the specific ranking factors that Panda 4.1 takes more seriously than earlier search algorithms did.
We’ll drill down into some traffic metrics for Hongkiat, one of the update’s biggest winners, and Free Coloring Pages, one of its biggest losers, to determine why they have been affected by the latest Panda update. Based on this analysis, we’ll also offer some insights into what each site should be improving in order to raise their rankings.
What this Panda Cares About
In order to understand why these sites were affected so dramatically by Panda 4.1, let’s get familiar with the negative characteristics that Google penalized in this update.
- Thin Content – Content which is not useful to the user is considered “thin” by Google. In order to check if a website’s content may be flagged for thinness by Panda 4.1, look at the bounce rate of its pages. Also, if visitors are spending especially short amounts of time on pages, this is a signal that they didn’t find what they came for. And pages that are not linked to by others are also likely to contain thin content, because useful information is generally linked to by other sites for the benefit of their readers.
- Content Farms – Sites which specialize in publishing for the sole purpose of drawing readers in are called content farms. They often feature uninformative, nonsensical articles and/or content copied from other websites. These sites aim to manipulate the search engines into sending them traffic, and Panda 4.1 represents Google’s latest attempt to filter content farms out of search results.
- Duplicate Content – Content which appears in more than one place on the internet is confusing to search engines. Websites that include what seems to be lots of copied content from other sites, or have multiple pages with the same text appearing on them, are being penalized with new levels of harshness by Panda 4.1.
- HTML Improvements – Multiple pages with duplicate titles and meta descriptions are being penalized by Panda 4.1.
- Ad-to-Content Ratio – Sites which have a disproportionately high appearance of advertisements compared to the amount of content are penalized as well.
- Page Speed Loading Time – When sites load too slowly, users become frustrated and bounce off the pages. Google’s solution for maximizing searchers’ satisfaction is to aggregate slow-loading pages lower in search results.
- Broken Pages – A high percentage of pages that don’t load properly can affect the rankings of an entire site.
- Engagement Metrics – Google uses metrics like bounce rate, time on site and pages per visit to determine whether a site provides useful content to its visitors.
Why Panda 4.1 is Boosting Honigkiat
One of the algorithm update’s biggest winners is Hongkiat.com, a design and technology blog. Here’s what SimilarWeb PRO is showing for the site’s daily desktop visits over the course of Panda 4.1’s rollout.
The new traffic plateau represents a recovery for the site, following the major hit it sustained as a result of Panda 4.0 back in late May.
To put these fluctuations into context, it’s important to remember that almost 87% of Hongkiat’s desktop traffic comes from search. The site targets and relies on search traffic, suggesting that its audience’s brand loyalty is extremely weak – only 9% of the total traffic comes from direct visits.
A quick perusal of the site shows that one of the big changes implemented on Hongkiat since Panda 4.0 is a dramatic reduction of the number of published posts – it dropped from four to five per day to two per day. Digging deeper still, we can identify the areas where Hongkiat still has room for improvement in the wake of Panda 4.1.
Hongkiat’s Panda 4.1 Standing for Content Factors
- Thin Content – Every post on the website seems to feature useful, rich, unique content.
- Content Farm – Hongkiat’s content is clearly written for users and not just for search engine bots.
- Duplicate Content – Hongkiat’s duplicate content rate is a respectably low 11%, according to Siteliner, a great tool for this.
Hongkiat’s Panda 4.1 Standing for Site Performance Factors
- HTML Improvements – No duplicate meta titles or descriptions and were found, according to Microsoft IIS.
- Ad-to-Content Ratio – The website has reasonably few advertisements.
- Page Speed Loading Time – Google’s own PageSpeed Insights tool grades the site 62/100 for desktop.
- Broken Pages – None, according to XENU.
- Engagement Metrics – This is the only factor where Hongkiat is not excelling.
The average bounce rate web-wide is estimated at 50%, whereas Hongkiat’s rate is significantly higher. With Panda 4.1, bounce rate didn’t adversely affect the site’s search referral volume, but efforts should be made to keep users on the site for longer and clicking around to more internal pages.
Why Panda 4.1 is Slamming Free Coloring Pages
A site that offers downloadable, printable coloring pages for children, Free-coloring-pages.com’s daily desktop visits took a nosedive over the course of Panda 4.1’s rollout, according to SimilarWeb PRO.
This represents the continuation of a trend, with the site’s daily desktop visits having dropped significantly over the course of the year preceding Panda 4.1.
Almost 67% of the all visits to Free Coloring Pages come from search. Although the site relies heavily on its search traffic, it does have stronger audience loyalty than Hongkiat. Approximately 24% of all Free Coloring Pages visits come from direct traffic.
Free Coloring Pages’s Panda 4.1 Standing for Content Factors
- Thin Content – With most internal pages consisting of little other than downloadable images and navigation links, there is a lot of extremely thin content on this site. The publisher would do well to improve the ratio of content to images.
- Content Farm – As there is so little content on the site that this is not a relevant factor.
- Duplicate content – Measured as 13% by Siteliner.
Free Coloring Pages’s Panda 4.1 Standing for Site Performance Factors
- HTML Improvements – The onsite SEO for Free Coloring Pages is lacking. The site’s publisher can easily boost rankings by adding title tags and meta description tags to the many pages that have none and by making sure that each page has unique meta data.
- Ad-to-Content Ratio – Image download pages, the thinnest in terms of content, are surrounded by banners and text link ads on three sides, which can’t be helping to ingratiate the site to Panda.
- Broken Pages – None, according to XENU.
- Page Speed Loading Time – Google’s own PageSpeed Insights tool grades the site 66/100 for desktop.
- Engagement – Not bad at all, but these aren’t enough to save the site from being penalized.
How Free Coloring Pages Can Recover from Panda 4.1
The publishers of Free-coloring-pages.com don’t need to fret just yet – the solutions to their recent Panda penalties are clear and straightforward. Adding lots of quality, relevant text-based content to the site will go a long way towards fixing the thinness issue. Enriching image and category pages with helpful blurbs will help add Panda-friendly meat and improve the content-to-image ratios.
The site’s SEO infrastructure could use some help too. Simply adding an XML sitemap might help quite a bit. Varying the anchor text used on the top, side and bottom navigation links may provide a boost as well. And it’s possible that with better text, the site’s keyword density will come down to be close enough to the recommended levels of 1% to 1.5%.
Let’s Get Ready for The Next Panda Update
Assuming that Google continues to develop algorithm updates that address the types of factors that have been important to Panda’s iterations so far, here are some tips on how to prepare for the inevitably approaching next wave of penalties.
- Upload unique content. Make sure to publish unique and relevant content that is aimed at users and not search engines, with correct grammar and spelling.
- Increase the engagement performance of your site. Your site should focus on interesting content and unique features that will help you improve bounce rates, time spent on your site and pages per visit.
- Improve your onsite optimization. Extremely useful tools for this include XENU or Screaming Frog to find broken links, Siteliner to scan for duplicate content, WMT to find crawl errors, Google PageSpeed Insights to improve your loading time and SEO Quake Toolbar to see any issues relating to meta data and keyword density.