Matt still didn’t answer Nandita’s question in the video, How will a webmaster know if they are being affected by the Panda and I think that’s because the answer is, you will not know and you are not meant to know. Google doesn’t want to tell you the exact mechanisms of the algorithm. If your site is being affected by the Panda updates, you start by looking on-page at your site’s structure and content. The Penguin targeted off-page while the Panda focused only on your site’s on-page attributes.
To identify what Panda violations could be harming your site, you have to look at all aspects of the site to make sure it complies with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. If your site isn’t ranking well, then the chances are you may have attributes or violations that are triggering the algorithms to affect your site negatively.
When trying to understand the Panda, I find its best to try to read between the lines of all Google documentation and Matt Cutts politically correct answers. It would take a small book to explain how to tell if your site is being affected by the Panda but I have given post panda tips and SEO trouble shooting instructions and here are a few Panda between-the-lines translations to get you started:
- Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
Get Google Authorship or other high exposure bloggers and journalist to write your work.
- Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
Avoid keyword cannibalization.
- Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
Display all logos and associations along with phone numbers and addresses that correlate with your local business listings.
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
Use correct grammar, spelling and a vocabulary above a 6th-grade level.
- Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
Avoid doorway pages that target similar longtail keywords of the same group.
- Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
Don’t copy or regurgitate other peoples content. Copyscape.com will get you and spinners don’t work either, the Panda is for too advanced for that.
- Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
You must go above and beyond what else is posted out there. If you see a 500-word article on the same topic then you have to do a 750-word article and add more bells and whistles like I mentioned here on my post about Panda friendly articles.
- How much quality control is done on content?
Keep a clean and organized site, instead of just having random content all over the place. It’s best to have 100 awesome pages than 1000 crappy pages.
- Does the article describe both sides of a story?
Do in-depth research to cover all angles and even mention and link to other sources.
- Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
Google gives more rankings to brands and established online businesses. You can also do high authority citations and even get your own Wikipedia page.
- Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
Put the black-hat software away. Xrumer, SEnuke, and Scrapebox are all busted. Those days are long gone, Google started cracking down on that type of stuff two years before the Panda even came out but now its really over.
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
Get all the share buttons and APIs installed. Social media are more important now than ever before and the trend will continue. Google even integrated new social signal metrics in Analytics. Good content gets shared, liked, tweeted etc. I spend just as much time on social media as I do on link building and citations.
- Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
Watch out for the page layout penalty.