Google's ongoing Panda updates are geared to bring websites with high-quality content to the fore and to penalize sites of lower quality, especially when they are merely regurgitating content from other sites.
That dynamic may make it especially challenging to sites with affiliate relationships and some in the Expedia Affiliate Network camp have been particularly hard hit.
"The [affiliate] sites that had quality original content, that added value, fared much better than those that didn't," wrote Jeff Slipko, Expedia Affiliate Network's SEO strategy manager, in a blog post. "Over the last year, we've seen our affiliates work incredibly hard to add additional value in order to recover from a Panda penalty or to avoid it all together."
The following is a summary of EAN's best practices, as espoused by Slipko, on how affiliates can deal with the big bad Panda updates:
1. Reduce Duplicate Content: Try not to take content directly from other sites, and if you do, repurpose it and rewrite it with your own angle and spin whenever feasible.
2. Avoid Thin Content: Google reportedly categorizes some affiliates as "thin" when they purely exist to make money and don't chip in with quality content surrounding their money-making pursuits. So any thin content on affiliate sites should be edited and reworked with a focus on enriching the user experience.
3. Take the Bounce Out of Your Step: Google Panda has little love for sites with high bounce rates and minuscule numbers of page views. Again, after examining your analytics, fatten up your most vulnerable pages with quality content.
4. Strive to Dodge Getting Your Site Blocked: Google Panda loves site pages that get bookmarked or earn a +1, and conversely has no patience for sites which users block or bounce off quickly. Again, content is key and affiliates should address issues on any pages where user behavior makes them appear more like trampolines than glue.
5. Go Light on Advertisements: Sites with minimal advertising and those that relegate ads to lower positions on a page seem to do better with Panda than others, so take appropriate steps to comply with these mandates.
6. Templates Alone are a Template for Failure: Template sites which aren't habitually updated with fresh content will suffer the consequences.
Slipko emphasizes that there is no one-size-fits all panacea for affiliates in trying to sidestep Panda's wrath, but the above six steps will help combat what has become "a whirlwind of destruction for some."