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As a small business owner, you should be more concerned with the day to day running of your business, generating leads, making more sales, and keeping your customers happy than worrying about an update to Google’s algorithm.

You’re also probably no expert in Google apart from knowing that your customers use it to find you, and that it sends traffic to your website which you hopefully convert into leads or sales.

Unfortunately, Google moves the goalposts – often.

It updates it’s algorithm frequently, and in the case of the most recent update, it can SIGNIFICANTLY impact on the bottom line of your business.

Have you noticed a dip in website traffic or leads generated through your site? Here’s a couple of questions to ask yourself:

  • Has your local business dropped completely from the rankings in Google for your targeted keywords over the last few days?
  • Has your traffic decreased significantly from Google since May 20th?

Chances are your local business website has been affected by Google’s latest algorithm update known as Panda 4.0.

This is not a necessarily a ‘penalty’ handed out by Google, but a change to the way they rank websites in their search results.

So What Is a Google Panda Update?

This particular filter was designed to prevent sites with poor quality content from working their way into Google’s top search results.

The first such update was released in February 2011 and there have since been several significant alterations made since.

There are a number of more comprehensive guides about this most recent Panda 4.0 update which give more details about the nuts and bolts of the change – but these are more for the experts rather than small business owners.

How Do I Know If My Website Has Been Affected?

1. Rank Checking Software

If you have a rank checker, (use either Serpbook or Serpfox) it might look something like this:

Panda 4.0 Ranking Drop

Or this:

Panda 4.0 Drop

When your rankings drop like this, on this date, you know your site has been hit – which is a major bummer.

2. Analytics

Another way you can tell whether you site has been affected is to look at your analytics.

Has there been a big drop off in traffic? Has Google stopped sending you as much traffic from May 20th?

You should be able to tell pretty quickly whether there’s been a big drop off or not.

3. Type Your Keywords into Google

The third way to check is probably the way most small business owners check their rankings…by typing their keywords into Google!

To do this, make sure you select “private browsing” to remove personalised results and give you a better picture of the current rankings.

Once you’ve typed in some of the keywords you used to rank for into Google, does your website still appear for these? If not, this might be another indication that your have been hit by the Panda filter.

So Why MY Website?

There are a number of reasons why a website might get caught in the Panda filter.

This list is not exhaustive, and is what I believe would be the most common reasons why a small business website may be getting affected.

As you can tell, these are primarily on-site issues to do with your website’s usability, content, navigation structure, technical aspects of the website, mobile accessibility and load times.

  • Low Quality Content
  • Duplicate content
  • Poor navigational structure
  • Thin content
  • Slow page speed
  • Poor technical SEO (page titles, usage of headings etc)

Google made this resource on what constitutes a ‘good’ website in their eyes and provides some insight as to why you might have been hit.

You can also try running this Google analytics report to see why you might have been affected.

What Can I Do Climb Back Up The Rankings?

Recovering from these Google updates can be a bit of a time consuming and frustrating task – but it is possible to bounce back.

Small bandaid changes don’t work.

The most important thing to do is identify the specific content areas on your website that have been deemed as low quality and that require immediate attention.

Have you replicated the same page over and over with only minor changes to the content?

You need to locate them immediately and either beef up the content on those pages, or remove them altogether.

Don’t fear, there are a number of pretty comprehensive guides out there that walk you through step by step how to recover your rankings if your small business website has been impacted.

What Next?

Once you have taken action to fix the content and improved the usability of your website, then it’s time to track your progress and see whether you bounce back up the rankings.

I highly recommend taking out a subscription to one of those rank checkers as it is much easier to keep an eye out on your rankings using that software than typing it directly into Google!

If you still aren’t recovering, then it’s probably time to contact a professional SEO provider who can give you an independent website audit and provide more specialised advice for your site.

Remember, all is not lost! Whilst these changes to Google can be devastating to your website traffic and impact negatively on your small business, it can be an opportunity for you to improve your website for the long term.

Small changes to your content, navigational structure, and page layouts can have a huge impact not on just rankings, but on conversions, and overall usability.

Over To You

What’s your experience? Has your small business been negatively impacted by Google’s Panda 4.0 update?

Feel free to share your story and ask questions!

Andrew Webber

Andrew Webber is the Company Director of The Marketing Department. He's also an avid basketballer with a passion for SEO and all forms of digital marketing!