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WordPress and Google Panda Woes: How to Fix Things Out

24th September 2012

Do you run your website or blog using WordPress as CMS? If so, I strongly suggest you to have a closer look at what WordPress automatically create for you. Why? Because it might be the cause of your site being hit by Google Panda!

I’ve been using WordPress for 4 years – yet I just realized that some of my blogs running on WordPress are slowly destroying themselves. By destroying, I mean search engine ranking.

You see, WP-powered blogs are – for some reasons – loved by search engines. Just empower your basic WP installation with an SEO plugin and XML Sitemap generator, you are good to go: Search engine bots just love the content created by WordPress, especially if you post a new content on regular basis.

Now, did you know that WordPress are make things easier for you, as it’s automatically create categories, tags and image posts for you? Yeah – that’s easy. Just add new categories, tags, comments and images as you like and voila – WordPress create a dedicated page for them… wait… what?

Yes – for each new category, tag, comments and image you add to your blog post, WordPress will generate a page for each. So, when you click on the category and tag, you can see the blog posts under the same category and tag. For images, if you click on the URL, you can be led to the image page, complete with the image itself, title and description.

And yes, if you use default XML sitemap setting, all of them can be indexed by search engines, giving you plenty of indexed pages. Great, huh? Well, it was all great until Google Panda 1.0 kicked off.

Category, tag, image and any other automatically generated page woes

Did you know what Google Panda updates are for? That’s right – combating content farms – those sites with low-quality content: Short, meaningless content that has no authority at all.

With WordPress, what categorized as low quality content? Well, if you are working on your content right, then your blog posts and pages shouldn’t suck. But what about those that are created automatically by WordPress?

What if a category/tag of yours is indexed but it only contains 1 posts? What if your post image page only contains the image itself and a title? Those pages are lacking content – a red flag in Google Panda updates. What is your WordPress automatically create a page for each blog post comment left by your readers – and get that indexed? That’s right – more red flags.

And we all know that with blogging, we use several tags, images and getting comments. For each blog post – no matter how authoritative it is – you will have 5-10 short/low-quality tag, image and comment pages indexed by search engines diluting the quality of your post. The aftermath: Hit by Google Panda!

Fortunately, there is a way – an easy way, I must say – when it comes to WordPress: Use plugins to better your Robot.txt (a file telling search engine bots what to do with your webpages). I’m not an SEO expert, but I read a lot – so here are some tips you might want to consider following:

Use “noindex, follow” robots META tag

The Robots META tag tells search engine bots to follow links in your page, but not indexing your page. This is useful for getting rid of unwanted content from search engine index, which in Google can cause bots to flag your site as one with low-quality content.

Usage: Adding <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,follow” /> inside <head></head> of your page’s HTML.

To learn more, watch this short video explanation by Google’s Matt Cutts about follow, noindex META tag. And here’s the official explanation for META usage in robots pages

With that being said, you might want to use that tag on your categories, tags, image pages, etc. Some experts suggest that we should “index, follow” categories because they help search engines to structure your site – so you might want to leave categories indexed by Google.

What about images? Well, if you have this habit of leaving URL linking to the image page (default WordPress) when adding an image. This way, you will have a dedicated page for your image – which is not good as it’s not containing enough content to make it an authority (obviously!) You might want to remove the link from your post manually – which is troublesome, particularly if you have 1000s of blog posts with image links inside. A solution: 301 permanent redirect of your image page URLs to the original blog post’s URL (learn more about 301 redirects here)

A better solution for non-techie WP users to add those robots META tag, as well as redirecting your image pages is using a WP plugin.

I recommend you to use this plugin written by Yoast’s Joost de Valk: Robots Meta. It’s not developed anymore, as Joost has created a new, more extensive plugins than Robots Meta – you might want to try Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin.

Using Robots Meta plugin, you can specify what to index and follow. And this is the feature I love: You can permanently redirect image page links to your blog posts page links automatically – so, no more empty image pages for your WP-powered sites!

Manually configure your XML sitemap builder

XML sitemap plugins are typically working out of the box. However, you need to do some configuration to get your sitemaps built the way you want them.

Whichever XML sitemap builder you are using, be sure to manually configure it: Be sure NOT to include things you don’t want in your sitemap. For great customization and search engine-compliant sitemap builder, I recommend you to use Better WordPress Google XML Sitemaps (you can also have WP to automatically create Google News sitemap, too!)

Takeaway

There are loads of tips and tricks on getting your WordPress optimized for SEO – with that being said, there are plenty of things you can do to better your basic WordPress installation. I recommend you to “localize” your problem and focus your attack on it. With regard to Google Panda, be sure to fix things that can help your WordPress-powered site to avoid slap, even recover from it.

Remember, when it comes to Google Panda, you need to do things on your part. WP plugins are great, but those can only facilitate the changes you should do. Be sure you continue working on creating great content and be sure to maximize the chance of having your content linked by authoritative sites.

Good luck optimizing WordPress for Google Panda!

Ivan Widjaya
WordPress optimization for Google Panda updates
Image: Modified from the one by Daniel Kulinski

Ivan Widjaya is the owner of AsepOnde.com, as well as the founder of several online businesses: PrevisoMedia.com, Noobpreneur.com and Uptourist.com. He runs his business from anywhere, anytime he wants.

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