April 2011 is a month that few people in the internet marketing community will forget.
One of the biggest casualties was voucher code site NetVoucherCodes.co.uk, with an estimated 99% reduction in search visibility.
In this post, I caught up with the team to discuss how they have recovered from the update and how they use content marketing to engage their audience.
Q) Can you share some insight into what it was like when Panda hit? How did you go about planning your recovery?
A) Wow, it was tough and is still tough! First of all our MD Steve Barnes asked us to create a project called ‘Operation Bamboo’ and to focus on what the “Panda” loves. Initially we looked at on page content with a view to rewriting thin content, adding rich media like video, purging some poor pages.
We basically did everything Google told us to do. Unfortunately nothing much made any difference. It wasn’t until we made drastic cuts to the number of pages and adding even better content to pages we wanted to keep that we started to see any form of recovery. You really need to look at your site objectively. If a page is there purely to try and rank for a keyword and the content isn’t great then bin it. Remember unique content doesn’t mean great content so make sure every page has a point in being there. Then get all the old pages out of Google’s index before the next update (410ing a page is the quickest way to get it removed from Google’s index). Be drastic, make a huge change but most importantly wait until the next Panda refresh (usually towards the end / beginning of the month) and measure any changes. Don’t expect improvements straight away.
We have disavowed a whole bunch of links that our former SEO company had built. Even though they were supposed to be one of the most reputable, white hat SEO companies in the UK they did an absolutely dreadful job for us and we have had to undo most of their work.
So some advice there is don’t trust anyone when it comes to your backlink profile. Make sure you have the skills in-house to be able to determine whether the work you’re paying good money for is Google friendly. We have stopped all external SEO work now and just concentrate on great PR.
Q) What does your post-Panda team look like?
A) The NetVoucherCodes.co.uk team is a select group of people who each bring their own expertise and skillset to the whole business. Whilst we have different departments, each with their own team, we work cohesively as a whole with aligned strategic goals.
Our data input team, content team, seo team, sales team, content team and to some extent our IT team all work in conjunction with each other on marketing and promotional activities that span each of their respective functions.
Q) How do you come up with the ideas for the content that is produced?
A) We use a range of techniques for content ideas, such as monitoring the news and listening to our readers. One method we have in place is that anyone within the company knows that they are able to come to us with an idea and we will listen to them. Some methods are obvious, especially if they fall into the seasonal calendar. Generally we work several months in advance of calendar events, so that everything is done and ready to go at the appropriate time whilst also allowing for any content that is reactionary, such as news items.
Q) With such a diverse range of products/services to cover, how do you decided which areas to focus on?
A) In terms of our blog – Live Life For Less – the main aim is to help our customers live life to the full but for less, so we make sure that we have articles that meet the needs of our audience. For example for our student section we would have articles that will give them advice on managing their student loans whilst also giving them tips on the best discounts for students. Fashionista would have a range of fashion related articles, together with news about codes and sales.
The content for the main NetVoucherCodes site is based upon the codes and discounts that we have secured with our retailers, together with articles that give information for the customer about the retailers.
Q) How do you plan and schedule the production and deployment of content? Are there any tools that you use?
A) Content for the blog is planned several months ahead of actual publication to allow time for all the relevant departments to play their part. We have several planning stages which allows us to allocate work to other departments and also to request their time if we are working on a collaborative piece. We use a cloud-based system that each department can access and see the progress of a particular piece of work.
We ensure that each item progresses through the stages until it is completed, before it reaches publication stage.
Q) How do you measure the effectiveness of the content you produce? What metrics do you look at?
A) We use Google Analytics to measure the amount of traffic to the site and also to individual pieces of content. The data is analysed on a weekly basis, with monthly comparisons.
Q) All of your contributors have Google Plus accounts. Do you have any data that reveals a positive impact of this integration on rankings and click through rate?
A) Currently there is no data to say whether it has an effect or not, though many in the industry suspect it does. G+ is a social channel which could, potentially, help with brand awareness.
Q) In terms of social engagement, are your audience more engaged with content shared on Twitter or Facebook?
A) Facebook and Twitter are two of the main social channels with which we engage, but we also find that we have a lot of engagement on both G+ and Pinterest as well.
Q) Do you have any tips on how to increase social engagement with content?
A) Play games with your fans, ask them who they would love to share something with (a holiday, or an amount of money). They will inevitably tag their friends into the comments and their friends will like what their friend has said. It’s a great way to improve your edge rank and appear on more peoples wall.
Q) Do you have any tips on how to structure content successfully for maximum impact?
A) We feel each piece of content needs to meet a certain criteria – firstly it needs to get your audience’s attention, therefore the correct title is important. But it’s no good having an eye-catching title if the content of the article doesn’t match. Images are very important too, content needs to be visually pleasing – many people don’t have the time to read a large portion of text so if the images match the content then they will stop and read. We ask ourselves questions, such as “Will our readers be interested in this?” “Will this be of benefit to them?” If the answer is “No” then there is no point in doing it.
Q) Are there any particular sites that you model yourself in terms of content?
A) We like to view ourselves as the Money Saving Expert of the voucher code industry. Unlike some of our smaller competitors who just list codes & deals, we put lots of effort into value added content through our blog personas.
Q) Finally, do you have any content marketing tips for those with limited time and budget?A)
A) Anywhere you can find content ideas is going to be a time saver. There are plenty of tips online for content creation strategies in particular formulas for a perfect link bait article, places to browse the most successful marketing campaigns etc. Join relevant sites for free like smartinsights.com.
Basically, don’t reinvent the wheel. Look at what’s worked in the past and redo it better, with a different angle.
- Unique content does not necessarily mean great content.
- Look at pages objectively – Ask whether your audience will be interested in content. If not, remove it.
- 410ing a page is the quickest way to remove it from Google’s index.
- Be patient – don’t expect ranking improvements straight away.
- Be careful when outsourcing link building, closely monitor all external activity.
- Use games/competitions to engage your audience on social media.
Been affected by and recovered from Google Panda? Share your experience below…