Google made an unprecedented change of how they evaluate and index websites when they rolled out the first Panda Update in February of 2011. Since then, they have made over 25 changes to the legendary algorithm.
The Panda Update is a filter Google uses to sift out content deemed to lack quality and substance. The name actually comes from the Google engineer that first wrote the complex script.
Over the years, Panda has wreaked havoc on websites that were only designed and marketed with the search engines in mind.
When the update was first rolled out, there was a very limited understanding, in the SEO community, about why their websites were penalized. People had been working with just Google in mind for so long that they really lacked the capacity to market with the user in mind.
Luckily, things have progress significantly in the last few years. Now, we have a very firm understanding of what Google is looking for and how we can make sure we don’t get penalized with future updates.
Below are the 4 main points ever marketer should know about Google Panda Updates. Understanding and following these points will make sure you don’t struggle with these kinds of filters in the future.
1. The Best Defense is a Good Offense
People have been saying this line for years. We usually think of defense and offense in terms of sports. However, the same principle can be used for online marketing. Producing high quality content on a regular basis is the best way for you to defend against future Panda Updates.
Producing high quality content opens up the door for many other marketing channels. The content you produce on your blog will naturally be posted to your social media pages. If you are putting out material that actually creates value, it will give people a reason to follow your company.
Having the understanding of how to produce quality material will give you the ability to build high quality landing pages for your paid marketing campaigns. It is really just a matter of understanding your audience and producing collateral that will add value to that community.
Our top recommendation for Panda-proofing your website against future updates is to get started producing quality content on a regular basis.
You are going to want to start with the static landing pages on your website. We highly recommend looking at these from a critical perspective. You need to really question the design and content to make sure they communicate the right message.
After you get your static landing pages up to snuff, its time to get moving on content marketing. Typically, most of this collateral will be posted to your blog.
We highly recommend getting a posting schedule put together. We recommend putting out new material at least once a week. However, we are really looking for quality over quantity with these efforts. If you can take your marketing to this point, you are well on your way to putting up a solid defense for future updates.
2. Understand Your Enemy
Google isn’t necessarily your enemy, but you get what I mean. We want to give you some solid information about the metrics Google looks at with their Panda Script. This should help you start to understand the changes you’ll need to make to your site.
Quality Design and User Experience
The Panda Updates have completely changed the game. Before 2011, the only thing SEO’s were worried about was getting as many exact match anchor text links as possible. Now, Google has added website performance as a core metric with how your website is placed in the SERPs.
Building a website that effectively communicates your company’s value is extremely important. It is critical that you view each user visiting your site as a person you want to impress. The way they interact with your site can literally make or break if you make it through the next Panda rollout unscathed.
Having a clear understanding of what makes a good or bad site is half of the battle. Some people have a natural eye for design. For the rest of us, it takes experience and research to start building a background in this art. If you are still working on developing an eye for design, we recommend checking out this blog post digitalflavor.com/what-makes-great-web-design/.
We recommend spending a few hours familiarizing yourself with some great looking websites. Be honest with how you think your site stacks up against other top quality sites. We also recommend getting the opinion of other third party individuals. You can get this by using a user testing service.
Social Media and Branding Signals
Google is looking for signs that your website has something meaningful to add to the Internet. Social media is a powerful tool to show real social proof that people are consuming and sharing your content.
There is been an intense debate over the last few years about how much social media affects the organic rankings. There have been some very significant tests done in the last 18 months showing a strong correlation between social engagement and top raking sites.
Look at some of the top performing competitors in your industry and see how they are leveraging social media. Take a look at how they have their Facebook and Twitter accounts configured. See how often they are posting their blog content to these profiles. This should give you a good idea on how you can improve you social efforts.
We have seen that Google has been looking at website performance more and more over the past few years. They have started analyzing the bounce rate, average time on site, and average pages visited per session. This gives them a good idea if people find your content to be engaging.
Computer learning is another new trend Google has been exploring over the years. Basically, they have identified several different aspects of a website that would deem it as high quality. Some of these would be unique content, proper optimization, well-written content, and a website’s indexability. They have written an algorithm to determine if your site fits into that category. If so, you will be rewarded with better placement. If not, you will see a drop in the rankings.
It is essential that you have Google Analytics configured on your site. Make sure you get some goals setup tracking the important conversion on your site. This can be anything from downloadable content to new sales. This will give you the ability to see exactly how your website is performing. After you start compiling that kind of data, you can make strategic adjustments to see which variation of a page converts or performs at a higher rate.
3. No Matter How Much You Wish, Panda Isn’t Going Away
Google has made it much harder to game their system with their new algorithm updates. You can either conform to the new quality standards or continue to practice outdated tactics.
We highly recommend you make the decision to get started with a real inbound marketing campaign. There is no question that typical SEO has its place in a quality online marketing campaign. However, you need to start thinking with the user in mind rather than just the search engines.
Having a solid understanding of inbound marketing is the first step in putting together a high quality campaign. We recommend setting the goal of reading a few good blog posts a week. Once you build your own knowledge, you can start taking action that will make a difference.
4. Reduce the Effects of a Panda Slap
I talk to people everyday that have been hit by either the Panda or Penguin updates. If this has happened to you, don’t lose hope. Google has given us some very specific information on how we can recover from these updates. Follow the next few steps to get things right with Google.
Get Rid of the Junk
Take a good look at the content you have on your site. Delete or rewrite the content that is either duplicate or low quality. This is the first step is showing Google you are ready to make a change.
Getting rid of the junk also pertains to links. We recommend using tools like OpenSiteExplorer and Majestic SEO to evaluate your website’s linking profile. If you have used low quality tactics to obtain links, you need to get them removed from Google’s Index.
If Google sees you have cleaned up your act, they will remove the penalty that has been placed on your domain.
Get Started with Real Inbound Marketing
Getting started with a real inbound marketing agency is the best way of showing Google you have something meaningful to add to the Internet. Follow the different recommendations we have given you in this blog post with generating great content that will be shared in the social media channels. This will produce strong signals that your website deserves top placement.
File a Reconsideration Request
This is where you can appeal your case to the Google web spam team. It is extremely important that you document the changes you make to improve your site. After you have made all of the fixes, it is time to write the reconsideration request. Basically, this is your chance to tell Google your story. It is extremely important to be truthful when going through this process.
The old days of trying to trick Google and the other search engines are over. It’s time to take a smarter approach to online marketing. The best advice we can give you in one sentence is to do everything with the user in mind. If you can get to this point, there is no question, you will start to see good things.
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Jonathan Smith has been in the SEO industry for over 7 years. He just started a new inbound marketing company called Digital Flavor. They focus on the general lead generation philosophy of attract, convert, close, and retain.