In an effort to optimize the web user experience, Google periodically (and sneakily) updates the complex mathematical formula that determines what page recommendations are made to specific search queries. Understanding the intricacies of these “search algorithms” is essentially what Search Engine Optimization agencies and experts need to do if they’re to ensure that their clients’ websites remain at the top of Google’s search results.
The latest update has been dubbed “Panda” and the most important and over-arching theme with this search algorithm is the following:
Panda hates spammy, poor quality content, so pages that are riddled with keywords, repetitious phrases, spelling errors and links are OUT. These pages will not get recommendations and website traffic from Google. What this algorithm does love is great quality, well-written content: content that is shareable, relevant, engaging and answers the questions of the people who search for it.
What this all means is that, for the sake of your site’s SEO, it’s time to take a good hard look at your content! In this two-part blog series, we’ll be taking a look at the key take-away points from Google’s latest Panda algorithm update, starting with…
Do Your Research Before Going on a Content Cleaning Binge
There has been a critical misconception echoing about the SEO sphere that the websites that have been hard hit by the latest Panda algorithm need to go on a content cleaning binge. In a desperate attempt to “make nice” with the new search algorithm, webmasters are staging epic executions of content pages that are old, over or under the recommended word length or that contain the same or similar keywords to other pages on the site.
Sure, there are SEO recommendations in place, but just because every page on your website might not meet these recommendations, doesn’t mean it’s not doing its bit to attract valuable attention and traffic from Google! Here’s the bottom line: if Google considers your content good, relevant and engaging, it will send traffic to it and that’s the only parameter you need to pay attention to when it comes to deciding which pages can stay on your site.
Consult Google Analytic’s to examine the performance of each page: is it receiving traffic? Are people spending a bit of time on your page? Are they clicking through to other pages? Even if a page only sees 10 visitors per month, it’s contributing towards the exposure your website is getting. If a page is attracting web visitors (no matter how many years ago you posted it, or how long it is, or how outside the expected parameters it is), don’t delete it!
The Content on a Page Should Match the Keyword/s You Use
It’s frustrating being directed to a website for a particular search query and finding that the content on that page has absolutely nothing to do with what you’re looking for. In an attempt to minimize irrelevancy, Google’s Panda greatly values content that is closely linked with its keywords and isn’t overly vague or full of waffle. Your site has to deliver upon the expectations of its visitors, so if you choose a particular keyword or phrase for a page of content, make sure that content is focused on the subject of that keyword or, at the very least, contains links to pages that are.
Every website visitor has a question – its why they’ve chosen that particular search query in the first place – and if that question is answered, your chance of winning them over as a sales lead increases dramatically. As an SEO Webmaster you need to ask yourself: is my content catering to their search queries? If not, it’s time for a content revamp.
Fixing Content Is Often Better Than Eliminating It
In most cases, it is Better SEO Strategy to edit a page of content to be more robust, better quality and relevant than it is to simply delete it. All the main pages on your website, your blogs and other published content should be well-written, thoroughly researched and referenced content. However, there are cases where content contributed by other sources – perhaps by forum users – can damage your site’s appeal to Google, so don’t allow your forum to be taken over by spam and make sure any content contributions are quality and valuable.
Don’t be afraid to “Noindex” a page if you’d like to keep it (perhaps to fix at a later date), but feel it’s currently harming your SEO strategy and site ranking.
Historically, SEOs have believed duplicate content to have a disastrous effect on website ranking and while this was originally true to prevent “Black Hat” SEO strategy, Panda isn’t as concerned with duplicate content as it is with poor content quality. The take-home message on this point is to focus on improving content quality and its relevance to keywords to get your website ranking again and THEN you can perform an exorcism of any and all duplicate content on your site.
It’s About Quality, Not Quantity
Do not fixate on the number of words on a page: more is not necessarily better when it comes to sound SEO Strategy. There are staggering volumes of content pages on the Internet that run into the thousands of words and yet are so poorly written that they are driving traffic away from their hosting websites. Conversely, there are examples of pages that are only a hundred or more words and are so exceptionally presented and written that they are ranking in Google’s top 5 search results.
There’s nothing wrong with establishing deliverable parameters for your SEO content writers, be it a blog with a word count of 500, a press release of ±1,000 words or a LinkedIn article of ±1,500 words, but quality is of the utmost importance. Do not eliminate content simply because it’s beneath a certain word count threshold – if it’s ranking and driving traffic to your website, keep it. And by the same token, do not post content simply because it meets word count.
Advertising and Affiliate Links: Helpful or Harmful?
Contrary to popular belief, there’s nothing wrong with having affiliate and/or advertising links on your website. This on its own will not cause your site to suffer in the eyes of Panda. However, as with everything in life, too much can be a bad thing, so make use of affiliate and ad links to complement your site’s content rather than overwhelm it. No one is going to spend much time on your site if they’re bombarded by advertisements.
Having people comment on your news articles and blogs is a good thing for your SEO strategy, as long as they’re real people and real comments! Google uses each and every comment as an indicator that your content is response-worthy. Encouraging viewers to comment and participate in debate also brings back repeat traffic, establishes you as a relatable brand and gives you further ideas and inspiration for content.
The thing with commentary is that you’ve got to monitor it to ensure that your site isn’t getting spammed or populated with thin, poor-quality content. Establish a policy for your forum or comments section and make sure you enforce that policy to avoid being penalized by Panda.
All of the tidbits of Panda advice released by Google can easily be incorporated into any SEO strategy in order to optimize the relevance and popularity of your website’s pages. However, the core message of this latest news release is that Panda values quality content above absolutely all else!