Watching Google watch you
Google’s Panda updates are part of the company’s quest to provide quality online content by way of complex (and usually covert) algorithms that rank websites. This is how and why the Panda algorithms have made their impact felt on millions since launching in 2011. These updates utilize more sophisticated and scalable artificial intelligence than ever before.
It started with human quality testers rating thousands of websites by measuring attributes like quality, including design, trustworthiness, speed and whether or not they would return to the website. Makes sense to me. What's so significant about Panda, (as many SEO marketers have learned the hard way!), is that Panda affects not just individual site pages, but the entire site or section. The result— an entire site can be penalized for the sins of a few pages. The most egregious offense? over-optimizing. The goal of Panda according to Google, was to clean up the garbage sites that clutter up search engine results and block out sites with meaningful, relevant copy.
Over the past 19 months there been 21 Panda updates (some major, most minor), plus Penguin and EMD (Exact Match Domain). Many continue to rock site owners’ worlds. Google is getting better and better at filtering out sites that try to game the search behemoth.
The key take-away— don’t take your eye off Google for a minute. It’s important to see your site through Google’s all-seeing eyes at all times.
Some simple ways to stay safe
When Panda was initially unleashed (note wordplay on dog picture above—sorry), it led to a surge in traffic and SEO rankings for some, while many more suffered a serious drop in Google rankings. The most significant outcome: a marked increase in the rankings of social media and news sites, and plummeting rankings for many advertisement-stuffed junk sites that previously held first-page rankings. Below are some basic ways to stay safe.
Ensure fresh and quality content
Panda updates filter duplicate and low-quality content, as these are key indicators for junk sites. With this move, website owners are now obliged to remove all pages stuffed with keywords and filler content. Consequently, SEO experts must now not only optimize their sites to the hilt, but must do so naturally. More importantly though, providing new and engaging content is critical. Dynamic content is king.
There are other factors that now have an increased impact on the “quality” site content, including, spelling, stylistic and grammatical issues. The bar has also been raised on traditional optimization techniques. For example, old standbys like anchor linking (deep linking to other pages within the same site), must now be relevant and each chunk of content must be unique. Gone are the days of randomly linking keywords just because they are keywords.
Engage site visitors
While Google has always shown preference for user-friendly sites that provide real value to visitors, with the Panda update, site that engage visitors by eliciting response (aka. Encouraging engagement) can bump up their rankings. Some simple SEO engagement boosters include allowing visitors to comment on articles, promoting product reviews and using social media tools like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter to maintain a dialog with site visitors.
Many webmasters have reported that the Panda update seems to emphasize penalizing pages with older dates, even though the pages may have high-quality and evergreen content (information that never goes out to date). While industry experts hope that this matter be resolved in future updates, it’s better to update your website pages to prevent any possible date-related penalization by Panda.