Google has made its biggest change to their dynamic algorithm with the integration of the Panda update. The update has had major impact on US based search results with some websites experiencing a 50% decline in web traffic, while some sites have been completely removed.
Google’s Matt Cutts recently explained the thinking behind the update. “Many of the changes we make are so subtle that very few people notice them. But in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries—and we wanted to let people know what’s going on.”
“This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.”
To-date the update has only impacted on US search results, but it is expected to be rolled out globally over the course of the next few weeks.
How to become Panda friendly
Content: Avoid duplicate content and stay away from auto blogging services. If possible post original news articles on your site first before distributing wider. If you do have duplicate content, make use of robots.txt. commands to prevent similar content from being indexed.
A lot of websites in the e-commerce sector tend to use duplicate copy across their sites. To prevent Google from penalising you for this, add rel=canonical tags to the ‘duped’ pages. This will prevent those pages from being viewed as duplicates.
Title Tag: If you have a specific title tag for each page, make sure that the content on the site is closely related to it. Avoid using clever play on words; keep your title tags simple, to the point and above all relevant.
Low quality inbound links: Low quality links have become a growing area of concern for Google, with websites cheating the system by driving hundreds of irrelevant links to their website in an attempt to improve SEO. The Panda update will clamp down on these sites and penalise those making excessive use of low quality links.
In order to ensure that your ranking does not suffer, avoid link farms and reciprocal link exchanges unless they are from highly relevant sites and run off important pages. Linking strategies should be strategic and based only on credible sites that have a close relationship to the content on your site.
Social Media: Make sure you have links on your website both to and from credible social media sites. Social media content continues to gain importance in the Google search algorithm. So if you are serious about SEO, make sure you are active and have a strong social media presence.
Quality of visitors: The quality of visitor to your site will become increasingly important on the back of the Panda Update with bounce rates, time spent on site and general depth of visit being fundamental to a website’s online success. Sites focused on generating numbers to drive SEO will be the big losers.
Over optimised pages: Over the last two years in particular Google has clamped down on over optimised pages. This refers to both content and the use of SEO tools such as bold and italic text which highlights important content to search engines.
The general rule when it comes to keyword stuffing is that if you are listing a certain term more than three times on a page, you are spamming the browser.
The Future of Google
A number of websites have already noticed a major reduction in web traffic, with some sites disappearing completely from Google’s organic results. To avoid this, provide relevant, original content that integrates a strategic linking strategy.
The Panda update should not be seen as a threat, but rather an opportunity. Do not try and cheat the Google algorithm, rather work within the parameters set out by Google and provide your potential browsers with a relevant and above all enjoyable web experience.
By Patrick Gordon, Online Marketing Manager, DUO Marketing & Communications