By now most of you have heard rumblings about Google's Panda update (also sometimes referred to as the Farmer Update) either because your site has been affected by it, or because you know of websites that have suffered catastrophic losses in organic search rankings as a result of the update. Google updated Panda most recently in late June, so now is the perfect time to run through the update and give everyone some tips.
If you aren’t sure exactly what Panda is, here is a brief explanation: Google’s Panda update is basically a revision to the Google algorithm that penalizes low quality content by lowering organic search rankings for pages it considers to be of poor quality. Panda takes into account usage metrics as opposed to only factoring traditional ranking factors such as inbound link count and keyword usage.
With Panda, usage statistics such as time on site, bounce rate, and average pageviews are factored into the algorithm, as well as social signals and amount of branded searches.
The fact that with Panda, Google takes into account these usage metrics means now, more so than ever, it is not enough to front-load your Title Tag with good keywords, throw a few different iterations of that keyword into the body text of your page, and submit your page to a handful of directories. In addition to all those established on-site best practices, you need to also build a really awesome site – one that actually appeals to and engages visitors.
It makes sense that Google implemented this update; their goal is to deliver the most relevant search results to their users. If you’ve ever performed a search for anything that starts with “How To…” and clicked through to an Ezine article from the search results, you know that this type of content is often low quality and frustratingly incomplete. Google doesn’t want to risk losing you as a loyal user because they returned spammy results for your search.
However, regardless of Google’s implementation of Panda, you should want your site to live up to high quality standards. The fact that Google has begun to take usage factors into account should act as an indicator to online businesses that these things make a difference to the success or failure of a site.
Adjusting to The World According to Panda.
1. Look at your site and your analytics. Be honest with yourself about your weaknesses. Once you’ve identified weaknesses (high bounce rate, for example) take the necessary steps to improve content and site interface.
Speaking of content...
2. Create high quality, relevant, usable content and remove low quality, spammy content. Give users the content they crave – not the content you think Google wants to see. Luckily, Panda brings the two closer in line.
3. If you aren’t active in social media, now is the time friends. With Google’s algorithm taking social mentions into account more and more these days, you want to make sure that you are making social work for your site.
4. Take care of any duplicate content issues on your site. Use the rel=canonical tag to specify which page of a group of 2 or more pages with similar content is the version you want Google to index.
5. Don’t plagiarize. Ever. Ever.