Impact of Google’s Panda Update on Content

Panda

Search engines are always fine tuning their ranking algorithms, and our search marketing specialists at SEO.com are exposing exactly what you need to know to keep up and stay on top.

Watch our recorded webinar Impact of Google’s Panda Update on Content, presented by SEO Manager David Malmborg, and discover the core changes Panda updates made for ranking in search engines and what they mean for your content initiatives and content strategies. Come to learn the significance of Google Panda updates and how it relates to content.

David Malmborg – SEO Manager

Better yet, find out how to recover from previous Google Panda effects and how to help fortify your site in preparation for any Panda updates in the near future.

This webinar was recorded Thursday, Apr 19, 2012.

Impact of Google’s Panda Update on Content Video Replay

[flv:4_19_12-Impact-of-Google.flv 512 320]

Webinar Transcript

Pat: Today, we have a great webinar. It’s called “The Impact of Google’s Panda Update on Content.” We have David Malmborg here who is going to break down the last year of Google Panda updates. He’s going to share some insights on how it’s impacted Google content, how it’s impacted websites, ways to counter it, perhaps, some of its impacts.

Now before we begin today, I want to share with you a little bit of information about SEO.com. SEO.com is a service company. We’re not a technology company. That’s how we’re different from other online marketing firms. With the ever-changing search engines, it is extremely important to have knowledgeable people researching and understanding the regular updates to how things are found on the Internet. Because SEO.com is not a technology-based SEO firm, we’re able to watch, manage, and frankly, preemptively adjust to the changing search results.

SEO.com is better suited to manage strategic SEO projects for small and large companies looking to increase their rankings in the search engines. To see how your website compares to your competition, go to SEO.com and fill out one of our forms. You can receive a free website evaluation that way.

Thanks again for joining us. We have these webinars regularly. Somebody was asking earlier how often we do these. We have another one coming up in a couple of weeks, and we’ll show you some details on those at the end of the webinar.

So let’s introduce our presenter today. It’s David Malmborg. David Malmborg is a Senior SEO Manager at SEO.com. How are you doing, David?

David: I’m doing good, thank you.

Pat: Great. I know you have a great presentation planned. I’ve read the presentation, and it’s just chock full of information.

David: Thanks I hope it’s good.

Pat: Shall we get started?

David: Yeah, I’m ready when you guys are.

Pat: Where do we begin with a presentation about the Panda updates?

David: So, really, everyone wants to know what’s happening with Panda because what happened was Panda came through and and kung fued their site. We’ve already had a couple of people ask us on the chat on Twitter, “What’s happened to my site? I’ve dropped from ranking 3 to ranking 30 to the mid 50s,” and so on and so forth. Panda’s come through, it’s killed a lot of sites, and we’re going to talk about why that is and what we need to change to make that better.

So, looking into it, why did Panda come about? That’s the question we want to ask. What was happening? If you remember a year or so ago before Panda came out—it’s hard to remember back that far—but when you did searches for any “how to” types of questions, what really ended up coming up was low-quality, thin content, ad-driven pages from what we call content farms. The content farms were ruining the search experience and a lot of people were complaining about it. And so what Google did was create this Google Panda update to try and eliminate some of the low-quality content that was showing up in search results and replace it with higher-quality content that people ended up trusting.

Pat: The low-quality content was ranking high?

David: Yeah, because it was so perfectly optimized for what search engines were trying to deliver. So now what we’ve got here is an algorithm update, or a change, to the way Google perceives the quality of the content so it determines whether it should rank high or not.

Pat: Now, David, I’m feeling compelled to take a step back. We’ve jumped right into this discussion about the Panda update, and I know this is kind of off your presentation, but we’ve jumped right into this discussion about content farms and SERPs and ad-driven pages. And I’m thinking in our audience out there, which is really quite large—and we appreciate it—there are people who perhaps have heard about the Panda update. They’re business people, but they really don’t understand why they should care. Can you give us a quick primer on that?

David: Right, yeah. So here’s really the big issue on why people should care. Most people—and I’m assuming the majority of the people listening to this webinar—aren’t content farms. They aren’t these websites that answer all of these different how-to questions. Yet they still ended up getting hit by Panda. So why is it that you ended up getting hit when these algorithms were originally designed for the content farms but your website suffers from it.

Why is that? Because the whole shift is run by computers, essentially, and the computers are lumping you in. They are seeing you as low-quality, thin, maybe too perfectly optimized for long-tail keywords or maybe too many ads. And that is where you’ve got to decide whether you fit in or what you are having issues with. Is that why Panda is taking a look at your site and hitting your site as well? That’s why you guys and so many others are interested in what’s going on with Panda.

Webinar Highlights

  • Panda basically got rid of eHow.com results from “how to” searches.
  • Panda is continually updated and tweaked to get rid of more of these sites. Using Google Chrome’s search tracking, they believe that Panda now weeds out 80% of these content farms.
  • The update is named after Navneet Panda and was launched on February 24, 2011.
  • It is designed to determine the quality of website content and doesn’t really look at the back-end or at backlinks.
  • The website owner can control what Panda does by improving the content of their website, but this takes a lot of work.
  • If you got slammed by Panda, the easiest approach is to start over from scratch on a new website, structure it better, and fill it with high-quality content.
  • Panda uses artificial intelligence to determine what sites you like and don’t like. Then it will base the search results you receive on the preferences it has detected in your browsing habits.
  • Panda affected 12% of all search engine results (SERPs), which means over 1 billion search results a day are affected by Panda.
  • By comparing your historical Google Analytics data (for organic results) with various updates of the Panda algorithm, you can determine how much Panda has affected your website. Take the week a certain update is released and look at how much your hits are affected during that week.
  • Panda’s affect is not always negative. If your site has better content than your competitors’ larger sites, you may find yourself suddenly above them in results thanks to Panda.
  • The purpose of Panda updates is to adjust the algorithm’s effects based on the trends they are seeing in various industries and categories of searches. These updates basically change what the “machine learning” part of the algorithm “knows.”
  •  Google does not reveal exactly what Panda looks at so that others cannot “game the system.” We do know it looks at your entire website as a whole and makes sure it reaches some minimum content quality threshold.
  • Site visitor records can also directly affect your search engine results. This includes bounce rate, click-through rate, how many people go to each page, etc. These visitor metrics really affect your entire site’s rankings.
  • Google put out a blog post that asks 22 questions about you website. These questions can be sorted into four types that reveal what Panda looks at: authority, trust, authenticity, and quality.
  • When consider a site as an authority on a topic, you must ask yourself the following:
    • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
    • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
    • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  • On trust, you must ask yourself these questions. It is hard to gauge, but you must figure out if people view your site as a source of credible information.
    • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
    • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
    • For a health-related query, would you trust the information from this site?
    • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, an encyclopedia, or a book?
    • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share, or recommend to a friend?
  • You must make certain your site looks authentic to readers.
    • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
    • Does the article provide original content or information, original content or information, original reporting, or original analysis?
    • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
    • Is the content mass produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
    • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  • The questions to ask yourself about your website’s quality include those below. Having higher quality content than your competitors is the best way to outrank them in organic search results.Panda deliberately weeds out sites where the same content is used over and over with just a little rewording for different keywords. However, this practice remains too prevalent on many websites.
    • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
    • How much quality control is done on content?
    • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
    • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
    • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
    • Does the article provide both sides of a story?
    • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
    • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
    • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
    • Would users complain when they see pages from this site?
  • Possible metrics that Google looks at in each of these areas include:Google+ is very important for search engine optimization—even more than it is for social media. Google can’t crawl Twitter or Facebook, so you need to have similar content on Google+ in order for the Google search engine to see it.Because of the Panda update, optimizing for Bing is more different than for Google than it was before. Bing depends a lot on site organization while Google is definitely focused on content.
    • Authority: your Google+ profile, Rel=”author,” social profiles and connections, brand name mentions on the web, CTR from the SERPs
    • Trust: social shares, authoritative links to your site, conversion rates
    • Authenticity: avoid exactly duplicated content (both internally and externally to your site), content must originate from your site vs. a network, your site must be topical in nature, how many sources link back to your site
    • Quality: content improvements (edits, revisions, etc.), rich media found on the page, bounce rate of the page, number of pages viewed, length of stay, content is not regurgitated, content vs. ad ratio, grammar and spelling, fact checks against other sites
  • Affiliate marketing sites are going to have a tough time optimizing under Panda. You can minimize the problem by making certain your content is different from those of the companies that you market for. If your content is just taken from theirs, Google will penalize you.
  • If an author is considered authoritative on a certain topic, any sites that author writes for on that topic will rank higher.
  • If you have to start over and you have a large website, it is best to take it one step at a time. First, make duplicate content uncrawlable. Then start working on improving the content quality one page at a time. Cut off deadweight pages and trim down your site.
  • Make sure that your content includes high-quality text, pictures, videos, infographics, and more. Readers and Google both want a variety of content as well as quality. Try to keep the text simple but informative.
  • In spite of Panda, backlinks from other sites remain one of the most important factors in how high your website ranks, so do not neglect getting those backlinks.
  • Getting some of your content into paid directories is also important for search engine optimization with Google, and it’s another area that Panda doesn’t affect much.
  • There is another algorithm change coming called the “overoptimization penalty” that will make changes similar in size and scope to Google. These will penalize sites that use keyword stuffing or link stuffing to rank high. By writing high-qualtiy content for Panda, you will escape these penalties as well.
  • Panda does look at site layout to some degree because it looks at the site as a whole. If you have one page with a moderate ad-to-text layout and another page that is heavy on ads, Panda may penalize both sites.
  • Panda also reacts poorly to code-heavy pages, so you must keep your page code clean.
  • You don’t necessarily have to post high-quality articles every day. However, you need to post new articles both to your sites and external sites fairly regularly in order to gain author authority and, in turn, make your site more authoritative.
  • Short articles are fine if they produce user engagement. You want to have longer articles every once in awhile because they give search engines more to crawl. But ultimately, user engagement is very important to keep your site ranking high.
  • Sites that are heavy on sound or other noncrawlable content must be backed up by content that the search engines can crawl (such as these webinar transcriptions).
  • Your product pages, about us pages, and other “static” pages need to be adjusted every so often to keep your rankings high. It is not enough just to keep a daily blog and hope that keeps your site fresh or “evergreen,” as they call it.
  • Page feed is another optimization technique that Panda looks at heavily. Keep your page feed fresh with new, regularly updated, high-quality content.
  • It used to be common for affiliate marketers to copy text from another site and simply link back to that site. Under Panda, this will now create a penalty if you do it too much. Most of the time, you need to rewrite and paraphrase the source page.
  • Author rank is most easily determined with a Google tool that tells you what pages that author’s work can be read at.
  • Schema code will tell Google what your site’s content is about, which helps Panda to notice high-quality content and display it in search results.
  • Besides Panda, there are several other game-changing algorithm updates that Google has produced recently. Contact SEO.com for more details about these.