Google’s Panda Update Hits Low-Quality Content and Bad Links

Just last month we looked at how Google was targeting Content Farms and this month it’s rolled out a major algorithm change in the US (with the rest of the world to follow). The change which is known as Google’s Panda (or Farmer) update targets both low-quality content and low-quality links.

Hot on the heels of Google’s public action against JCPenney and Overstock the Panda update is designed to officially target websites which have suspect linking strategy (like JCPenney) or have scraped or copied (or spinned) content. Google is under pressure this year from a number of Facebook initiatives which are eating into its ad revenue and it knows that the future of search which powers so much of what it does really depends upon the quality of the end-user experience.

Nothing affects the end-user experience in search more than spammy results which is why Google is seriously clamping down upon them. In the process of weeding out the bad guys from the positive results it needs to show in its search page it also forces every website owner to rethink their content creation strategy and the areas where they link to.

The question here is if you want to have a high-quality website which will stand a good chance of being featured on Google’s first page what should you do? Funnily enough most of the things you should do in order to have a great website are detailed in a post I wrote around the middle of last year when Google was still experimenting with algorithmic changes, labelled 10 Google SEO Tips for Better Ranking.

Do the Math when it comes to Assessing your Website’s Quality

To recap Google is looking for authority websites with great design, visitor engagement and high-quality pages. Bearing in mind that Google assesses websites using an algorithm which uses mathematics you will now wonder just what is it that Google is looking at and what should you be checking?

Ok, here’s your website health checklist:

1. Duplicate content is a no-no. This now applies not just to content which appears on your site (such as product descriptions which are iterated again and again all over the web) but also to items which will have many imitators (such as posts all over the web about the Google Panda Update). You need to make sure that there is sufficient originality in the content you put in to actually mark your post as one which confers true value to whatever it is that you are discussing. This, on its own, is more serious than you may think. If you consider the millions of websites out there which deal with a subject similar to yours the battle to truly be original will be won by sites which have expert writers or buy high-quality, unique content in. This fits in with Google’s concept of authority or brand websites so be prepared to lose out if you can’t write and have no budget or strategy content.

2. Low quality pages will drag your site down. This is a new one. In the past you could, to a great extent, post a spammy page on your site and capitalise on your site’s general popularity to drive that page up and benefit from it. So, in theory, a site which pushed a health and fitness lifestyle and had high TrustRank could put up a page selling Viagra and see it ranked higher than most competitors because it came from it and was ever so loosely linked to its subject matter. No more. Google now monitors page quality and it uses clickthrough rates (CTR) and bounces to actually gauge it. Your Google Analytics is now crucial because it shows you pages which are consistently abandoned. Get high bounce rates on a page or two and you are in trouble. Get high bounce rates on your HomePage and your site could be in for some serious re-assessment as Google drops it from its first page.

3. Lack of brand awareness will sink you. If your site is not mentioned in Press Releases, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter then its brand is not as pervasive or even trustworthy as Google thinks it needs to be. This will derail any online marketing plan you have by simply dropping you in Google rankings.

What to Do to Rank High on Google

The three points mentioned above also become your call to action when it comes to deciding what you should do to help your website rank higher in the search engine results pages. Basically the message Google’s update sends out is simple: The time for being sloppy and taking shortcuts is over. You can only get ahead if you are professional, dot all the ‘i’s and cross all the ‘t’s and that really is it.