The 24th Panda update in a row was greeted with the usual “Oh, Com’on!” outcry as webmasters scrambled to check if their websites were part of the 1.2% of English queries affected. If that describes you, clearly you have not been paying attention to the way SEO is developing and the advice Google has been funneling out for the last ten-twelve years or so.
The Panda algorithm changes are designed to filter out bad quality websites from the Google search results and while false positives will inevitably appear and some sites that deserve not to be hit will, the majority of webmasters should feel safe provided they have been looking at their websites critically and asking all the hard questions that look at the quality of the end-user experience.
The update was announced on Twitter, first:
Google’s guidelines have been fairly detailed for some time and the company has been pumping out information to help webmasters for some time. Their list of questions, for instance is both comprehensive and revealing in its own right:
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
- Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
- Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
- 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?
- Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
- Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- How much quality control is done on content?
- Does the article describe both sides of a story?
- Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
- 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?
- Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
- For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
- Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
- Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
- Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
- Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
- Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
- Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
The thing is that whether we like it or not we are now in Google’s semantic search territory. The search engine is trying to ensure that spam is eradicated from its search index not just because it adversely affects the end-user experience, which it does, but because if spam gets integrated in the semantic web it becomes a lot harder to spot algorithmically and harder to eradicate afterwards.
So What Can You Do?
First of all if your website has been affected start thinking about pruning your website’s content for quality. Then go through your backlinks and make sure that there are no over-optimization issues. Check out your backlinks to make sure there are no vestiges of poor SEO tactics from years past and, finally, get back to focusing on quality and the end-user experience and yes, that also includes design.
The trick here is to get back to basics. The web with its “one-click and you’re done” culture has contributed to a new kind of laziness in business where the daunting nature of the task at hand combines with the ability to automate some tasks to create shortcuts that impact upon the quality of outcomes.
Websites that market too hard with pop-ups and sign-ins that only made sense at the marketing meeting, checkout carts that make you jump through hoops before you have the pleasure of parting with your money, because no one truly checked to see the impact the process has on the end user. Content that is too light. Ads that shout at you. Pictures that do not grip and marketing messages that treat their audience like imbeciles are just some of the issues in a list that is way longer than it should be.
There is no longer any excuse for any of them. The web is no longer new. We are no longer naïve. And in the 21st century the social customer deserves better. If technically your SEO is spot on, the latest Google Panda update offers nothing you should fear. If technical search engine optimization issues are there then, again, the Panda update has nothing to do with them.
Get your SEO right from a technical point of view and focus on getting your business right for everything else.
What You Missed
How Content Became the Currency of the Connected Economy
Google Targets Low-Quality Exact Domain Matches (EDM)
Google’s Message to the Online Community: The End User Comes First!
How to Make Sure Google’s Over-SEO Filter Does not Affect Your Website