Every once in a while, Google changes their algorithms, much to the dismay of website owners – even if you’ve spent a fortune on article marketing, online PR, social media marketing and search engine optimization, there’s no guarantee that your site won’t fall foul of the algorithm change.
Google’s most recent algorithm change, dubbed ‘Panda,’ was intended to improve the quality of its search results but has received a mixed reaction. While search results improvements are obviously a positive for the user, many website owners have reported falling rankings and in some cases, disappearance from Google altogether. So what is known about Panda and how can you ensure your site continues to perform well?
Concentrate on quality: The Panda update seems to have been designed to target the low-quality, content-driven sites that the previous Caffeine update helped to promote through the SERPs. These low-quality sites could include some article marketing sites, which is bad news if you’re using low-quality article marketing portals to submit your work to. If you have a lot of referrals from low-quality article marketing sites, you’ll need to start using more authoritative and trusted domains for your article distribution. Try long-established sites with solid PageRank such as Buzzle and Ezine Articles. One site that was mentioned by name by Google is Suite 101 – with Matt Cutts saying go there, look at what they are doing and then do the opposite.
Look at other avenues: An interesting point mentioned by Cutts and Amit Singhal is that Google classified sites such as the New York Times and Wikipedia as being of a good quality using a mathematical formula. This is also bad news for the small site owner as this would suggest that the behemoth sites of large corporations will be favored by Google when it comes to ranking. The only possible way to fight this injustice is to focus on adding high-quality pages to your site regularly – be stringent about following Google’s SEO good practice guidelines on each and every page and add new content as much as possible.
Using well-traveled social media sites and adding online PR to your online marketing mix can help to offset this bias as well – think of other ways you can appear online without relying solely on Google rankings. A strong Facebook presence will also direct lots of traffic for example, as will a news item or article in one of your industry’s respected magazines or journals. A well-made YouTube video can also have a similar impact and help to make your site a worthy online destination.
Build trust: One of the driving forces behind the algorithm has been to establish whether or not Google can trust your site. The search engine said it went offline as part of the update, furnishing search engine users with a questionnaire, filled with questions including ‘would you be happy giving this site your credit card details?’, ‘would you be comfortable giving medicine prescribed by this site to your kids?’.
Obviously not all sites in its database were tested, but what is known is that sites with excessive ads were amongst those to be considered untrustworthy. A large proportion of ad text at the top of the page also suggests a low-quality site. If you run AdSense or affiliate ads on any of your pages, consider moving the strip to the footer of the page and concentrating on high-quality content above the fold.
While it’s too early to tell what long term impact Panda will have, the main takeaways from the algorithm update and the little information that Google has provided are:
- Very good quality content is still king – so make adding fresh, informative, useful information a regular occurrence
- Be more discerning about the article marketing sites you use and the press distribution channels you engage. Stick to old favorites, at least for the moment. Search on Google for ‘article marketing’ and ‘PR distribution’ and use the sites that themselves rank highly
- Focus link building on very good quality, trusted and reliable sources that have been around for a while and have good rankings and a solid PageRank
- Move any affiliate ads or AdSense ads to the bottom of your pages – think of the user first and give them content and information above the fold rather than generic ads
- Exploit other forms of promotion such as Facebook and Twitter to build a wider-ranging search profile. Should further algorithm changes cause your rankings to drop, you won’t be left in a situation with no search visibility whatsoever