Google’s Panda Update: 3 Things You Need to Know

If your brand’s core presence is online, you may have heard about Google Panda, a code name for their new ranking algorithm, still very much a work in progress. With all of the conflicting literature out there, I’m hoping to cut through the clutter, so you can understand what you can be doing to better optimize your site. At its most basic level, the aim of this update is to lower the rank of “low quality” sites and raise the rank of “high quality” sites. Google’s spiders are more “human” than ever and can detect many things they couldn’t previously. So you might be asking yourself, how do I become a high quality site in the eyes of google? Read on to learn about the three big ideas we’ve gleaned from our own research.

1. Good User Experience & Design Now Directly Corresponds to SEO
This first point was actually quite shocking to me, because it demonstrates a new level of sophistication. You can have the greatest SEO plan—perfectly optimized page titles, descriptions and key words, yet if your site is hard to navigate and not visually pleasing, this could negatively affect your page ranking. The following metrics, all of which are tracked, demonstrate how user-friendly a page is:
a. The amount of time spent on the site
b. Bounce rate
c. The number of web pages per visit
d. Page response times

2. Content Freshness and Quality
It seems that Google has mainly been targeting sites with tons of ads and links to other sites, in other words, sites with little to no original content. So, it is vital to have high quality, current content that demonstrates original reporting and research. Show that you are an expert. Your content should also be easily sharable, because content that is shared a lot is deemed high quality. Having a sound online marketing calendar can help you stay on track. Oh, and make sure you spell correctly, because spelling errors indicate low quality!

3. High Quality Code
Valid markup is yet another quality indicator. Did you hire an experienced, responsible developer that takes pride in writing clean code? Just because a site might look like it’s working fine on the outside, doesn’t mean that it isn’t a train wreck on the inside. Not to tout this as the end all to be all, but you might try running your site through the W3 validator. It will list all of the errors, line by line, and is a good gauge for the quality of your site’s code.

There has been a lot of debate and reportedly many sites have experienced decreased rankings, while news sites have risen to the top. In many cases, sites with superficial current content have high rankings, while sites with higher quality, less-frequently updated content have lower rankings. This is a problem and I hope Google is working on combatting this issue.

Have you been affected?
If you already have an SEO plan in place, you can analyze your current rankings on the keywords you are optimized for and see how they compared to 6 months ago and a year ago. This will tell you immediately if your SEO strategy needs to be revamped.