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The Softer Side of Google Panda

Posted by | 1:38pm on Monday, June 9, 2014
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Google is hinting that the changes to the algorithm are more significant 

Having a website with great search rankings is like having a great golf swing. If you want to stay at the top of your game, you have to keep working at it. That’s because Google is constantly making changes to its search engine results algorithm.

Periodically Google makes sweeping changes or implements an entirely new algorithm. Back in February 2011, Google rolled out their latest algorithm called Panda. According to the recently granted patent, Panda creates a ratio of inbound links to reference and search queries. This generates a factor that is used to “penalize” a site’s ranking if a certain quality threshold is not met.1

How Panda is Different
At its core, the changes are Google’s effort to focus more on relevant, original content versus trying to stuff keywords into a website or just republish “stale” content. Inbound links are incredibly valuable too, but quality links happen organically by creating strong content. The key is not to try to optimize towards a Google (or any other) algorithm, but to focus on content that is valued by your audience. It’s also important to have a well-designed, easy to navigate site. These two components ultimately lead to a “high quality site” as defined by Google. Google published a series of questions in May 2011 to help you think about what is meant by a “high quality site”:

1. Would you trust the information presented in this article?
2. Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
3. Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
4. 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?
5. Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
6. Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
7. Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
8. Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
9. For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
10. Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?

More questions can be found on Google’s blog post, More guidance on building high-quality sites.

Panda 4.0
In an effort to discourage others from trying to optimize towards algorithm updates and modifications, Google has gone so far as to make the statement (last March) that they would not be announcing future updates. The updates would just be rolled out with no single update significantly impacting a given website’s ranking.

However, unlike prior updates, Google did announce its most recent change rolled out just last week and dubbed it Panda 4.0. Just by giving it a name, Google is hinting that the changes to the algorithm are more significant. But in theory, the changes are supposed to be friendlier towards small businesses to allow them to compete more effectively with larger companies on the search results page. Google has been rolling out “softer” algorithm updates iteratively to try to account for the dramatic hit in organic ranking many small businesses realized with the initial release of Panda. Smaller businesses are often not considered authoritative (even with relevant, original content); something that Google weighs heavily in the Panda algorithm. The new release is said to affect 7.5% of English language websites directly.

At the end of the day, Google wants you to focus on content. That’s why much of the organic search results are being masked (even within Google Analytics). Google doesn’t want you to focus on keywords. In reality, if you have good, strong, relevant, and original content, it should by default include all the important keywords anyway. Plus if you focus on content, any single Panda algorithm update or new algorithm implemented should not materially affect your search engine rankings.

1. Google Panda. Wikipedia website. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Panda#cite_note-Google-6. Accessed May 28, 2014 .

About Neil Rubenstein

Neil has more than 15 years of experience in integrated marketing and analytics across a number of different industries. Neil is responsible for online advertising, analytics, and measurement across all Siren clients. Part of his job is to ensure that all online advertising is implemented with analytics and measurement in mind. Neil is passionate about using the internet and social media to encourage deeper relationships with patients, caregivers, and HCP’s. …

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