The Google Panda Update Does Not Spell Disaster
Earlier this year, Google announced major changes in their algorithm for calculating the rankings in Google Search. The algorithm alteration was officially named Google Panda, and it has caused a lot of confusion in the online business world. Many businesses feared their sites would be affected, and these concerns are not completely unfounded. Twelve percent of the search results were immediately affected as the Google team rolled out the new update.
What Is the Purpose of Google Panda?
Google insists that the update of the algorithm was necessary to ensure better search results and to remove low quality websites and so-called content farms. Content farms are large websites with varied (often low quality) content uploaded by users. The sole purpose of these sites is to earn revenue from the ads displayed on the pages. Content is stuffed with keywords to trick search engines into placing the pages high in their search results, thus attracting more visitors. Content farms often contain plagiarized material. The Panda algorithm was especially designed to target this type of site. The conditions of the algorithm remove sites with sparse content, badly written content, duplicate content, and irrelevant content.
How to Adapt Your Website for Google Panda
As a business website owner, you are advised to organize a rewrite of any pages you deem to be of lesser quality. Be sure to remove duplicated content as well, or use the canonical URL tag in the head section of the HTML page to indicate to the preferred version of pages with a similar content. Search engines will see the tag and only index the preferred page. Another important factor to check is the ratio of advertising to content. Too much advertising will lower the worth a web page. Similarly, too many keywords will affect a web page negatively. Over-optimization is also penalized by the new algorithm, so the keywords density must be lowered (the ideal keyword density is 2-5%), and plagiarism will send your web pages straight to the deepest depths of the information ocean.
So, what does the Panda algorithm like in a web page? In two words: quality content. What is quality content? It is content that is well written, in a natural style. It is also content that hasn't been written with search engines in mind, but something that is genuinely informative for internet users. Pages that lead visitors to click on to other pages of the same website will have a low bounce rate. This is another thing that the algorithm looks out for.
SEO Best Practices
By sticking to the guidelines of best practice SEO (search engine optimization) your website can be made immune to the changes brought on by the Google Panda algorithm.
Quality Is more Important than Quantity
Getting a high page ranking on Google Search should not be a goal in itself. Web page content should focus on providing information for website visitors and increasing the conversion rate. When it comes to writing content, don't write solely for search engines, as this often results in a unnatural writing style.
More Advertising Doesn't Mean Higher Returns
A website stuffed with adverts is not user-friendly. Some web pages contain adverts that are made to look like regular content, so website visitors will click on them without realizing it is actually an advert. With the new algorithm, websites with a high ratio of advertising versus content will score much lower in the search rankings. A lower ranking translates into fewer website visitors. So, limit the number of advertising banners and make sure your website is user-friendly.
Don't Forget the Indexing Robot
There are ways of hiding lesser quality content from search engine robots. Sometimes lists of products can result in multiple pages with very similar content. When you use legitimate HTML techniques, like to above mentioned canonical URL tag or a noindex-tag (<meta name=robots content=noindex></meta>) in the head section of the HTML page, indexing robots will ignore the pages. Consequently, these pages won't appear in the search results!
The most important lesson that Google's Panda algorithm teaches us, is that proper use of "white hat" (search engine approved) SEO techniques reigns supreme. White hat SEO hasn't changed, so if you website was built with these recommended techniques, you will be safe from the effects of the Panda algorithm. If, on the other hand, your website relies “black hat” SEO to force better search ranking results in the short term, you will be caught.