After much speculation, Google announced the release of their algorithm update – Panda 4.0 – at the end of May, causing a frenzy of online discussion between marketers, webmasters and business owners desperately scrambling to find out how this latest fix could affect their websites and SEO strategy.
Panda’s latest incarnation is just one of many (believed to be the 25th of its kind) in a long line of semi-regular updates – so why all the fuss about this one?
Well, with Google’s Matt Cutts claiming that the Panda 4.0 will impact around 7.5% of search queries to a degree that a regular user might notice – there is no doubt that heads have certainly been turned in the SEO world.
So what do the changes actually mean and how can small and local businesses ensure their websites will continue to stay visible on the Google and generate that oh-so-vital search traffic?
Here at Webrevolve, our marketing team recently discussed the changes in one of our Whiteboard Wednesday get-togethers and looked at just what we should be looking out for, who has been affected and what we can do to avoid a penalty.
This is what we came up with.
Importance of copy
In a nutshell, the update intends to prevent sites with poor quality content from working their way into Google’s top search results, so if this is your website then you might need to start worrying.
Rather than just a simple refresh of an old piece of software, this update further emphasises the need to post frequent, high-quality content to your website, instead of just changing your product pages every few months.
It’s more important than ever to regularly publish fresh, quality content and not thin, duplicate or spammy-looking material. So make sure you create high-quality, relevant copy and images that are related to your business and post them to a business blog or on your own website.
Is your site compatible?
It’s not just copy that drives traffic to your site it’s the entire user experience.
Having an intuitive website, structure and navigation, a mobile-optimised site and (of course) user-friendly content will only help the profile of your site.
These are all things that can all impact on how effective your site is when it comes to getting indexed by search engines.
Be sensible with keywords
As with duplicate copy, this Panda update will also pick up on the over-using of unnecessary keywords and meta data.
Yes, you want to get your message across, but be a little smarter about how you go about this. So think of this as your chance to convert a potential customer rather than badger them.
Make sure your site has been written specifically for your readers (and not search engines!) using natural language and isn’t stuffed with keyword heavy copy – a sure way to get penalised.
The sign of things to come?
The fact that this latest refresh has been christened 4.0 could suggest that it is just the beginning when it comes to future updates.
Google may have suggested that this recent update is gentler for some sites than its less cuddly older brother, but it could just be laying the groundwork for future additions to the Panda family.
Big brands have been big losers
It’s not just small businesses and local sites that should sit up and take notice.
eBay has been hit hard recently – losing almost 80% of all organic search rankings, and due to the timing of Panda 4.0, it is highly unlikely that this was purely a coincidence (though there have been arguments to the contrary).
The problem for eBay is that it’s guilty of poor quality content, something that has never been their priority as most users find the product they are looking for without the need for fresh and informative information.
eBay are not alone and all e-commerce sites should be thinking hard about their strategies now to avoid something similar happening to them.
As with any of these algorithm “refreshes”, it will always be beneficial to act pre-emptively rather than after the event – usually when it’s all too late.
By helping move low-quality websites down in the pecking order, the Google Panda 4.0 update may actually work in favour of local businesses, rather than against them.
So, ask yourself, is your website too obsessed with optimisation rather than relevant and quality content for your audience?
If the answer is yes, then now is the time to think about providing regular, quality content that can make your business an asset to local consumers, ultimately helping to drive even more visitors from the organic search results to your website.
You will be thankful in the long run.