Google Panda

With the Google Panda update in 2011, Google changed the lanscape of search to get rid of the bad apples and irrelevant websites and replace them with the sites that provide a great user experience, but even more than that, to try and make searching on Google a positive experience for our Grandmothers. Watch the video below and then we can look at your next steps. The speaker in the video is Rand Fishkin, one of the top experts in the world in this field.


At about the 6 minute mark in the video above, Mr. Fishkin says ..

Here’s how it works. Basically, the idea is that the quality raters tell Googlers what they like. They answer all these questions, and you can see Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts were interviewed by Wired Magazine. They talked about some of the things that were asked of these quality raters, like, “Would you trust this site with your credit card? Would you trust the medical information that this site gives you with your children? Do you think the design of this site is good?” All sorts of questions around the site’s trustworthiness, credibility, quality, how much they would like to see it in the search results. Then they compare the difference.

What this means to you is that your site may be visited and evaluated by a human quality rater.  They are tasked with rating thousands of sites…. so you can assume that snap decisions about your site will be made by people who are in a rush… and who want to weed out cheap and junky sites as fast as then can.

  • Is your site visually appealing at first glance?
  • Does your site look like the default wordpress theme?
  • Does your site look like it was built with a template?
  • Do you have all the disclaimers, disclosures, earning statements, contact info, real world addresses, real working phone numbers, etc…. that would be on the site of a real-world operating business

    What first impression are you making to skeptical eyes?

  • get a premium theme for your WordPress site, with a clean and simple header that looks like it belongs to a serious business
  • if your site is build on a template, upgrade it ASAP
  • search out the most trusted sites in your niche, and see what their disclaimers, disclosures, etc are and use them to model your own unique versions
  • real businesses want to be contacted.  Scam sites don’t.  Get real contact info, addresses, phone numbers, etc… up and real and running.

The sites that people like more, they put in one group. The sites that people like less, they put in another group. Then they look at tons of metrics. All these different metrics, numbers, signals, all sorts of search signals that many SEOs suspect come from user and usage data metrics, which Google has not historically used as heavily. But they think that they use those in a machine learning process to essentially separate the wheat from the chaff. Find the ones that people like more and the ones that people like less. Downgrade the ones they like less. Upgrade the ones they like more. Bingo, you have the Panda update. See original transcript at SEO Moz here.

You need to stand out as particularly reputable if your niche is in a bad neighborhood.  And if you are in a good neighborhood, you can pretty well expect that standards will be raised for your niche sooner or later.

So, Panda kind of means something new and different for SEO. As SEOs, for a long time you’ve been doing the same kind of classic things. You’ve been building good content, making it accessible to search engines, doing good keyword research, putting those keywords in there, and then trying to get some links to it. But you have not, as SEOs, we never really had to think as much or as broadly about, “What is the experience of this website? Is it creating a brand that people are going to love and share and reward and trust?” Now we kind of have to think about that. See original transcript at SEO Moz here.

Branding can mean many different things.  In this context, Mr. Fishkin means that your website must immediately give the impression of a well-established and reputable business.

First off, design and user experience. I know, good SEOs have been preaching design user experience for years because it tends to generate more links, people contribute more content to it, it gets more social signal shares and tweets and all this other sort of good second order effect. Now, it has a first order effect impact, a primary impact. If you can make your design absolutely beautiful, versus something like this where content is buffeted by advertising and you have to click next, next, next a lot.

Limit your advertising!  A couple of nice banners on the sidebar.  No more than one affiliate link in a post or page.  Make lots of posts with no pitches at all in them.

The content isn’t all in one page. You cannot view it in that single page format. Boy, the content blocks themselves aren’t that fun to read, even if it is not advertising that’s surrounding them, even if it is just internal messaging or the graphics don’t look very good.

Are your content blocks easy and enjoyable to read?  Are you illustrating most or all posts with good images?

The site design feels like it was way back in the 1990s.

Your site should look and feel modern.

All that stuff will impact the ability of this page, this site to perform. And don’t forget, Google has actually said publicly that even if you have a great site, if you have a bunch of pages that are low quality on that site, they can drag down the rankings of the rest of the site. So you should try and block those for us or take them down.

This one is very important!

If you have low quality pages, take them down.
If you have decent quality pages, but they are linking out to low quality sites in a bad neighborhood, then I recommend that you take those pages down.

Wow. Crazy, right? That’s what a machine learning algorithm, like Panda, will do. It will predicatively say, “Hey, you know what? We’re seeing these features here, these elements, push this guy down.”

Your job is to make sure the human quality raters have no reasons to push you down.

Finally, you are going to be optimising around user and usage metrics. Things like, when people come to your site, generally speaking compared to other sites in your niche or ranking for your keywords, do they spend a good amount of time on your site, or do they go away immediately? Do they spend a good amount of time? Are they bouncing or are they browsing? If you have a good browse rate, people are browsing 2, 3, 4 pages on average on a content site, that’s decent. That’s pretty good. If they’re browsing 1.5 pages on some sites, like maybe specific kinds of news sites, that might actually be pretty good. That might be better than average.

Your content has to make best efforts to engage your readers.  Write your introductions and conclusions as conversations that the reader is welcome to join.  Politely ask for the opinions and experience and reactions from your readers.

Google Panda Timeline

Google Panda Timeline