Well, 2011 is nearing its end and throughout the year there has been a lot of talk about Google’s recent algorithm changes, which were codenamed “Panda”. These changes have caused quite the panic in the SEO community and everyone seems to have a differing opinion on the Panda update.
Today I’m going to weigh in on some of the things I personally have learned from Google in regards to to what they are looking for and how you can better prepare yourself and your websites for better ranking.
Make Google Happy!
One of the most important underlying themes with the Panda update is to give Google what they want, and know what makes them happy. There is no need to try to trick them into thinking your site is quality when it isn’t; sites with actual valuable information will strive, and those without will falter.
Google has been using “Quality Score” for some time now as an implementation into their AdWords interface to grade their advertisements. If you’re not familiar with Quality Score, it is simply a grading system that ranks websites based on their quality and that includes content relevancy, ease of use, popularity, as well as a slew of other metrics.
Google wants to make sure that the users that are surfing using their search engine have the best possible user experience and clicking on their ads plays into that a fair bit. If users are unhappy with searching on Google, they will go to another search engine, and that is the LAST thing Google wants. That being said, you can surely understand why quality score is very important to Google.
SEO marketers should have known that something was in the works at Google as organic traffic is just as valuable as paid AdWords traffic. I believe that the difference with AdWords is that Google had humans checking accounts more than organic, thus making quality score easier to gauge. But now with more human reviewers checking organic listings and giving feedback, Google has now worked quality into their algorithm, hence Google Panda and the ever-changing organic listings.
What to do now?
Quality is now on the forefront of organic ranking signals that Google is looking at, and more importantly you must have relevant content that doesn’t look like it was scraped or spun to tick the engine for the reason of improving ranking only. The more useful and helpful the content, the better you will be in Google’s eyes.
Make your website as high-quality as possible, allow for social interaction and place a higher importance on interacting with your readers and visitors. You want to make sure they are happy and in doing so will get you reciprocal link karma from big G.
Social Media – Social is only getting bigger, and Google is looking for signals that websites are getting interaction and links from places like Facebook, Twitter and even LinkedIn. The first and most obvious thing to do is add social link buttons to your content to allow your users to easily share content around the web and also to show that you care about user interaction. With internet marketing evolving I would definitely look to include the new Google+ features as well into any site that doesn’t have it already; you can expect that to be a big determinate factor moving forward into 2012.
Don’t go overboard on Ads – A key indicator of subpar quality content is having way too many advertisements placed on your website. This all comes back to quality again and by retaining some semblance of quality across your website you are showing Google that it is important and relevant to users’ interests, not just some spam site looking to make money.
Important pages – Make sure you have included the appropriate pages for which Google looks. These pages include: disclaimer, contact, privacy and sitemap. This shows Google you care about your site and have an easy to navigate interface for any user.
To conclude, Panda is an ever-evolving SEO beast that will continue to change as we move ahead, but the main thing to keep in mind is that quality as seen from a positive user experience are the most important factors,. You want a web visitor that is going to bookmark your site because you provided something of quality they were looking for, and I feel that this more than anything will help you in your SEO efforts.