Google’s Panda update is a series of changes implemented by the company on its search engine’s ranking algorithm. The goal is to improve user experience by more meticulously filtering out low-quality sites and placing high-quality ones higher on the results pages.
Since the first release in February 2011, large and small sites, ecommerce or otherwise, have reported various degrees of reduction in traffic. For some the negative effect may be due to questionable SEO practices, while for others their optimization techniques may have not met the new requirements for search engine results pages visibility.
New Standards of Quality
A notable characteristic of the Panda update is the new rules and mechanics for ranking were based on actual human testers who rated the quality of thousands of websites. Based on the patterns that emerged from the tests, new ranking factors were formulated and incorporated into the search engine. Here are some of them.
Originality of content – While it’s a good start to have useful and relevant information that has the appropriate keywords, you’ll have to take it one step further and consistently offer something fresh and unique for your target audience to find.
This also touches on the issue of duplication. Let’s say your online business sells and, as a means to market it, you post some content on other sites, such as school and office furniture directories. You’re likely to take a hit if that disseminated content is essentially a cut-and-paste of what can already be found on your site. The same holds true for the pages within your website if they contain nothing but poor rehashes of the same information.
Quality of inbound links – It used to be just a matter of accumulating the most number of inbound links, but now quality is the more important consideration. That means putting some variety in the anchor texts you use and ensuring they’re placed in high-quality sites that are actually relevant to your own.
Length of visit – Getting someone to reach your homepage may be considered one point of traffic, but getting that someone to spend time reading or using your site is far trickier.
The Panda update measures this wider aspect of web traffic and can detect if visitors are just bouncing off or staying on your site. The quality of your content and the functionality of your site’s design are going to be the crucial factors here. If you’re going to make your potential customers click too many times to get to the important stuff, then they’re likely going to give up and leave.
Relevancy of ads – Advertisements are a two-edged sword. While they’re an acceptable way of monetizing your site, they can also clutter it up and turn off your visitors. If you have to put ads on your site, you should keep it to a minimum and make sure they’re relevant to what you’re presenting.
The Panda update has certainly changed the way online businesses need to optimize their sites for search engine visibility. If you happen to be one of those negatively affected by the changes, you’re going to have to reevaluate your site’s content and design as well as your marketing efforts and weed out the elements that don’t fit into the new standards.