There has been a lot of talk in 2011-2012 about the changes at Google, which we all refer to as Panda. That Panda caused quite a stir in the SEO community and everybody seemed to have an opinion, or a horror story of the “Panda attacking them”.
Give Google What They Want
I think the key underlying theme, is to give Google what they want and don’t try to trick Google, well not too much anyway!
If we take a step back and look at the organic listings in Google, from Google’s stand point, the most important thing for them is quality. Google introduced what is known as their “Quality Score” for Adwords campaigns some years ago now, which was a way to assess the quality of sites that were using their paid Adwords platform.
Google does this so that they ensure the user experience from people who are clicking their ads is a good one. The biggest threat to Google’s business is people not having a good experience when using Google and deciding, enough is enough, and choosing another search engine or other means of finding what they want. If this happens, Google is done for!
So with that said, you can see why quality control at Google is pretty high on the agenda.
However, what’s more interesting is that many SEO marketers heard of the horror stories of people getting their accounts slapped with a low quality score from Google Adwords and having to pay sky high prices for clicks, or worse yet get their accounts shut down completely (which has now happened to a vast majority of affiliates) and perhaps somewhat naively thought “glad I don’t use Adwords…it will not effect me!”. Along comes the Google Panda, on the hunt for low quality sites to chew on, and all of a sudden the tables turn.
My point is, all SEO marketers should have known that Panda was on the agenda, as the organic listings are just as important to Google as their Adwords, because people use Google for the free organic results primarily, and click the ads as a result, so quality across the board is key.
I think the difference is that with Adwords, Google has humans checking accounts more than organic, therefore accurate quality checks were easier to assess. However with more and more human reviewers checking organic listings now, and Google using their feedback, they have now worked quality into their algorithm, hence Google Panda.
What Should We Do Now Then?
The first thing to do is panic, run for your lives now!!!….no only joking, everyone always says the opposite of that, so I couldn’t help myself. Ok so the first thing I suggest doing is start looking at your SEO, and mainly your ‘on page SEO’, from a view point of quality rather than a view point of super optimized.
Quality is now a ranking signal and Google is looking for certain things that tell them that your sites is a quality one. Some obvious indicators are that you have well written, grammatically correct, original content. So be super careful when hiring writers to produce your websites content for you.
At all costs, try to make sure your content does not come across as really salesy and only trying to make you money and not help the reader. Think of it like an email, and then using words that would typically be flagged as spam. This is low quality and somewhat sleezy content, and while it might last for a while in Google, they will work it out soon enough, as quality control is only going to keep getting better at Google. On that note, I am not talking about the odd spelling mistake, as we are all human, I mean every third or fourth word being wrong. I read articles all of the time on ESPN, MLB, & Yahoo with a typo here and there, it’s safe to assume the spiders are not set to weed out everything.
Some of the things I’m about to list next, will not apply to everyone, as affiliate marketing sites may not be able to encorporate all of these.
Blog comments – if you can have blog comments, then have them on, and interact with your readers on the site. I do this on this blog, as you’ll see below and on other posts. If your content doesn’t lean towards having people comment on it, then you might want to look at your content and your style of site.
Social links – Social media is only getting bigger, and Google is looking for signals that websites are getting interaction and links from places like Facebook, Twitter and more recently Google +1. The first and most obvious thing to do is add a social link buttons to your content, as I’ve done below. The more interaction you get from these the better, and I assume Google +1 will be a big player soon enough.
I also think, that if you have good content, which of course you will, is to ask your readers to help spread the word by giving you a Google +1. With that said….hint hint…go on click the Google +1 one for me! ha ha…
Low ad to content ratio – Another indication of low quality content is having too many ads in your content. Ads can be in many forms too, such as Adsesne, banners, affiliate links. Again just keep in mind what a quality user experience looks like for you, and don’t go overbaord with your affiliates links. Yes we all know that if you have less affiliate links it will reduce conversions, but the alternative is to lose your rankings when you get slapped with a low quality score and then your conversions are zero!
Important pages – make sure you have pages such as: disclaimer, contact, privacy and any other important pages that you see high quality sites have on them. This is a pretty obvious indicator to Google that you care about your site and take it seriously.
Over Optimization – This is actually something that my friends pointed out, and is a very good point indeed. Post Panda, you want to be careful not to over optimize your pages so that they look spammy. What this means is, when writing the title for your page, don’t just have the exact keyword, especially if the keyword looks odd.
For example, if you’re trying to rank for “Cheap Fungus Cream” then just having that and that alone as your title, does look a little strange, it’s not too bad, but let’s say you were a webmaster that is not intentionally trying to rank in Google and is just writing about fungus cream because its your hobby! ha.. anyway, if that were the case, then I think you would not use a title like that, and would probably use something like this “Where to find Cheap Fungus Cream online”. You can see the second title looks more natural and less obviously optimized.
Logins – If you can have a way for people to login to your site, such as a forum, then this shows Google your site is important to people and is another indication of quality.
With Quality in mind it is important to note, if you have no original content, photos, or information you are NO longer going to rank high. In closing, the main thing to think about when doing your SEO, is always keep QUALITY in mind, and make sure the user has a good experience on your site. You ideally want the kind of site that people like to come back to, like to bookmark, like to read other pages on it. I always take time to write quality posts on this blog, and as a result I can see that people go back through older posts that I write, to see what else they can learn. This is what you want to create on all sites from now on I believe.