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July 12, 2011

Google Panda Update: 11 Important SEO Facts You Should Know

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On Wednesday, February 23, 2011, a category 5 hurricane named “Panda” swept through the Gulf of Google devastating businesses large and small alike. The hurricane was reportedly named after one of Google’s engineers.

So what was the reason for this catastrophic and “game-changing” update? Well, according to Google:

“This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites – sites which are low-value, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites – sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on. It is important for high-quality sites to be rewarded, and that’s exactly what this change does.” (Source: Google Blog)

Mission accomplished. Anyway, in the aftermath of the Panda update, there are 11 important SEO facts I’ve learned based on my own personal experiences, the experiences of my clients, and from listening to top SEO professionals across the Internet:

1. Waiting to Exhale

Think you survived the big Panda storm? Don’t exhale just yet. Google will introduce around 550 or so improvements to its algorithm this year. Yes, 550. (Source: Wired.com)

2. Relevancy Matters More Than Ever

In their aforementioned quote, Google says it is important for high-quality sites to be rewarded. It goes without saying, Google places a tremendous amount of value on relevancy. So do everything you can to make sure your pages are as relevant as possible. That includes making sure your keywords are relevant to the overall theme of your site and accurately reflect your site ‘s actual content.

3. Quality Trumps Quantity

Sites like EzineArticles, Buzzle and Associated Content got absolutely hammered by the Panda update. But why? Those sites have been around for years, and have a ton of quality content. Unfortunately, much of their content is also low-quality (although, to be fair, EzineArticles has been deleting much of their sub-standard content for a while now). However, by punishing the titans of article directories, Google sent a powerful message about quality.

4. Links From Article Directories Have Been Diminished

Personally, I think links from article directories were diminished long before the Panda update. Most article directories are notorious for the amount of low-quality content they contain. They’ll accept articles from just about anyone – regardless of how poorly written the articles are. That being said, despite being smacked down by the Panda update, EzineArticles has consistently had the highest quality standards among article directories. And after Panda, they’ve tightened their quality standards even more. So, I’m certain, they’ll bounce back.

5. Get Some Authority Juice

Authority sites are considered authoritative for a reason. It’s because people trust their content. That’s why authority sites rank so highly in Google’s SERPs. Authority sites have quality content and consistently show keyword to content relevancy. If you write articles, instead of submitting them to article directories which have diminishing link value, instead, submit them to top authority sites like SiteProNews, WebProNews, PromotionWorld, SearchEngineJournal and others. And while it might be considerably more difficult to get your articles accepted and published by those sites, the fact that Google places higher value on links from authority sites makes it worth the effort.

6. Social Media Matters

While only Google knows how much impact sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn actually have on search results, the fact that Google is providing real-time social sharing is an indication that Google takes participation in social media networks seriously. And if Google takes social media seriously, then, so should you. Besides, participating in social media networks will expose your content to an even wider audience. So, from a purely business standpoint, why wouldn’t you?

7. Avoid Excessive Advertisements or Images

Be mindful of having too many advertisements on any of your pages, in relation to “meaningful” content. There seems to be a direct correlation between the number of advertisements on a page (especially above the fold advertising), and the overall ranking of a page. Make sure you have plenty of quality, relevant content to balance out your web pages.

8. A Picture’s Worth…Unfortunately, Not a Thousand Words

What I just said about excessive advertisements applies to photo-centric sites as well. Try to strike a proportionate balance between meaningful content and images.

9. Google Loves Videos

Did you notice that video-centric sites like YouTube and Metacafe were largely unaffected by the Panda update? Videos have always done well in Google’s SERPs, and long before Panda struck, I had been adding YouTube videos to my website. In addition, I’ve converted many of my “How to” articles into videos.

10. Seek Blog Balance

Some of my blog posts are what I like to call “quick bites”…extremely short articles, usually around the 200-300 word range. I realize Google could easily construe such short articles as shallow, low-quality content – even though they’re actually quite substantive – despite their compendious nature. That’s why I make a conscious effort to also post plenty of meatier content. I have a ton of articles on my site that are well over a thousand words. If you have a lot of short articles on your site, either flesh them out or add lengthier content.

11. Age Matters

While this final point doesn’t have anything to do with the Panda update per se, it is SEO-related and important nonetheless – and a topic of considerable debate. Does the age of a domain matter? Depending on who you ask, you’ll get different answers to that question. Heck, there’s even disagreement among SEO experts on this topic. Not satisfied with the conflicting information that I was getting, I decided to do my own research.

Over a 30 day period, I viewed hundreds and hundreds of search results in dozens of different categories. My conclusion: The age of a domain is definitely a factor in the ranking of websites – no question about it. How much of a factor? Only Google knows the answer to that question. And while my research is far from scientific, I’m absolutely convinced, older domains have an advantage in Google’s SERPs.

But, don’t take my word for it. Do your own research like I did, and draw your own conclusion.


David Jackson is a marketing consultant and the owner of Free-Marketing-Tips-Blog.com – Powerful, free marketing tips to help grow your business! http://free-marketing-tips-blog.com

32 Responses to “Google Panda Update: 11 Important SEO Facts You Should Know

    avatar Mind Power Mojo says:

    Rather than not taking your word for whether or not an aged domain has more authority and online weight than an Internet infant and doing my own research, I’ll say, “No thanks.”

    I’d rather take your word for it. I mean, you are “absolutely convinced”, right? That’s good enough for me. Cheers for the insight.

    avatar WebsiteTrafficWarehouse.com on Twitter says:

    I, too, have noticed domain age trumping several other factors. However, it seems to be a few tiers of importance down from A.) ‘Quality’ and B.) ‘Relevance’ in the algorithm. I believe those words have a right to inverted commas, as these terms require subjective, arbitrary, and occasionally capricious value judgement on behalf of Google. In short, I do not believe that the algorithm is all that capable of extracting MEANING & CONVERSATIONAL COLLOQUIALISMS; which means that one must still construct content – to a certain degree – for robots for one’s site to perform well in SERPs. Of course, this is relative to a number of factors that are, themselves, relative.

    Also, back links appear more important than ever, including ‘quality’ NoFollow links. And although I’m sure to get something thrown at me, (should I say it….?)… After achieving a PR1 for WebsiteTrafficWarehouse.com inside of 75 links, NONE of which were DoFollow – NoFollow (*braces for impact*) MAY even contribute to PageRank.

    *Gets hit in head with rotten cucumber – runs from room, angry mob follows, pitchforks in-hand*

    ~ AJ

    Very nice article! Thanx for that.

    So basically better if we submit our quality article on our site and share it after?
    Sam

    avatar Vitek says:

    Хороший Info.

    avatar John Burns says:

    Great news that means hard work on your website will pay off at last!

    So far I don’t think that Google have let loose the Panda en Spain. I am preparing alternative text for my site as it is a site selling houses and I have been using the same text in all the portals where I announce my properties.
    Hopefully my competitors don’t read nor take part in SEO forums and won’t know what they have done wrong when Google goes to town on us.

    @AJ: Actually, your position isn’t all that radical. Since Google uses over 200 signals to determine rankings, myself and others also believe No-Follow links are more than likely part of the equation.

    avatar Jon says:

    Does age really matter though? Surely older domains tend to have more links, sometimes more content etc? Or is it aged links that are more important than aged domains?

    @Sam: Yes, always post your content to your own site first, before submitting it elsewhere. Doing that establishes your site as the originator of the content.

    avatar WebsiteTrafficWarehouse.com on YouTube says:

    “@AJ: Actually, your position isn’t all that radical. Since Google uses over 200 signals to determine rankings, myself and others also believe No-Follow links are more than likely part of the equation.”

    For SERPs, yes – that NoFollow contributes heavily is something most SEOs with an intermediate and up level of actual experience seem to believe (although there are a ton of self-proclaimed “pros” that would call anyone who says even that a nutter; or worse, a crook or a scam artist if the person or entity that holds that belief is offering SEO or related services).

    That NoFollow *may* contribute to PageRank, and may have for some time, is – in my experience, anyway – considered flat-out whacky.

    There are only a finite number of possibilities as to how we achieved PR1 for The Warehouse inside of 75 NoFollow links; and as we whittle-away at those possibilities, it looks more and more plausible that NoFollow contributes to PR, at least in certain instances. Logically, it is also possible that there are factors/variables other than links that contribute to PR.

    Anyway, SEOs should do what proves to work, and pay attention to what has worked for others, as well. People should start by bookmarking your list, if not printing it out and gluing it to their monitors. 😉

    avatar Paul Heim says:

    Thank you David for keeping up to date with the Google panda updates and informing us. I agree with age having a factor, especially when the site has held some authoritativeness for a long period.

    @Paul Heim and everyone else who has commented so far, Thank you for your valuable feedback. It is very much appreciated.

    @Jon: Like I said in my article, don’t take my word for it. Do your own research like I did, and develop your own conclusion.

    avatar printer ink says:

    intersting read i learnt a lot its difficult to know what to believe when it comes to seo think you just learn as you go and what works and what dont thanks

    AJ said:

    “People should start by bookmarking your list, if not printing it out and gluing it to their monitors.”

    @AJ: Thank you.

    What is the cost for this program?

    avatar Rick says:

    Google is changing it’s algorithm several times throughout the year. now it came out with it’s big Panda update and a second panda update. But does Google’s search result quality benefit from it? Heck no, it doesn’t and even the stupidest user will notice that after using Google for a while.
    How can it be, there is a website ranking on Page 1 (#10) with the title “Around the World, Las Vegas Vacation Package, Travelocity, Travel …”for the search term “home and garden decor”? That site is not 1% relevant to anything that could fit a home or garden.
    This site showed up in the SERP’s after Panda and was even under construction for several weeks!
    Good for that site but bad for my clients site which got pushed from #11 to 28 from one day to another and this although her site was 100% relevant to the keyword and search term “home and garden decor”.

    I see stupid search results on Google like the one I just named quite often and so do other Google users. Google can update as much as they want and try to push low quality sites out of their rankings but the fist should do their homework and work on some more quality on their own part. Who does Google believe they are for them to judge if a site is of low quality? A site that is in Google’s opinion of low quality can still be of a good quality for the normal user.

    Let’s look at it from this point of view:
    Google crawls and indexes almost all sites and pages and “knows” about a sites or even single page’s content and all the duplicate content. The normal internet user will never in his/her entire life will get to know about all the content the millions of websites do provide.
    they don’t give a damn about if the same article maybe is posted on whatever other site as long as they find it informative and helpful.

    What about all the online stores selling the same stuff. Are they all supposed to throw their stuff out and find something nobody else sells? Are they all supposed to rename their products and write unique product descriptions so the site will be of high quality and have no duplicate content?
    A.J., you say it is better to use less pictures and more words/content. Now, the old saying of a picture says more than a 1000 words somehow still is true.
    Again, let’s look at it from the point of a user. Does the user really want read on the screen 1000-2000 word articles or would the user rather read less and look at the picture that pretty much can tell itself what maybe 500 pretty words would describe?

    Sorry for the long rant. But in my honest opinion Google lost it’s sense for reality and should go back to the basic and very good search engine it used to be when it became popular and before they made billions and billions of dollars and tried to get their hands in everything that they could get their hands in.
    And most important, Google should stop trying to be the Sheriff of the internet and set up all the rules they want. This is not the Wild West!

    avatar Beamer says:

    I’m with you, Rick. Many Google arse kissers start grabbing their ankles for the big ramming. We should not allow G to set the standards for everything and everyone on the internet. I call that being a tyrant.

    Remember folks, G only has the power you give it. Stop giving it power and it will cease to exist. I find my sites listed on the first page of other engines, like Bing and Yahoo! including Google. Even the more obscure engines. I check them and there I am on the first page for my keywords.

    David, thank you for your useful points. They can help us prepare for future algorithm changes.

    avatar smitha says:

    Hi,

    It re affirms the fact that Content is the King. Pls keep on update on Google Panda.

    @Cheap Accomodation: You’re quite welcome. Thank you for taking the time to read my article.

    Again, thank you to everyone for your valuable feedback.

    avatar Robert says:

    Every time I’ve seen a documented Google update I’ve seen people bitch and moan that the results are no longer relevant because THEY have lost rankings. No longer relevant to you perhaps.

    In all honesty I’ve seen rankings fluctuate across many of my websites but ultimately visits remain stable while the quality seems to consistently improve. Here in South Africa we basically ONLY have Google so it’s certainly not an improvement from other search providers.

    Year after year (I’ve been at this for over 10 years now) I’ve seen sites get hammered, big and small, after Google updates. I’ve suffered very little damage because ultimately the focus has always been quality over “super SEO techniques”. Perhaps thats the real lesson.

    I’m quite happy with the latest updates, they do seem to be working better for me as a searcher, as a marketer, pretty much on a par.

    But hey, that could just be me?

    avatar SEO Bedford says:

    I have only one thing to say about Google Panda update: Content Still King and high quality and relevant links rule. Well actually I had two things to say, but there you go.

    avatar lego toys says:

    Thanks for sharing the great article. I used to submit articles to EzineArticles. Now they have revised their terms and conditions.

    avatar Self Defense spray says:

    For us small people this has been a great thing! Although I really do try to have great content on my homepage I believe it’s rankings went up due to the Panda happening! Great for me and anyone else this happened to! Not sure what to do about article writing now. do we keep on submitting to article directories or are we wasting our time?

    avatar shorturl says:

    After the update i lost 3 of my site from google.
    no result are showing in the search as those were 100% copy of content from other site.

    The update will be nice for end user like visitor but for small webmaster it will be a big problem :(

    Self Defense Spray: Depending on the quality of your writing, you should submit to authority sites like SiteProNews. They’re always looking for great content.

    Article directories have a diminished reputation. In addition, your article will simply be buried among thousands of other article submissions.

    You could also submit your article to quality newsletters.

    avatar SEO Auckland says:

    I never heard this news before but when I read this, it was nice because there’s a reward at last of all the hard work you made on a site. Thank you for this one.

    Thanks for this very informational post.. I guess its gonna be a change in strategy.. and yah, Thanks for the tips.. Keep me updated for this kinds of valuable information. I think this is the best google panda update seo blog. Thanks for it.

    avatar Florida Medicare says:

    Thanks for the tips!

    I just don’t understand why some of the sites that are now ranking , in my humble opinion, are offering the consumer/site visitor less. Is recovering from Panda worth it? Would it be better to just start over from scratch? Is there anyway for Google to “lift” or “place” a penalty on a particular site?

    I have read various responses but they all seem to be from earlier this year. Any opinions here?

    Thanks Again!

    Hey,

    Its a very nice content about SEO facts and very interesting content.

    This article is excellent and helped me quit a lot to uncover certain aspects of Google’s Panda algorithm update. The domain age factor has been bothering me for quite a long time and I’m desperately looking for a solution.

    Is domain age really an important factor? If yes! then how can new born websites (couple of months old) with user friendly design and quality content compete with domains that are pretty old (2, 3, 4 or even 8 years)?

    I tried a lot to find this answer to this very question, but I failed. Your article has answered all my questions except this. And I do agree that opinions in this domain age case vary.

    So here I am requesting you to please come up with an answer and help me overcome the dilemma. And by the way, thanks once again for providing us such a comprehensive information on Google Panda.

    avatar Jeff Aspacio says:

    I’ve given up on SEO, but after reading this article I felt a breeze of fresh air again and want to try at it again. Thanks so much!

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