July 12, 2011
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