SEO – Google’s Panda update
What does search engine optimization (SEO) and an endangered mammal, The Panda, have in common? Absolutely nothing! The Google Panda update was aptly named after the Google software engineer, Navneet Panda, the individual responsible for developing the Google algorithm update. This update has changed SEO forever and has reaffirmed that content is king.
Maybe you were not aware of this but Google is trying to develop an algorithm that is responsive to the human mind rather than a machine. In other words Google wants to present the best search engine results based on human perceptions and engagement. Panda is a major stepping-stone to achieving this ‘ideal’ search engine world.
Panda operates through a machine learning process. In simple terms, the process analyzes a bunch of websites using all kinds of different metrics to try and figure out why people like a website or more significantly why people do not like a website. For example, bounce rates would be a significant metric used by the Panda update. Basically if human users are consistently bouncing (i.e. abruptly leaving) from a website’s landing page on the first impression, a red flag will be raised and the website will subsequently be downgraded in the rankings. In essence the Panda update seeks to discover if a website evokes positive feelings from visitors and this can be measured through user engagement with a website.
So what has the Panda update really changed?
Rand Fishkin and the team at SEOmoz presented a short informative ‘Whiteboard Friday’ video clip about the important issues surrounding the Panda update.
- The design of a website is now more important than ever. The Panda update has put a primary emphasis on the user experience. Websites that engage visitors and websites that are easily accessible and easy to navigate around are key to enhancing the user experience.
- As we all know Google penalizes websites that present duplicate content. The Panda update signifies another significant shift towards the importance of content in relation to SEO. When developing content for your website try to make it as unique as possible by using descriptions, anecdotes, photos, similes and humour etc. If you can create interesting content visitors are more likely to engage with your content and may even go as far as sharing the content. The Panda update will recognize engaging content and reward a website significantly.
- User usage metrics are now more important that ever. Website administrators should optimize their website based on key analytics. For example, Panda will rank your website negatively if visitors are bouncing straight off your website. Alternatively if the visitors continue to browse though the website Google will rank the website favorably. Furthermore low levels of click through rates (CTR) will adversely affect a website’s Google ranking. Optimizing the title of the landing pages, snippet and the domain name will go some way to ensuring that a website does not appear ‘spammy’ in search engine result pages. Panda will even examine the diversity and quantity of traffic coming into the website, for example geo-locations must be consistent and relevant to the website’s ‘target location’. Google analytics is a key tool that will help you optimize your website and keep up to date with Google and the Panda update.
Note: The Panda update recalculates the index metrics every 40 days on average.