Out of the Farm, Into the… Zoo?

As those who attended the Online Marketing Conference (#omce2011) will know, Google’s algorithm changes are due to take place in the UK this week. So, what exactly is the Panda Update?

Panda Update

Because everyone loves a gratuitous cute panda pic...

There has long been criticism of Google for the apparent lack of policing over “content farms” – sites which essentially “pollute” SERPs with poor quality content, created for the sole purpose of ranking highly for long tail keywords and thus attracting traffic to be targeted with advertising. The update will reduce value provided by these links, thus pushing them down the rankings and providing better search results for Google’s users.

Great news, right? Removing the bad content whilst allowing quality content to move higher has got to be a good thing. And you know your website has good quality content, so you can only benefit!

Well, not entirely. It’s true that quality content will help you in your ranking and be more likely to be shared by people through social media. But it’s not just content farms that will suffer – nor will they suffer entirely. Here’s what the algorithm change will mean for you and your business:

1. An algorithmic change – not a blacklist

Google aren’t saying they’re going to ban all content farms – in fact, much of the content on sites such as ezine.com is useful and therefore deserves the benefit of that. That’s why Google is simply making this an algorithmic change – so the effect won’t be uniform across your site and it’s only the poor content that will suffer.

2. All pages need to be high quality content

The higher the proportion of high quality pages on your site, the better you will rank. So it’s really important that every page of your site is of the highest standard. That means redirecting, or removing entirely, those poor quality pages and replacing them with well written, useful content which appeals to your end user.

3. Social validation will be more important than ever

Google will be using social share and retweets as an indication of quality, as well as considering the bounce rate of your pages to ensure the content they send people to is useful and relevant. So allow people to share your content – add social share buttons, allow comment, create conversation around it – the more people say your content is valuable, the more valuable Google will think it is.

4. Article marketing will be devalued

But wait – will it? It’s a common misconception with the Panda Update that it will devalue the work you or your agency already does in article marketing (that’s providing content to other sites with a view to getting links back from them). Rather than making article marketing less valuable, it just means marketers need to be more creative and provide higher quality content. That will mean seeking relationships with influential bloggers, guest blogging on influential sites and generally ensuring that every activity you do around link building provides real benefit to your end user.

Well there we go then – quality content = higher rankings. Happy days. But hang on a minute – what is “quality content”?

As I’ve already touched on, quality content is content that provides value to your end user – your audience. So it needs to be relevant to the area you work in and say something that no one else has said, in a way that the reader understands and can use. For Google, this will most likely be defined by the following attributes:

  • Good click through rates – after all, if people click it, it must be useful, right?
  • No ads above the fold – you may have noticed that a lot of sites which are based on advertising will advertise to you before you even start scrolling. That just tells Google that they’re only after your traffic for advertising purposes.
  • User engagement – as I mentioned, this will be about social sharing and external links to your pages. So make it sharable!

I’ll be keeping track of Analytics for sites I work on and will let you know if I see any big changes but, for now, the best plan of action is to, in the words of someone famous, “keep calm and carry on!”. Do keep an eye on your stats though – and don’t be afraid to cut the pages that aren’t working for you.

Hurray for quality content!

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3 thoughts on “Out of the Farm, Into the… Zoo?

  1. Pingback: How Google’s Panda Update Changed SEO to be More User Centred « I think, therefore I write…

  2. Pingback: In Branding, Google is King | I think, therefore I write...

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