Google’s Panda Update: 5 steps to staying on top

While the seasons may be slow to change this year (at least that’s how it looks outside my window), Google isn’t hesitating to spring forward with some much needed algorithm tweaks. Let’s take a look at the latest and greatest happenings with Google’s algos, and more specifically, touch on some of the impacts these changes may have.

You’ve probably heard the buzz about Google’s Farmer Update (aka Panda) toward the end of February. Sidebar: did I miss something? Why Panda? Anyway … The farmer update was put into place to weed out low-quality content. Originally, many believed that this was aimed at ‘content farms’ – but they were wrong. The algo change was actually designed to target any and all sites with low quality content. In this case, ‘low quality’ is defined by, “content that is not useful, poorly written copy, non-unique [content copied from other sites], or thin [not enough copy to be useful].”

I’ve heard speculation that this will be the end of content farms, and that content is no longer king. I could not disagree more. Copywriters (SEO copywriters, that is) have always had a massive impact on a site’s success in the search engine rankings. Without content, there is no web. The “information highway” IS content, presented as text, audio and video—no matter which way you slice it, it’s all content. Sites are being forced to produce useful information or suffer the consequences. As an SEO copywriter myself, I did a little happy dance when Panda popped up. Even now I can hear the subtle roaring cheers of all copywriters across the nation as we (slowly but surely) bid farewell to bad writing in the B2B & B2C zones! Finally Google is demanding more—demanding a higher level of quality. It might sound a little scary to some site owners, but rest assured, it is good news! Give users what they want and Google will reward you:

  1. Substantial low quality content on a site can cause the rankings of the entire site to decline (even for the high quality pages).
    Evaluate your site and eliminate poor-quality pages. Delete them, 404 them, or redirect them to better pages if possible.
  2. Now you’re left with mediocre pages (and hopefully some quality pages, too).
    Reorganize the quality content so it’s easy to find for users and engines. For the ho-hum pages, revamp, rewrite and edit. Breathe new life into existing content by adding more value and removing the fluff.
  3. Fill in the gaps – create new content.
    Write what people want to read. Write copy that speaks to and engages your audience(s). Identify a need, provide a solution. Listen to questions, provide valuable answers. Build out a social media strategy, get involved and engage your customers and prospects. Gain exposure via blogs, how to videos & transcriptions, Facebook pages, Youtube videos & transcriptions, infographics, webinars, press releases, product announcements and reviews, books, whitepapers, newsletters … the opportunities to produce quality content are infinite.
  4. Existing content has been improved, and new content created, now what?
    Show it off, share it across channels within search and beyond: Google News and “one box” style results such as blogs, images, and videos; social media platforms including FB, LinkedIn, and Youtube, to share your voice and engage users.
  5. Increase and maintain rankings in the SERPs.
    Yes, we want to keep an eye on traffic from and SEO standpoint, but we also want to watch and measure success by conversion rates. It’s not enough anymore that we simply get the rankings for our clients. We need to follow through to the next level, by showing them how to convert. 1. Generate traffic, get top rankings; 2. Convert prospects into loyal customers.

All the number 1 rankings in the world are worthless unless a site is converting. We need to teach our clients how to write for the conversion as well as the engines. If you produce content that is aimed at giving readers exactly what they want and need, when they want and need it, you will align your site with the very goal the engines are trying to achieve with their algorithm changes. Your pages will naturally climb to the top of the SERPs … and when they get there, they will convert prospects to loyal customers. Yes, SEO is about traffic, but never forget that it’s also about conversions.