<< by on September 13th, 2011
As Panda continues to change, how can it be applied to actual practices, and how can you Panda-Proof your content? These were the discussion points for the first afternoon session at SMX East 2011 today. Speakers included Heather Lloyd-Martin, Dr. Horst Joepen, and Chris Silver Smith.
Heather Lloyd-Martin – Success Works Search Marketing
Panda provides opportunities to sites that they may not have known existed before. We are all content marketers. The content that we are writing is helping us meet our business goals. Marketers need to become more like content engineers. Panda is all about emphasizing quality content.
Pre-Panda people forgot about their readers and focused in entirely on search engines. It was all about creating content to please the search engines. However “engines don’t pay your bills. Your customers do.” Panda is about going back to what we know is quality content, even if we can’t quite define it.
92% of marketers surveyed say that content creation is “very” or “somewhat” effective as an SEO tactic, but that it is the most difficult to implement. Here are some tips to get started:
- View your content as a whole
- Create an editorial calendar so you can “slice and dice” your content for future use
- Stop asking what Google wants – focus on your customers and readers
Develop content around:
- Keyphrase research that is based on what your customers are interested in reading
- Customer questions that are frequently asked
- The sales funnel and sales cycle
- Stories about your product or service
Good content can make an emotional connection with your readers. It is about making them feel something. Go back to the copy writing basics of story-telling. This is what makes Panda such a huge opportunity.
Once you have your quality content, you will be able to strategically repurpose it across different mediums:
- White papers
- Blog posts
- Sales pages
- Case studies
All of this quality content can be tweeted and linked back to in the future. An editorial calendar can help you keep track of new and old content for future use, saving you time and money. When you create a plan, content creation becomes much easier.
- Action steps to get started:
- Evaluate your current content assets
- Get everyone on the same page about SEO content
- Once your research is complete, create the editorial calendar
- Keep an eye on your quality – make sure old techniques like keyword stuffing are not being used
- Have fun with content development
Dr. Horst Joepen – CEO Searchmetics Inc.
Before Panda, quality ratings and penalties were supported by analytics. After Panda, permanent quality assessment during crawling and indexing puts permanent pressure on keyword positions. There are continuous algorithm improvements.
The effect of these updates can be seen clearly by looking at specific examples. Dr. Joepen showed a chart for ezinemark.com, showing spikes and drops that coordinated with Panda updates.
Can you detect warning signs? There is a line between doing enough, and doing too much. If you are not on the forefront of pushing the envelope with Panda, chances are somebody else will be hurt by it before you.
The impact of Panda can be drastically different around the world. For example, there was virtually no change in idealo.de in Germany, while idealo.fr in France experienced a 39% loss in visibility. Despite the same structure and similar content, there was a huge discrepancy in effects from Panda.
Why do these warning signs appear? Naturally, reasons for penalties will be built into Panda and the algorithm. Look for who got away and who got hit. You can compare backlink structures, social network activities, and content. These things can help protect you from taking a hit from Panda. For example, companies with high levels of social media activity seem to fair better than those with low levels of social activity. You can also adjust your SEO strategy. Focus or go long tail, but do not stand between. Compensate with PPC traffic, and distribute your content on subdomains. In a worse case scenario, you can always re-launch.
- Panda 2.0 winners:
- Sites with original content
- Brands and established businesses
- Google – especially with price comparison
Dr. Joepen then provided some key takeaways for Panda-proofing your content.
- Key Takeaways
- The line has been moved up toward quality
- Peer group monitoring
- Learn from others
- Don’t stand back – walk the line
Chris Silver Smith – Director of Optimization Strategies at KeyRelevance
Google has had interest in usability and user experience for a long time. Historically Google has done things to ensure usability, like emphasizing site speed, even before Panda. Google started penalizing what they called “thin affiliates” before Panda was released too. However after Panda, usability and user experience have become much more important in determining rankings on Google.
In 2006 and 2007, and since, there have been Google documents leaked. One of these was the “Google Spam Recognition Guide For Quality Evaluators”. Again, the thin affiliate doorway pages were noted as being penalized. These sites are seen as simple reflections or copies of original content sites, and are not believed to really do anything for end users.
These quality evaluation programs are still in effect all around the world. Users are asked to look at search query results and evaluate the sites. Try doing this for your own company. If you don’t like the way your site appears, or how it functions, neither will users.
Google Factors for Quality Evaluation:
- Machine-detectable Human Factors
- Clicks from search results
- Bounce rate
- Time on site
- Linking behavior
- Social media – including shares, mentions, and votes
- Paid Human Evaluator Staff
- Algorithmic Analysis and Application of Factor Values
Tips for Panda-proofing your website:
- Remove or no-index pages of low quality score or worth
- Get rid of error pages and “empty” pages
- Combine similar pages, redirect the one you remove to the other
- Check service status codes for your error pages
- Put more value-adding features on your page
- Charts, relevant pictures, etc…
- Coordinate strong social media and PR campaigns with re-launches
- Make sure users are not forced to click secondary pages
- Remove the spam from any comment or forum section of your site
- Use rel=Author tagging
- Fix spelling, stylistic, and factual errors
- Remove excessive ads
- Become an authoritative source
- Publish a book about your business or organization
- Avoid “over-optimizations”