Google Panda Update Signals Content Is King

What’s All The Fuss About?

Google recently did a major update, better known as Google Panda, to the way they rank pages.

I remember sitting at a conference pondering the implications with some high profile Internet Marketers and SEO Consultants at the time. The intent of the Google Panda update was to downgrade sites that were deemed to be low quality.

The kind of sites we are talking about here are content farm sites that rank high in the search engines such as ehow or wikiHow.

The reason for the change was due to the concern that Google’s search engine listings were being degraded with poor quality content. This makes sense. Google had to respond and the shakeup was bound to happen.

It was a big shakeup with an estimated 12% of sites affected. However, this is not the end of the changes. Not by a long shot. It was only one of about 500 algorithm changes planned over the next year.

What Does Google Want?

If you think about Google – they are all about providing good quality relevant content.  As searchers using Google, we have also been conditioned to expect and find answers for what we are searching for instantly. If we are not getting the right answers instantly, then Google will respond.

Just recently Amit Singhal the head of Google search made a statement regarding the update. To this end, he listed a number of questions that webmasters should ask themselves about the quality of content on their site.

Some of the questions stated were:

Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?

We’ve all been to web pages where we have found lots of information on topics that actually offer very little helpful or insightful information.

The key here is to think about your reader. Make sure you are writing about a topic that you know about and that you are providing value.

Many people worry that if they give all their secrets away, then they will lose business but this will actually help you build authority and credibility in your market.

Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?”

This is very fascinating. What you need to be careful of here is targeting keywords that are very similar on your website. For example, if one of your pages has a keyword-targeted at the term “online bank” and another one is targeted at the term “online banking” then you would be in trouble with Google, as they see this as low value as the content on these two pages will be virtually the same stuff.

If you do want to target more than one keyword, you are better to target them on the same page.

So my tip is to use related keywords on one page rather than several pages on your site. Once you have done that, then the next step is to get backlinks for the different phrases and make sure the backlinks link to the right pages where the keyphrase is.

Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?”

This is a serious question for me and probably for many people. I am an excellent speller but a bad typist. I leave words out and even mistype them. Usually, I am good enough to pick up the errors but small ones do get through from time to time.

Our awesome Editor will attest to this (though he hasn’t read this post yet). What it means is that my days of speed reading are numbered.

According to Google, this may mean that I am about to become penalized.  The implications of this are I will kill a few more trees by printing my articles out and reading them but my article will be of better quality (I am better at proofreading from a piece of paper than on a computer screen).

Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?  How much quality control is done on content? Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?”

Google has a fondness for brands because they represent authority which is important in Google’s eyes.

Brands usually have a lot more resources at their disposal which means the content is often checked and edited by several people within an organisation.

Google is rewarding organisations for this behaviour. Smaller businesses need to be careful and consider using proofreaders to check and edit any content before they put it on their website.

Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?”

How many times have you visited a site only to find more ads on the page than content?

Too many ads on a page is not a good thing and Google are going to penalize sites for this if they deem there are too many ads on the page.

How this is measured will be anyone’s guess but perhaps a large number of external links on a page coupled with a high bounce rate might provide a clue.

Would you trust the information presented in this article?  Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site? Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?”

This statement is very interesting. You may have noticed that your friends faces are now popping up in search results. Your friends or the people within your social network are now influencing what appears in the search results.  This is an attempt to integrate search and social media.

It is an interesting move because Google has also recently launched the Google Plus 1 button which Google have said they will use as a ranking indicator in the search results. The Google Plus 1 button is essentially an “I don’t like button.”  There are lots of reasons why this is not a good thing (this deserves a whole new post).

However, the upshot is that Google (and other search engines) are starting to rely on, and will become more reliant on social media and the recommendations of others to influence search engine rankings.

Mr Singhal added a lot more questions. You can check them out in the Google Webmasters post. It is worth checking them out. However, the key takeout is to create high-quality content that matters. Make sure your content is well written and that it includes some original ideas.

Follow some simple guidelines and make sure you don’t have excessive spelling mistakes and poor grammar. Make your pages engaging by using headers and adding images and video.  Have content that is well written and is not just rehashed info from all the other sites ranking for that keyword. You can still curate content but give your opinion and demonstrate market leadership.