Last year google caffeine was rolled out all over the world which focused more on “freshness” of the results. It tried to minimise the effect of black hat SEO to an extent but major focus was on “Live” search. The algorithm to target the content farms was in infant stage at that point and now that it is fully developed, it has been implemented in US to start with. Rest of the world still have to wait till it comes into effect. Its just a matter of time.
Key focus of Panda or Farmer update
Panda update is a major algorithmic change to the ranking system implemented by Google. Around 11.8% of queries will observe a noticeable impact as a result of this change. The intent is pure – provide the user with high quality and most relevant contents at the top. So the sites with low quality contents, low value to users, non original contents copied from other sites will see a drastic fall in their rankings. This is a good news to the sites with original contents, in depth analysis and research and high quality contents. They will definitely find a place at the top of the list.
Why it is called Panda or Farmer update?
According to Google Fellow Amit Singhal, the engineer who cracked the algorithm is named Panda. Though they didn’t reveal his complete name but it is said that he might be Biswanath Panda, a google employee, who recently published a paper related to Parallel learning of Tree ensembles with MapReduce.
The “Farmer” update name was given by Danny Sullivan of search engine land as he believed that the update is targeting mainly the sites using content farms to increase ranking.
What Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts has to say about Panda
In an interview with Wired.com, google spam-fighter guru Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts talked about the Panda update. Lots of complained were received about how low quality content sites were ranked higher than sites with relevant high quality contents. Though it is difficult to track down or label a particular site as good or bad, google always wanted to keep the ranking process scientific in order to discourage favouritism. So one of their engineer came with a list of exhaustive questionnaire which they passed on to third party testers. Questions such as Will you be comfortable to give credit card details to this site? Is this site authoritative? Would it be alright if this was in a magazine? Does this site has excessive ads?
Based on these parameters they were able to define what is a low quality site. So while developing the algorithm, they took into consideration these factors. Also Google Chrome extension exists which allows the user to block particular site from their search results. Though Singhal and Matt claims that they have not used this data to filter out sites. But 84% of the sites were featured in blocked category which were down graded by the Panda update. This encouraged the implementation of the change in algorithm.
Also google has a track record of how much time is spend on each site by the users. So if the site features at the top of the list in SERPs and if the user clicks on the site but goes back to the search results page immediately then it means that the content of that site was not good enough to lure the reader to stay on for longer time. The more relevant and readable content your site has, the chances are that the user will spend more time on it.
The biggest loser after the update were ezinearticles and Suite 101. They were penalised for the thin quality contents on their site mainly written to gain high rankings in SERPs. A complete list of which sites were winners and losers after the Panda update is listed on SEOmoz.
How to shield your site from Panda and future updates?
After the Panda update, it is clear that Google will try to display quality sites in their search results. If they don’t fight the spam and content farms or black hat SEO techniques then the users might shift their base to other search engines. So expect more tuning to their algorithms in future to eliminate low quality sites from search results. The traditional method of link building would no longer fetch you high page rank. Nor the content farm method of writing thin quality, high quantity contents will help you gain high page ranks.
Too much dependency on back links will cost you with changes in algorithm. If the site with most number of back links to your site is blacklisted by Google and penalised for link building then your site may also suffer with it. So the future is for sites with genuine original contents with good readability and presentation and back links from authoritative sites.
Here are some basic tips to follow so that you site is shielded from any updates to page ranking by Google.
- Content is your Site’s Lifeline: Presence of high quality relevant contents on your site is the key to success. Make sure you don’t have thin quality short articles, duplicate, poorly written and not useful contents on your site. If you have them on your site then try using the “noindex” tag to avoid google from indexing that page. Else large number of low quality pages will affect the overall ranking of the site even though you have few very good pages with high rank.
- Frequency of updates: Update your site on frequent basis and have a consistency in the number of updates. With the advent of caffeine, “freshness” is what search engine looks at.
- Speed of page load: The pages loading speed plays an important factor when the spiders crawl your website. Try to work out your avg page load time keeping in mind the low speed Internet connections.
- Readability of site: Make sure your site is well presented and not cluttered with contents all over the place. Well designed templates with images, videos, sub-headings, whitespaces, column width, all factors contribute to the success of the article on a page.
- Back links from authoritative sites: Be careful when you choose sites from whom you want a backlink to your site. Try to evaluate the credibility of that site based on factors such as Page Rank, Brand, Quality of contents, Originality, excessive ads, lots of contents but no traffic. Once you are done with the analysis then only try to get a backlink from that site else it might have negative impact on your search marketing strategy.
- No excessive ads: Control the number of ads displayed on the page and try not the interfere your ads with your contents. More than 5 ads block on one page can make Panda believe that your site is of low quality with focused more on advertising than on contents.
- Use social media: Marketing your site through social media like Facebook, twitter, YouTube will create an awareness and engagement about your site. Don’t forget that after Google, YouTube is the second largest search engine used by users all over the world. So uploading some videos related to your site contents will help you fetch more visitors to your site.
- Brand Building: Don’t depend on Google excessively to get traffic to your site. Start building a brand name for your site so that visitors visit directly to your site without going through search. Building a memorable brand and excellent online experience so that users visit directly to your site will help you fetch higher ranking. Panda looks for authoritative sites.
Wishing you all the success in your Online marketing strategy.