Archive for April, 2012

24
Apr

My Experiences with Google Panda

   Posted by: rwcustom    in SEO

My Experiences with Google Panda

panda-hug

Not since the film Kung Fu Panda has a panda been such a firestorm of negativity and face-palming. However, it’s the kind of thing we in the SEO world love—not just because it makes a great blog topic, but also because we just love searching for funny panda bear pictures that help to illustrate our frustration.

The Idea Behind Google Panda

Google Panda is actually a very good thing in theory, and it’s the type of algorithm change we all say we want, because it promises to reward sites that produce relevant, well-written and dare we say, even professional content. Google claimed the update would hurt “content mills” the most, that is, the sites that blatantly and un-creatively reproduce the same article over and over again, and that also litter their pages with obnoxious ads. In theory, Panda was supposed to be the triumph of good writing over borderline plagiarism.

However, when Panda actually did come out in 2011 and took a ferocious bear-bite out of the Internet publishing world, everyone thought everyone else would suffer. Little did they suspect that only big name sites would report major traffic, while smaller “big” sites would suffer search ranking losses. It appears as if the Internet world miscalculated one important point: that it in penalizing “low quality” sites, Google had to determine what sites the online viewing public thought were of exceptionally low quality. Not, who webmasters disliked, but who everyone disliked. It turns out not everyone was a fan of Ezine Articles, E-How and other sites that just barely had an editorial process. (E-How’s editorial process was particularly confusing to me; they were so intent on producing succinct writing, that when they edited my articles, they cut out 50% of the research and references along the way)

When they forced the issue and asked online viewers what sites they really trusted, is it any wonder that they named well-branded companies like The Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly and CNN—the sites that have earned a big name reputation through mass marketing and by quality magazine style writing, in print and online, as opposed to intelligently “spun” and brilliantly recycled content?

Sore Losers or Frightened Little People?

This news caused an uproar in the Internet world and actually led to the unthinkable: multiple companies attempting to sue Google for un-inviting them to the party. The end result, from my vantage point, is that Google’s algorithm update actually inspired a lot of positive activity. It made every company out there stop and consider the point-of-view of the audience, and ask whether or not its content was truly reflective of a professional, experienced and educated website.  Is this article really making the Internet itself look good-or it is making us look more like the Idiot and Dummy book generation?

When a monster moves, the village reacts. To not react is a big mistake. Google is the monster in this scenario. Are we preparing for disaster and monster-proofing our content and our site?

You’re Not Anybody Until You’re on the News!

I can personally attest to experiencing both some highs and lows from Panda’s update—one of my Google News cited articles written for a client earned a great reception, and actually benefited from Google’s begrudging “context” standards, having been linked all over the Internet, thanks to a viral explosion. On the other hand, some news stories I worked on never made it to Google News because they were apparently too bloggy for the mainstream. However, they were always on the Top 10 overall searches for longer niche keywords.

To this day, one of the main sites I write for is consistently linked in Google News with popular niche keywords, and its normal search results are wonderfully instantaneous. Just the value of having an “instantly Google-able” site is priceless. So my first tip to SEO newcomers out there hoping to conquer the Panda dilemma is to aim for news. If you can’t make Google News because of a lack of content or lack of professional news stories, then pay your way into the mainstream by buying more press releases. These “news source” links will help you overcome Panda’s vicious paws.

Other Suggestions for Google Panda Improvement

Another suggestion: make sure all of your pages are linked together (for strong internal structure) and that the site format is clean, hopefully free from excessive ads, and easy to navigate through the pages. When it’s time to seek out external links, don’t waste your time on local sites, buddy sites and sites that could bring you “mutual benefit.” Go for the higher PR sites, magazine sites, news sites, and other websites that have high brand awareness—the sort of brand awareness that automatically generates traffic. (You can check the PR rank of a site for more information as to what is really worth your time.

Keep your site updated regularly. One of the reasons my pet client site does so well and is so instantaneously Google-able is because the client updates it weekly, six feature stories a week. If you continue to update your site by the month or by the week, the search engines cannot forget you, because now you’re helping them to create the news. To reiterate, that magazine had six different, quality stories posted-meaning they avoided wasting pages.

It turns out even in the world of virtual real estate, recycling is still a big deal. The Internet giants want to conserve web space and so are declaring a penalization war on sites with a plethora of low quality pages.  Wasting virtual paper…almost more unpopular than wasting real paper.

All in all, my experiences with Google Panda have left me optimistic. I am still relieved to know that quality articles are not ignored in favor of big budget marketing (including companies that can buy 100 pages of lowbrow content). I am also flattered to be considered a legitimate source of information by Google and its profound Panda logic, comparable with The Wall Street Journal. 

And lastly, because so many of my search requests end up going straight to Wiki Answers, with its marvelously succinct three word Q & A replies, I am also confident that it’s not too late—no, it’s definitely not too late—to make friends with the panda.

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