Optimizing Websites in the Age of Google Panda
The Google Panda update changed the Internet forever when it was rolled out in 2011. Tactics that had before put websites at the top of search engine rankings suddenly harmed search rankings instead. Google has now incorporated Panda into the core algorithm, so the changes wrought by the update are here to stay. Therefore, websites must be optimized with Panda in mind.
What Does the Panda Want?
While the Google Panda update made a lot of changes to the search algorithm to do this, it boils down to one core goal: a good user experience. The reason the Panda update was released in the first place was because a lot of poor-quality sites were using ‘black hat’ SEO tactics to out-rank high-quality sites. Users had to sort through keyword-stuffed, often plagiarized sites with little quality content in order to find the good sites. Google wanted to change all of that.
If you create a high-quality site with good content and a good user experience, chances are good that you’re already following most of the new rules for Panda. Panda-friendly pages should be unique (not plagiarized or repeated), thick (plenty of substantial content), high-quality (useful for users, is spelled correctly, has good grammar, etc.), and focused (not too many different topics on one page).
Keyword Stuffing and Spammy Backlinks: What Not to Do
Some of the old “black hat” SEO tactics do make some amount of sense. One might think that it’s better to have a keyword repeated as many times as possible, or that any links at all are better than none. But thanks to Panda, Google is smart enough to see that those don’t make for a very good user experience and actually punish sites that do this with poorer search rankings.
Over-optimization can hurt your site in search rankings as much as bad SEO tactics can. Too many ads can annoy users. Too many links can distract users and prevent them from clicking any. Spammy backlinks (links to your site as a part of link schemes or from untrustworthy sites) will make users not trust your page.
It’s important to keep user experience in mind. Pay attention to your bounce rate and how many users spend little time on your site. Not only does Google factor this into your search rankings, but it’s also a signal to you that your page isn’t meeting users’ expectations and that it’s time to rethink your SEO strategies and add more high-quality content.
Optimizing for Panda
If you’re worried your page isn’t completely Panda-friendly, you’re in luck. Google provides guidelines for everything from SEO techniques to producing quality content. There’s even a section on tactics to avoid, which would hurt your page rankings. And since a high-quality user experience is Google’s goal, you can use yourself as a resource as well: would you enjoy visiting your site as a user, or would you click off?