Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Panda Refresh: Good News for Small and Medium-Sized Websites

Last week Google announced a new update to the Panda algorithm, which, according to Google's Pierre Far, should help small and medium-sized websites. As Far announced on Google + last week:

"Earlier this week, we started a slow rollout of an improved Panda algorithm, and we expect to have everything done sometime next week.

Based on user (and webmaster!) feedback, we’ve been able to discover a few more signals to help Panda identify low-quality content more precisely. This results in a greater diversity of high-quality small- and medium-sized sites ranking higher, which is nice."

Our obligatory Panda picture [Source]

So it seems: this new update should continue to redress the first Panda release, in 2011, which inadvertently harmed many smaller and medium-sized websites. Back then, Panda's original purpose was to promote quality content and downgrade low-quality websites with excessive advertising and little original content. The prime target, then as now, was aggregators.

And indeed, this recent update seems to have hit the mark. As Marcus Tober, of SearchMetrics, reported last Friday:

"The 4.1 iteration of Panda ties in with the preceding updates. Losers are often games or lyrics portals as well as websites dealing with medical issues and content – to cut it short...in general, it hit pages with thin content. Aggregators do not provide unique and relevant content."

This is great news for those who enjoy a quality browsing experience, and according to Tober, it really should help smaller sites:

"Panda Updates focus on content quality. They are supposed to remove redundant, irrelevant content and spam from Google’s index. So far, this is nothing new. The interesting thing about the current Panda generation is the fact that apparently smaller and medium high-quality websites are supposed to benefit from the update."

This has not always been the case. Google originally viewed Panda as the algorithm that would truly distinguish sites with original, high-quality, and relevant content. Meanwhile, sites without "authority," which Google defined in several ways, all essentially relating to content, were downgraded.

Unfortunately, in trying to separate the wheat from the chaff--perhaps the most relevant metaphor for Google's mission--Panda penalized small and medium-sized sites in favor of brand names with more "authority."

Smaller sites just couldn't compete with the likes of Amazon, even if they offered equal/or better products at equal/or better prices--which they often do.

The early reports from SearchMetrics, however, seem to reveal a new pattern. Sites with original, quality content that have been hurt by Panda are now gaining traction:

"Sites with quality content won. Babble.com has been a loser of the Panda 4.0 update and has now recovered quite impressively. And there are even more losers of Panda 4.0 that recovered. Just to name a few: rd.com, Hotelguides.com, Yourtango.com, Spoonful.com or ivillage.com."

This is important news for small and medium-sized website owners, who might want to look back to Google's original questions for Panda, for inspiration.

These questions read like a template for a beautiful Internet--an Internet free of the scourge of spam and content farms who exist for little purpose than to perpetuate their own pointless existence. By paying attention to these questions, and refining your content to meet the demands of the algorithm, you just might be able to compete with the likes of Amazon.

A few of Google's "Panda questions":

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

Take a look at your current content. Is your website merely offering superficial content? Are you adding to the conversation of ideas? If not, you might want to hire a professional copywriter to create unique content designed for your site.

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

This is an easy fix! Delete your redundant material. Do not repeat yourself.

Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site? 

The "feel" of your website is often dependent on the content. You want to inspire your potential customers with confidence. Nothing says "authority" like well-written, thoughtful content, which brings us to...

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

Nothing condemns a website like language errors! This is just another reason to hire a professional copywriter.

Need Algorithm Help? Contact Stepmans PC!

If you're a small or medium-sized site that has seen recent downgrades in ranking, you might need an SEO specialist to help you evaluate how Panda's changes might effect your business. Alex Stepman, of Stepmans PC, can help you navigate the complicated challenge of the new algorithm.

Do not let the changing algorithms compromise your sales. You need the astute wisdom of a professional search engine optimization professional who works with both the right and left side of the brain. Contact Stepmans PC today to learn how you can improve your website's performance: 215-900-9398.