Have you been keeping up with the latest Google algorithm changes? Do you know what Panda 4.1 is intended to do? Are you concerned that you could potentially lose significant organic search traffic or are you confident that the recent changes in SEO will reward you for quality content? This week, in my #FridayFinds series, we’re going to take an in-depth look at some of the latest news surrounding Google.
Google Rolls Out Panda 4.1
Google Panda was first released on February 24th 2011. Basically, the Panda algorithm was intended to target quality content. After all, Google maintains that its mission is to provide meaningful results in the SERPs (search engine results pages). So, it’s in Google’s best interest if they deliver search results that meets the needs of the person who is searching. (Essentially, when someone clicks on a URL in the SERPs and they find what they’re looking for, it’s a win-win-win situation where Google, the web user and the site owner who gets the traffic are all winners.)
According to Danny Sullivan (a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land), there have been twenty seven confirmed Panda updates (counting the most recent release on September 25, 2014. In his post, Panda 4.1 — Google’s 27th Panda Update — Is Rolling Out, Danny explains that this latest version is designed to penalize “thin” or poor content from ranking well.
Basically, Danny’s position is that if you had been penalized by Panda in the past (and have taken steps to address the content issues with your website), you may see an increase in your organic search traffic. On the other hand, if you’re seeing a sudden drop in your traffic, it’s very possible that you were hit.
Danny goes on to quote Pierre Far, (a Webmaster Trends Analyst Google UK), from one of his Google+ posts:
That one Google+ post served as an announcement to the SEO community of this update.
The Good News & Bad News About Panda 4.1
In his article Your Guide to Google’s Panda 4.1 Algorithm on HuffingtonPost.com, Jayson DeMers (founder & CEO of AudienceBloom.com) first gives us a brief introduction to the history behind the Panda algorithm. Then, he gives us the good news and bad news which basically comes down to – some of us will be hit by this algorithm and others won’t.
Note: Doesn’t it always come down to this after Google updates one of their algorithms or (even worse) hits us with a manual web spam action?
Jayson goes on to answer the question “Which sites were hit?” by saying:
The Key Elements of Quality Content
In his “Your Guide to Google’s Panda 4.1 Algorithm post, Jayson linked to another of his articles called The 12 Essential Elements Of High-Quality Content (which was published on Forbes.com.) This post is a must read if you’re looking for tips on improving the quality of your site content.
You really should check out this one for yourself but I will share with you the twelve key points on Jayson’s checklist:
- Content Length
- Embedded Video, Infographics & Other Media
- Grammar & Spelling
- Page and Text Formatting
- Your Readability Score
- Authoritative Content
- The Credibility & Reputation (of Guest Authors)
- Social Signals
- Internal & External Links
- Domain Quality
- Comment Quality
- Value (solves a problem, entertains, etc.)
Trust me, this article is so packed with information that you’ll want to bookmark this one for reading later.
Google’s Leaked Quality Rater Guidelines
Okay. I’m turning into a big Jayson DeMers fan here. While researching my article, I just kept following one link to another (which is usually what happens when I write this #FridayFinds series). If you followed the link above to Jayson’s post about high-quality content, you would have seen this infographic (10 Hidden Gems From Google’s Leaked Quality Rater Guidelines) but in case you didn’t: (besides it’s a chance for me to embed a valuable infographic)
Google Panda 4.1 and Link Building
Since this algorithm was intended to target quality content, lets take a look at how link building will be affected by it. In his article 5 Crucial Link Building Strategies After Google Panda 4.1 on ProBlogger.net, Rizvan Ullah, (the founder of Ranktactics), talks about how people continue to attempt to manipulate the search results. One of the most common black hat techniques is deceptive link building and Panda was engineered to detect link building schemes that manipulated the results. According to Rizvan:
If you’ve ever worried about your link building strategy (or don’t even have one yet), you’ll want to read Rizvan’s post. In it, he shares five link building techniques that provide high quality content without risking being penalized by Google.
As always, I encourage you to read the original article but I’ve highlighted his five bullet points here (to pique your interest):
#1) Google Ranking Criteria
Here, Rizvan talks about the three criteria that were in the original Panda 1.0 but are still relevant today:
- Eliminate links to low quality content.
- Eliminate links to sites with “thin” content pages.
- Eliminate links to sites that distribute duplicate content.
#2) Diversity In “Everything” Is Good
Rizvan goes on to share three methods that have been proven to drive traffic.
- Guest Posting
- Article Directories
- High Quality Content (Do you know what an LSI keyword is?)
#3) The Importance of Relevance
Linking to authoritative sites is still important but now Google is paying close attention to how relative that content is.
#4) Anchor & Related Keywords
Here, Rizvan talks about Google using latent semantic indexing to relate phrases. He also shares his tips on mixing keyword phrases into your content.
Tip: For those of you who are unsure what Google semantics is and how it works, last month, Jeannette Paladino wrote an excellent guest post for me: Are You Confused by Google Semantics? SEO Tips You Need. In that post Jeannette also explains structured data markup and rich snippets.
#5) Don’t Follow Your Competitors
Just because your competitors have a linking strategy, it doesn’t mean that it’s effective. It’s quite possible that they haven’t adapted to the latest algorithm changes. Following them could actually end up hurting you in the long run.
FTI: This is just my opinion, but I found this 5th tip to be the most enlightening. Rizvan gives us actionable steps. Additionally, he shares his views on PBNs (private blog networks).
Over To You:
What are your thoughts? Have you noticed any significant changes in your organic search traffic recently? Do you think Google Panda 4.1 hurt, helped or had no impact? Has any of the information here made you think differently about your current SEO strategy? Please let us know what you think in the comments. We’d all like to know.