April 18

What An Adorable Algorithm!

Let’s talk about something that has affected all SEO and web design firms and internet-friendly businesses.  Let’s talk about Google’s Farmer/Panda Update.  This update has been riddled with speculation, baffled SEO firms, and frustrated clients.  In order to cut down on crazy hypotheticals and useless theories, I’d like to focus on what we DO know by what Rocket55 has heard and experienced firsthand.

From Matt Cutts, Google’s head of spam:  “Our recent update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites, so the key thing for webmasters to do is make sure their sites are the highest quality possible. We looked at a variety of signals to detect low quality sites. Bear in mind that people searching on Google typically don’t want to see shallow or poorly written content, content that’s copied from other websites, or information that are just not that useful. In addition, it’s important for webmasters to know that low quality content on part of a site can impact a site’s ranking as a whole. For this reason, if you believe you’ve been impacted by this change you should evaluate all the content on your site and do your best to improve the overall quality of the pages on your domain. Removing low quality pages or moving them to a different domain could help your rankings for the higher quality content.”

To break down the above excerpt released by Google, we can gather a few things:

The aims of Panda are noble: to remove poor quality sites from the top of Google’s results pages.  The algorithm specifically targets sites (not necessarily just content farms) that are low quality.  But how can one define low quality content in a mathematical equation?

A high % of duplicate content. This might apply to a page, a site or both.  A low amount of original content on a page or site.  A high % (or number) of pages with a low amount of original content.  A high amount of inappropriate and irrelevant adverts, especially high on the page.  Page content (and page title tag) not matching the search queries a page does well for.  Unnatural language on a page including heavy-handed on-page SEO (‘over-optimization’ to use a common oxymoron).  High bounce rate on page or site.  Low visit times on page or site.  Low % of users returning to a site.  Low clickthrough % from Google’s results pages (for page or site).  High % of boilerplate content (the same on every page).  Low or no quality inbound links to a page or site (by count or %).  Low or no mentions or links to a page or site in social media and from other sites.

Translation: what these numbers are attempting to measure is shallow content (not enough content to be useful), poorly written content, inorganic page growth, content copied from other sites (duplicate content), content that’s not useful, content that’s irrelevant for search terms, and low quality content on part of the site can impact the rankings of the entire site.

So, what can you do about this?

Remove low quality pages of the site to increase rankings of the high quality pages.  It’s not enough that content is unique and verbose. Another key is that even high quality pages can lose rankings if poor quality pages tarnish the overall site.  If you are copying other site’s content, replace it with quality original content or test removing some or all of those pages.  If you have a large number of pages with dupe (of your own copy), weak or almost no content, improve them or remove them or block them from Google with robots.txt.  Edit any ‘over-optimized’ pages.  Improve anything that might make the user’s experience better.  Build your brand awareness across the web wherever you can.

Ultimately, Google’s Farmer/Panda update is interested in the user experience.  The algorithm is paying attention to the actual user base they have as an indication of the useful and relevant content on the page.