After Google rolled out its Panda update, I had to make some significant changes to my websites. Although I had been following best SEO practices for a while, I knew that it was necessary to review my websites to make sure that they fit in with the new algorithms. Despite the cute name, many people have considered Panda a dangerous beast.
This is because Panda significantly impacted the way we all buy backlinks for SEO. The ostensible purpose of the Panda update was to reduce rankings for sites that Google considered low-quality, however there was a huge uproar from many webmasters who considered the changes unfair.
As a website designer, I take pride in creating websites that are high quality. However, I also understand that quality, like beauty, is something that lies in the eye of the beholder. What I may consider beautiful, aesthetic and valuable may not necessarily be what appeals to Google’s search engine crawlers. This suspicion was verified when I heard about some genuine sites, sites that offered much value to human visitors, had been penalized by Google.
After reviewing my websites, comparing them to what Panda considered as websites that offered human visitors high-value, I made five fundamental changes.
How I Updated My SEO Practices
Here are the changes I made to make sure that my websites did not face any penalties:
One, I reviewed the number of ads on my websites. Apparently, having too many ads on a website can hurt ranking. Google considers too many ads as distracting and taking away from the value of the content.
Two, I reviewed the quality of content on my website. I had heard that duplicate content, auto blogging, and other practices were taboo. For this reason, I made sure that I either wrote all the content myself or hired reputable writers to create original content for all my websites. I also wanted to make sure that my content was highly engaging, enticing visitors to stay on the website longer– and this is why I spiced them up with more images and video content.
Furthermore, in those instances where I was using legitimate scrapers, relying on other sources for published information, I made sure that I added value to the information by adding my own views to syndicated content. There are three effective ways, I found to do this: one, add previews; two, add reviews; or three, add relevant commentary like defining something more clearly or expanding on an interesting point.
Three, on those mini-sites where I had less than five pages of content, I added articles that would prove helpful for readers. I did not add these articles all at once, but periodically so that they could be perceived as fresh content. I knew that Panda was targeting websites that had insufficient pages, regardless of how well written those pages might be. In addition, I made sure that this content offered visitors usable information.
The more interesting content is the longer visitors will stay to read the entire piece rather than skimming over it. A website is considered an authority site based on its quantity, much more than how well the information is researched and written. Look at it this way: search engine spiders are not literary critics. They just infer something is valuable indirectly based on page views, quantity, visitor duration, and so on.
Four, I made sure that my web designs offered easy navigation and had all the elements necessary to be considered user-friendly. When users can find what they’re looking for quickly and easily, then they will stay on your website longer. Google can plot how they navigate from one page to another and how long they stay on each page. Reducing your bounce rate will improve your site rankings.
Five, I made sure that my websites were participatory; in other words, I encouraged reader engagement and content sharing. I made sure that it was easy for visitors to share content on a wide variety of social media websites. This was easy to do because of the number of plug-ins available.
Wrapping It Up
Overall, I did what I could to improve brand building. One way to do this is to get mentioned on Facebook and Twitter, as well as other social media platforms. Getting a website mentioned raises social awareness and indirectly builds a brand.
Today, I still continue to study what the recent Panda updates mean for website designers. Although I had done this with previous updates, the Panda update appears to be one of the most dramatic ones that Google has ever rolled out. It has not only precipitated a need for making numerous changes, but it also has had a sweeping effect on how everyone does SEO from now on.