Why I Love Google Panda (and you should, too)

“Panda” has become kind of a dirty word among SEOs. Tweet about a trip to the zoo or a cuddly stuffed animal, and you’re bound to get a tweet back saying, “Ugh, don’t say panda, I’m still traumatized.” My response to this reaction is twofold:

Reaction 1: Whatever, you guys. I still love pandas.

I mean, look at this guy:

 

Reaction 2: Whatever, you guys. I love Google Panda.

The hell you say?

Yes, that’s right. I’m kind of a fan of Google Panda. Why? Because in addition to being an SEO, I’m also a Google user. I use Google multiple times every single day; everything from topics I’m researching for work, to the menu of the place I’m going for dinner (WHY PDF WHY?), to a variety of queries that start with “can dogs eat.” And back in 2010, Google started to suck.

An embarrassing anecdote

During the 2010 holiday season, I went out and got myself my very own, non-plastic, real live Christmas tree for the first time. Unbeknownst to me, that tree came with a very special Christmas gift just for me: fleas. My apartment got fleas like your great-aunt’s cat Mr. Mittens. It was bad, people. And it being the holiday season, I was pretty strapped for cash. What I wanted was a way to get rid of the little bastards myself, without calling an exterminator or spraying my apartment with poison. So what did I do? I turned to Google.

Here’s what I found: pages and pages of articles titled “How to Get Rid of Fleas” that were all meaningless, thin-content paragraphs riddled with links to exterminator services. Not just one or two, but multiple searches resulted in a SERP full of this garbage. It was only after a fair amount of digging that I was able to find the solution (vacuum alllllll of the things really thoroughly, seal your clothes/bedding in a plastic bag for a day or two and then wash them in super-hot water) I was looking for.

Lately, I’ve been speaking to some college classes on SEO and when I start to talk about Panda, I ask if they remember a time when it seemed like every search they did turned up shallow, worthless results that seemed to talk about what they wanted, but didn’t actually provide any answers. And you know what? They all remember, and they all agree that SERPs have improved significantly since then.

The Panda update was an upsetting, stressful time for SEOs and business owners alike. It was far from perfect; a lot of perfectly good content got knocked out with the bad, and a lot of innocent (i.e. non-black-hat) websites were affected. But it ultimately did make a lot of SERPs better, returning more trustworthy information that is more relevant to the query.

Take a look at the SERP for “How to Get Rid of Fleas” today. It still has a ton of results from sites like eHow and Instructables, which are sites that we might typically associate with having been hit by Panda. The difference is that now, those pages actually contain information on how to get rid of fleas. Additionally, there are results from highly reputable sources like the ASPCA, adding a measure of trust.

Panda was intended to make sure that when people Google something they can actually find it. On that measure, I’d say it succeeded more than it failed.

Bad panda

“But Ruth,” I hear you say. “You should know as well as anybody that innocent businesses were affected by Panda. People lost a lot of business.”

bad panda

I know, and I kind of blame Google for that. They told us that the best way to rank was to have content on every page. No matter how many times they told us “create content for users, not search engines,” by also telling us to have content on all the pages, they were effectively saying “create content for search engines.” Small businesses often don’t have the resources to create the kind of consistent, deep, relevant content that Google really wants. I can see why creating a bunch of keyword-rich but otherwise meaningless content might have seemed like the next best thing. I can only imagine how frustrating and scary it was for businesses to have their pages wiped from the SERPs in Panda’s wake, and I KNOW how frustrating it was for SEOs to try to help those once-burned, twice-shy businesses get back into Google’s good graces.

How Google makes money

Google makes money because Google has gigantic market share. They can charge advertisers more because they have the biggest pool of potential ad impressions and clicks to sell. This means Google has a complete interest in ensuring that when people search for things, they find exactly what they’re looking for. That’s it. Google does not care whether or not they foster small or local business growth in the U.S. and abroad. They only care about serving up the most relevant results they can to as many people as they can, so everyone keeps using Google.

Like I said, Panda wasn’t perfect, but it did make a big difference in SERP relevance to a lot of queries. The other side of Google’s gigantic market share, however, is that many businesses need some kind of presence on Google to succeed. We owe it to our clients – nay, we owe it to the Internet itself – to help them actually create relevant resources for users who search on their keywords. In addition to pleasing Google, you may convince some of those people to buy something.

It also means that we should make sure our clients invest in diverse sources of traffic. If a site has more than 50% of its traffic coming from Google, that leaves you pretty vulnerable to changes in Google’s algorithm.

Finally, it’s more important than ever to help businesses of all sizes – even those who can’t afford SEO – market themselves online, the right way. I’m so excited that SEOmoz is working with GetListed now. I’m hoping that with increased access to resources to market themselves online, small and local businesses can start knocking content farms out of the SERPs. I’m also hoping that future updates like Panda – designed to keep quality in the SERPs – will be less dangerous to small and local businesses,because they’ll know more about what to do and what not to do.

I’m also hoping we can go back to thinking “D’AWWWWWW” instead of “D’OH!” when we see a cuddly guy like this one:

cute panda
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How We Managed to Benefit from the Panda Updates

As I am into the online marketing field, I read a lot about SEO. This is my first post about SEO, so please don’t be harsh in the comments. The Panda update is what made the SEO community roar about how many websites lost ranking and so on. There is so little information about the ones that benefited of the update and we are one of the winners.

I personally think that the Panda update made the SERPs quality a lot better and to some point buried the medium to low quality websites deep into the results. Even some of the high-authority websites went down.

I will share some insights of an user generated moving reviews website MyMovingReviews.com and how we got positively impacted by the Panda update. The website features many US and Canadian moving companies and provides the opportunity for people to rank them and write moving reviews. Additionally to that, there is a blog/article section with moving tips and info.

Industry specifics that influence the analytics data

Before we begin, you should know that the specifics of the industry add some additional noise to the analytics data. These are the main trends in the moving industry:

  • Weekly trends: People search a lot more about moving services in the beginning of the week in the working days. Mondays are usually the most active days. We assume that people usually search for movers at work during work hours.
  • Monthly trends: People search for movers more by the end of the month and less in the middle of the month and during holidays.
  • Seasonality: People search 30% more for movers in the summer months than during the rest of the year. Nobody wants to move in the winter (especially in the Northern states).

The Fist Panda update

Since the first Panda update in 2011 we started seeing some increase in rankings. Because of the specifics of the users behavior in our industry, the analytics data is looking weird but you can see the pattern.

first panda update mymovingreviews

Further benefits from the Panda update

As we saw a huge opportunity in the Panda update, we tried to adjust the website to better suit the visitors, give them alternatives once they visit the website and make visitors consume more of the moving industry related content. The goals were to increase the time on sitereduce the bounce rate and increase the pages per visit.

What we did to increase rankings/visitors

1. Reducing the bounce rate

We stared by working on the high bounce rate pages. We edited some of the content and deleted some of the pages. One of the very high bounce rate pages were the blog section posts. Since we are always committed to build only high quality content, we knew that the problem with the high bounce rate on the blog was elsewhere. We knew that visitors were able to find the information they were searching for and after that they were leaving the blog. We added a suggestion fly-box. The box appears on the right side on the page once the visitors scrolls by the end of a post and suggests another random post from the blog. This had a huge impact on the blog bounce rate by lowering it with more than 30%. From the highest bounce rate section of the website, the blog become the lowest one overnight.

2. Creating a mobile website

mobile visits my moving reviewsWe have about 11 percent mobile visits (we don’t consider iPads to be mobile traffic). We decided to further lower the bounce rate by creating a full-featured mobile website. This of course brings the benefits of higher conversion rates. We’ve been postponing the mobile website for some time now and we finally decided to finish it and launch it by December. We kept the same URLs as the desktop version and only changed the templates.

3. More content

As part of the Panda update is the amount of content on page. We didn’t want to have many pages with thin content so we increased the minimum text required for a moving review to be posted. After reading about how Zappos corrected the spelling mistakes of all their reviews, we additionally wanted to avoid spelling mistakes as much as possible. We included a spell checker on the moving review form. We are also planning to correct the mistakes on all old reviews in the future.

To recap, here are the changes we did:

  • Editing some of the content with the highest bounce rate.
  • Adding a spell checker on the write a review page and setting a higher minimum amount of text for the reviews.
  • Giving suggestions to users once they finish reading a blog post to reduce the bounce rate.
  • Started a mobile website to reduce the bounce rate and time on site for mobile visitors.

The results

We had almost 50% increase in visits in the next one-two months. Please note that we introduced most of the changes in December, so we can’t really measure how fast did these changes influenced the rankings because of the holidays. Not surprisingly, the largest part of the increase was from the blog as this is where we managed to reduce the bounce rate the most.

MMR traffic increase

Conclusion

I can’t say that all of the gained increase of visitors came because of the above changes, but given the changes and tactics we did at the time, these were the most significant ones. Targeting the visitor and thinking of how to enhance the customer experience results in more visitors. It is as simple as that. Working on the design and thinking of techniques to reduce the bounce rate will result in better rankings, especially if you are a high-traffic website.

Source: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-we-managed-to-benefit-from-the-panda-updates

Google De-indexes and Penalizes Private Blog Networks

Google De-indexes and Penalizes Private Blog Networks

Panda is currently on the leash and heavily penalizing and de-indexing websites filled with thin or low quality contents, which are solely created for the purpose of search engine optimization.

What is Private Blog Networks?: Private Blog Networks is composed of services that offer quick back-link creation through publishing articles on an array of blogs. These blogs serve as repositories of articles (usually spun ones). These spun articles are heavily laden with self-serving keywords and links. Before the release of Panda 3.3, Google’s search engine bots might have overlooked this type of link-building tactic, but, fortunately, they have caught up, and companies who are using this type of link-building services are paying their dues.

Google Doesn’t Like Spun Articles: As Google is always improving its search algorithm to deliver high quality services to its millions of search users, the possibility to game its system becomes more difficult especially for those greedy black hatters who intentionally violate major policies and rules most search engines want their users to adhere.
One of the most commonly abused link creation strategies is the heavy creation of spun articles, which are usually dumped to cheap private blog networks to produce numerous back-links. Google considers these spun articles as thin contents because they don’t offer much value both to readers and search engines.
Originality or uniqueness is one of the main factors used by Google to determine the quality of content. Their latest search algorithm has now the intelligence to detect spun articles from original ones.

New Way to Evaluate Links: Google has announced that their latest algorithm update includes new metrics and calculations on how they evaluate links. The excerpt is part of Google’s official statement: “We often use characteristics of links to help us figure out the topic of a linked page. We have changed the way in which we evaluate links; in particular, we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years. We often re-architect or turn off parts of our scoring in order to keep our system maintainable, clean and understandable.”

With this latest development from Google, search marketers should learn from the mistakes of those websites that are completely eradicated from the SERPs and create SEO strategies that have long lasting effects and are ethical to the eyes of search engines.

Source: http://www.webpronews.com/google-de-indexes-and-penalizes-private-blog-networks-2012-03

Google Panda Update: New Winners and Losers

Source: http://www.webpronews.com/google-panda-update-new-winners-and-losers-2011-10

This past week, Google rolled out its latest iteration of the Panda update, which the company (as usual) downplays as only one of roughly 500 yearly algorithm changes.

It doesn’t sound like such a big deal when they put it that way, but for those who have lost major traffic because of it, it was a bigger deal than most of those other roughly 499 changes. Ask Dani Horowitz from Daniweb, who noticed the big traffic drop and tipped us about it before we confirmed the update with Google.

Daniweb was hit by Panda earlier this year, and was able to get all the way back to a 110% recovery – something few have been able to achieve. Then along came Panda “2.5” (as the industry is calling it) early in the week and took away more than half of Daniweb’s traffic overnight. All of the hard work that Daniweb put into that recovery might as well have been erased.

But Daniweb is far from being the only victim here. SearchMetrics, which has regularly released data about Panda winners and losers throughout the year, has compiled another list of the top winners and losers as a result of 2.5.

Here are the biggest losers:

http://seoph2.cafe24.com/wordpress/

A few things worth noticing:

A. Press release distribution sites were hit again. We talked about PRNewsire getting victimized by Panda in the past. Now it, along with BusinessWire – arguably the two top services in this area on the web, have been hit again.

B. EzineArticles and Demand Media’s eHow – two big past Panda victims are not present on the list.

C. Some pretty high profile sites are on the list. Today.com. TheNextWeb (which if anything has increased in quality if you ask me).

It’s a pretty interesing list, as is the winner list:

http://seoph2.cafe24.com/wordpress/

A few things of note with regards to this list:

1. Google sites won again (YouTube and Android.com). I’m not saying they shouldn’t be on the winners list, but given the regulatory scrutiny Google has found itself in over how it treats its own content in search results, one has to wonder if this will draw the attention of regulators.

2. HubPages is on the winners list. The site, which we have written about several times, used to make the loser list. They must be doing something right. But who knows? They could get hit on the next one. One would have thought at that Daniweb was doing something right too.

3. The list is dominated by pretty big brands.

I’m sure we’ll be digging into all of this more soon, but this is a quick look at what Google’s algorithm is considering to be of quality, for better or worse. It will be interesting to watch how these sites perform moving forward.

I can tell you one thing, Google is all about some identity these days. I’d encourage you to take advantage of the authorship markup Google uses to highlight who is responsible for various content. They’re even starting to include Google+ Circles numbers with it. It’s looking more and more like you ought to be taking full advantage of Google+ if you want to do better in search.

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