Search engine optimisation techniques and tips for anyone who is serious about their website. SEO is not for the feint hearted and it requires consistent application of a wide range of techniques and initiatives to be applied on a regular basis. There are a number of things that you can do to improve your website through a better understanding of what SEO is about and what is required. Through a growth in your own understanding you will be able to deliver a better web solution and improve your chances of attracting greater and better qualified leads to your website.

So what is the impact of Google's Panda 4.0 Update

On or about the 21st May 2014, Google released the first major update to its algorithm in the past 12 months and there has been all sorts of reaction and conjecture to what this really meant for web site owners and SEO. Of course the initial screams of horror stories flooded the media within days including how eBay had lost 80% of its page 1 rankings (only to be advised that this was most likely due to manual changes made within eBay). We thought we would give the market hype time to settle and analyse the real story with some sense of rationale.

So what did Panda 4.0 really do

We should also point out that much of the discussions around Panda 4.0 also make reference to a related update "PayDay Loans 2.0" so before we proceed any further it is probably worth while explaining what each of these updates really are.

Panda 4.0

This most recent Panda update and refresh, which took place on May 19th or 20th and reportedly impacted around 7.5% of all search queries (the largest update since Panda was first launched), is Google’s latest attempt to keep low-quality sites from ranking highly in the search results. It’s still early in terms of fully evaluating exactly how sites have been impacted, but early results seem to indicate some pretty significant disruptions in certain industries. 

Payday Loans 2.0

The original Payday Loans algorithm, which was launched last summer, received an update on or around May 16. The original algorithm was intended to improve results for search queries that typically resulted in spammy search results (‘payday loans’ being one of these queries). The original update, while targeting sites globally, impacted international search results more heavily, particularly in countries where spam is more likely to originate. While only around 0.3% of US queries were affected, it’s estimated these numbers could have been as high as 4% in certain countries.

What has become abundantly clear is that authoritative original content is  paramount to your success in gaining a good ranking in Google. This latest update not only includes a change to the algorithm but also definition of the index and combined with the Payday Loans 2.0 update, Google is making a committed effort to removing spammy content, irrelevant material or any content that is aimed at gaining quick authority. As Max Cutts of Google has said, what they are looking for is  "high-quality content, the sort of content that people really enjoy, that’s compelling, the sort of thing that they’ll love to read that you might see in a magazine or in a book, and that people would refer back to, or send friends to, those sorts of things".

For genuine business sites, the news is not new, after all, we have been advising clients for some considerable time abut focussing on just this type of content all along. The Payday Loans update is aimed at those sorts of sites such as Payday loans and pornography - sites which attract lots of fluffy comments, badly written content with spelling mistakes and coming from untrusted sources. There are a wide range of websites that yu can probably think of that are full of this sort of rubbish and that used to fill up yur search results.

So what steps should you take?

We will re-iterate our previous comments.Google advises you ask yourself these following questions with regards to the content in your site:

  • Is the information trustworthy?
  • Is the content written by an expert or is it shallow in nature?
  • Is the content duplicated, overlapping or redundant on the site (is it the same thing over and over again with just some words changed around)?
  • Are there spelling and grammar mistakes?
  • Is the content short, unsubstantial or otherwise lacking in specifics?

Don't set out to manipulate your Google ranking by over optimising your pages. Google specifically states that if you're optimising your site in ways that benefit the user, you won't suffer any penalties. Google gives examples that include:

  • Making the site more crawlable
  • Making the site easier to navigate
  • Speeding up page load times
  • Making content easier to read 

The Panda has done something that is unique; unlike the past where only the offending pages would be affected, Panda penalises the entire site if low quality content was found even on some parts of it.

Some further tips for blog articles and page content

By way of some general tips to improve your rankings and overcome being penalised by Panda 4.0 updates we recommend the following:

  • Make use of microtags to establish your authorship
  • Use canonical references, particularly if you use the same content in other places within your site or if you share articles in other sites
  • Make sure you have unique titles and meta descriptions set on all content
  • Check as best you can who you have backlinks from and how they are set up
  • Avoid "stuffing" your pages with keywords to optimise i

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