On May 20th, Google introduced another major update to their algorithm –Panda 4.0. Among the family of Google updates, Panda is specifically focused on identifying and promoting high-quality content that is useful for visitors, while pushing down low-quality, spammy, thin, and scraped content. Panda was first introduced to Google in February 2011 in response to the success of “content farms” and named after the Google engineer who created the algorithm update, Navneet Panda.

Who Was Hit and Who Came Out on Top

As the dust settles since the launch, LaneTerralever is happy to note that none of the clients we manage observed a drop in traffic following Panda 4.0. So, you may be wondering, what websites were hit the hardest from the update and what websites saw a lift? Early research by Search Engine Journal showed that these sites saw double-digit decreases in organic visibility: (-50%) (-33%) (-33%) (-20%)

According to the Google Panda algorithm these sites tend not to offer very useful information that thoughtfully answers questions correlated to their subject matter.

On the other hand, websites that do provide purposeful content observed strong gains in organic visibility: (100%) (500%) (500%) (250%)

What to Avoid

There are a several common tripping points that webmasters have run into when facing the Google Panda series of updates: thin content, poor usability, confusing information and deceptive content.

Thin Content: You know thin content when you see it. When you do a search to answer a tough question or seek information on a popular subject, you are sometimes directed to a page that provides very little value. It may briefly mention the query you provided, but it leaves you wanting more. It’s essentially the ‘Costco sample’ of served information.

Scraped Content: The ugly cousin to thin content, scraped content, is also a big target for Google Panda. Websites that simply copy-and-paste content chunks from other original content sources provide little, if any, actual value to visitors. (Note: If you fear your content is being scraped for use on other sites, a tool like Copyscape can easily check if and how much of your content is being used by others.)

Syndicated Content: Syndicated content is a tool that is used to build a collection of useful information for visitors when it is beyond your means to create it, or to share useful information with other websites. Some websites use or share syndicated content without properly “telling” search engines how to handle it. If you are publishing syndicated content, make sure to either instruct search engines not to crawl/index the page with meta robots tag or point authority to the source with a rel=canonical link to the originating website.

User experience now weighs heavily on how well websites will perform in an organic search query. Through Google Panda, engagement factors are considered when curating content. This includes a balance of bounce rate, time on page, and pages/session.

Deceptive Information: Confusing and deceptive information go hand-in-hand as well, and the goal is the same: trick visitors into taking an action. Some less-ethical webmasters get visitors to go to their content by having very thin content about the subject with a required CTA field to get more information to access additional content. Another class of offenders are websites that, when clicked, have a timed redirect or pop-up browser windows, taking visitors to an affiliate site upon entry to the intended website.

The common theme to all of these issues is simply laziness. The website owners didn’t want to take the time or effort to engage with visitors in a meaningful or ethical way.

How to Win with Google Panda 4.0

To win with online with organic search, it takes work. You are much better served, and provide your visitors with a more meaningful experience, if you provide relevant information that will address their needs and questions. The appropriate steps to success in organic search are tied closely to solid content strategy and content marketing.

Identify your brand: Who are you, how do you speak, what makes you different?

Identify your audience: Who are you trying to reach, how do they ingest information, what is the context of the interaction?

Strengthen your website: Are there technical issues that create Panda-unfriendly roadblocks? Does your current content need to be rewritten to be more meaningful and engaging?

Create a plan: Schedule out how and when you will recreate existing content, images, and other assets to be more compelling and plan for new content in the future. Base your content ideas on what your audience wants and what the brand can authoritatively and authentically convey. That is purposeful content and that is what Google wants to serve its users.

Get your team together: As you develop new content or recreate your website, work closely with a qualified UX designer, developer and digital designer to guide visitors to the right information and related material in a delightful way.

If you haven’t been content strategy-focused from the beginning, success can still come, but gradually. It will take time to build your audience, authority and a meaningful experience that Google will reward. But by doing the right thing with the end user in mind, you will see great, building returns on your time and effort investment.

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