The new Panda updates have turned many SEO heads as we try to understand what the implications are for our sites and blogs. Google's purpose is to create a high-quality search experience for all searchers who tap in their search queries looking for the perfect content. Additionally, Google wants to deliver this experience quickly and efficiently and award high-quality sites. To quote Google directly:
"This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites - sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites - sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on."
All indications are that Panda is here to stay since Google is constantly looking to improve its searcher experience. We need to look beyond the quick fix and understand the long-term implications. This new machine learning algorithm represents a fundamental change in how we as SEOs optimize our site. In the past, we did the classic things that good SEOs do: we make our site search engine friendly, we conduct keyword research, and then optimize our site for our targeted keywords. Then we go out and get links for our site.
Panda has raised the bar, so we have to look at the role of SEO in a different light. In a recent video, Rand Fishkin stated that "The job of SEO has been upgraded from SEO to web strategist." This basically means that we no longer should think about SEO as a tactical list of procedures we do to our site, but rather take a step back and develop a well-thought-out strategy that delivers compelling content and a great user experience. By doing so, the search engines will reward us because we are rewarding our audience and providing them with the information and experience they seek.
So let me outline five strategic aspects of SEO that you should be thinking of now that will help you take advantage of the Panda updates, but more importantly help you take your "low quality site" to a "high quality site."
Tip 1: Streamline Your Site and Optimize for Fast and Efficient Load Times
Sites that are hastily thrown together usually pay the price down the road. Put enough time into planning your site structure to insure proper placement of content. Carefully think through and map out your file structure so your site will be clean and efficient. Additionally, optimize images, video, and other media elements so they have an extremely fast load time. Google tends to favor sites that are snappy, quick, and fast. So does your audience.
Tip 2: Employ Behavioral Design to Deliver a Compelling User Experience
Set your sites first on the user experience and not pleasing the search engines. Trying to figure out and anticipate the algorithmic changes is foolhardy and will cause you to lose focus. Employ behavioral design best practices to your site so it has a fluid navigational structure that helps users easily find what they are looking for. To do this you must take the time to learn about your audience, interview them, get inside their head, and anticipate what they need and how they make decisions. Then design your site so that it delivers on what you have learned. Also, identify the kind of content your audience really wants and make plans to provide it. Keyword research can be a great tool to learn more about your audience, their needs, and the kind of content they are looking for.
Tip 3: Good Content Isn't Enough; It Needs to Be Great Content
It isn't good enough to just have good content; it has to be great content. Think about it, what makes you want to come back to a site? If the content is consistently awesome and provides real value, you trust it and will come back again and again. Not to mention you will share it with all of your friends. To develop this kind of content, you need to add some qualitative processes that help pull out the best, innovative ideas from your team or guest writers. Coming up with content that is shallow and thrown together simply won't get it.
Along with developing great content, here are some other guidelines you need to consider:
Basically the content you push up to your site needs to be well-thought-out ahead of time instead of haphazardly thrown together. Develop a content plan and set up a calendar to outline what content needs to be ready by what date. Then add some quality control processes to insure accuracy.
Tip 4: Instill Trust in Your Visitors and Become the Authority on Your Topic
This one is important for sites that are medical, legal, or otherwise consultative in nature, especially if they are e-commerce enabled. Users should see symbols that relay a safe environment for credit card purchases and a sense of confidentiality with sensitive visitor data. Furthermore, your site should represent content and credentials that relay a sense of trust and authority. Visitors need to feel they can trust that you will not lead them astray and take advantage of them.
If your site is cited or called out by others as an authoritative source, then you are headed in the right direction. If your content is good enough and written by experts, people will want to link to it because you have established yourself as the authority. This may take time to establish, but if you work hard at it and consistently provide content that is of a quality nature, you will get there.
Tip 5: Measure, Analyze, and Modify
Take time to study visitor activity on your site. Do your visitors spend a reasonable amount of time on your site or does your site have a high bounce rate? Maybe your site overall has great performance but you have a few pages that have low performance. Consider ditching them or improving them. You want all of your pages to be firing on all cylinders. Are your visitors browsing multiple pages throughout your site or do they tend to just look at one or two?
Study your analytics and study all of these behavioral characteristics and make plans to make any necessary course corrections. You must be consistent at this. The only way to know if your site is performing optimally is to measure and analyze the results. If you are not doing this and making strategic modifications, you will miss out on some tremendous opportunities. I guarantee you that Google is looking at searcher behavior and associated statistics. You should too.
By strategically putting these tips into practice, you will be well on your way to weather current and future Panda updates. More importantly, you will be attracting new and targeted visitors and supplying them with a tremendous quality experience with awesome content, which will lead to more engaged visitors and higher conversions. Isn't that what we really want?
Meet Your Favorite ClickZ Contributors
Many of ClickZ's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Jeremy Hull, Lisa Raehsler, Andrew Goodman, Bryan Eisenberg, Mathew Sweezey, Aaron Kahlow, Stephanie Miller, Simms Jenkins, Jeanne S. Jennings, Dave Hendricks and more!
Ron was president/CEO of Symetri Internet Marketing, which provides strategic SEM consulting and training. Ron was actively involved in the SEM community and spoke and trained at conferences and seminars. Ron also served on the Board of Directors for SEMPO and was one of the authors for the SEMPO Institute Fundamentals and Advanced courses.
Ron also published a book called Keyword Intelligence: Keyword Research for Search Social and Beyond. This book outlines various methods and tips for conducting keyword research but more importantly outlines many ways to use keyword research for social media, site design, content development and marketing, and even traditional marketing and branding.
Ron passed away on June 30, 2012.
March 19, 2014