If there is one thing each and every site owner knows, it's that keeping up with Google's algorithm changes and updates can be a roller coaster of frustration, anger, relief and joy – all smashed into one month!
And while tweaking and perfecting your on-site SEO can be a yawn-inducing challenge, it is absolutely crucial to your site's overall success.
In fact, if you have had a site for anywhere over 2 years then you know what I mean when I say “in March of 2011, everything changed”.
That month Google rolled out one of their most destructive update, calling it ‘Panda’ to make it sound nice and cuddly. However it was nothing short of vicious.
If you weren’t abiding by the rules of Panda, you were likely to plummet into the vast space of non-visibility (also known as page 3 and beyond)
I vividly remember that month as being one of panic. You see, I had (and still have) sites back then that were making us money. However, the techniques I was using to climb the search ladder went against the new guidelines set out in Panda. As a result I too suffered alongside my fellow SEO’s.
It’s important to note that I wasn’t actually doing anything wrong. I followed the guidelines I knew to be correct at the time and as a result I saw steady improvements.
Here’s a small list of the tasks I was doing to build links pre March 2011:
- Article marketing (submitting 400 word articles to directories that would take them. My link would be included in the author bio)
- Posting to private blog networks (services were setup that allowed you to submit articles to high page rank domains for link building purposes)
- Blog commenting (posting comments on relevant blogs, including my link where I could)
Now just by taking a look at that list, I can see just how useless they are as far as providing value to the web. The focus wasn’t on quality, it was on quantity.
I was rolling out anywhere from 10-20 articles a day! All in the hopes of gaining as many inbound links to my sites as humanly possible.
This was the process I used to develop content:
- Choose a keyword that has high search volume and low competition.
- Hire a writer for less than $3 to produce a 400 word article.
- Grab it and submit it to either: my site, article directories or blog networks.
I even recall how little editing went into these articles, sometimes absolutely none whatsoever. I didn’t care about what was being produced. All that was important was that it continued to be scaled up because there was seemingly an endless supply of links to be had.
But then that cuddly son-of-a-bitch Panda had to come along and spoil things! At least that’s what I thought at the time. The truth is this update could also be seen as an opportunity. I just had to figure out how it worked.
Thankfully it didn’t take me long to make that happen.
The emphasis of the Panda algorithm update is on improving something called quality score. It works by analyzing certain parameters before spitting out its own internal ranking – one that we don’t have access to. So I'm sure you're wondering…
What the Hell is a Quality Score?
From what I have seen and tested, these are the 4 major contributors to a high quality score:
- Low bounce rate (the percentage of people who leave your site without visiting more than one page)
- High average time on site (the average time spent on your site by all visitors)
- High number of page visits (the average number of pages viewed on your site by all visitors)
- Significant number of repeat visits (when someone comes back to your site)
Note: Quality score compares these parameters against your competitors. In other words, you just need to focus on having a better quality score than your competition.
You can see why so many sites were affected by this update. Most (including myself) were at risk of being given a low quality score. As a result there was a major shake up in their search results, with many online marketers all but losing their entire revenue stream overnight.
But it wasn’t all bad news.
There were two benefits to come out of this Panda beatdown:
- Webmasters were forced to focus on quality rather than quantity.
- A new industry was born, which we can refer to as Panda Recovery.
It didn’t take long for SEO’s to figure out tactics to employ that helped to improve quality score. As a result there is now an extensive resource of things you can do to boost the parameters mentioned above.
More on that later…
For now, you need to keep two simple things in mind:
Your Entire Site Is Now Affected
That means if you have one or two pages which are performing badly as far as quality score goes, they could be dragging down your entire site. This was the first time that Google started looking at site wide factors and as a result a lot of domains were affected during its initial launch.
Always keep this in mind when developing new content on your site. If it doesn’t match up to the quality of the rest of your site, it could be dragging you down.
Google Panda Is Here For The Long Term
In case some people thought this update only occurs occasionally, you might want to take a look at this post. Since the first update, there have been a total of 25 recorded changes to the Panda algorithm.
Now Matt Cutt’s has come out and stated there’s a plan to permanently integrate Panda into the main search algorithm.
Although the effects are likely to be less severe, quality score will still have a major impact on your overall search positioning. That’s why if you haven’t already, you need to start actively working on improving the 4 major parameters I mentioned before.
What are some things you can do to improve these four factors? Patience, grasshopper. You'll have to wait until next week where I will give you 5 laser-targeted strategies to boost your quality score and destroy the competition.
Cue the foreboding music!