Latest Panda News
Speculation about a potential new Panda update has been growing recently, with some sites reporting ranking fluctuations. There’s no official word from Google at the time of writing this, but we’re interested in what another Panda update could mean and, more specifically, what it means for businesses like yours.
What is the Panda update?
The original Panda update happened in February 2011, it affected around 12% of searches. It was updated on a monthly basis until March 2013 when Panda’s core functionality was added to the main Google search algorithm.
Panda was designed to:
- Determine what this looked like and decide which sites were ‘good’ and which were ‘bad’
- Prevent the sites with poor quality content ranking high in the search results
The new Panda is intended as a data refresh, not necessarily an algorithm alteration. It is expected to:
- Attribute more ranking power to detailed content
- Attribute more ranking power to universally relevant content
It appears that Google is fine tweaking the Panda update algorithm to make some ranking factors more or less important and it is not yet clear if sites previously penalised will see any changes in rankings.
So what does this tell us? In essence, the update is more of a quality assessment than a quality penalisation, where Google is encouraging sites to up the quality of their content. Low quality ‘how-to’ sites and directories such as Yellow.com are seeing ranking losses, with the update apparently set to target sites that cover a broad range of topics but that aren’t greatly detailed – i.e. thin content. Some ‘how-to’ type sites which have very specific topics that go into deeper levels of detail are actually seeing increases in rankings.
Google employees Navneet Panda and Vladimir Ofitserov filed for a patent in September 2012 which we believe is the original Panda update algorithms and ranking processes. The patent details methods, systems and apparatus, including the computer programs encoded on storage media that are used for ranking search results. The patent shows algorithms, flow charts and computer models, giving us insights into how Google ranks sites, by scoring them using queries and the computing processes used for generating these queries. There is room in the patent for Panda to be further refined.
The finer ins and outs of recent updates will be detailed by Google within the next few weeks when they officially announce the Panda update.
What does this mean for business marketing?
The Panda update is set to really hone in on content quality, refining the way Google understands what’s good and what’s not.
So what does this mean for marketing managers and directors? What do businesses need to be aware of in order to avoid any ranking impact and actually improve search visibility in light of the speculated update?
The truth of the matter is that any savvy marketer will already be invested in good quality content. The original Panda update focused on prioritising high quality content in search results and as such any business that wants to succeed online will have a content marketing strategy in place.
That said, the new update (and speculation of) once again highlight the need for truly valuable content, which is useful, relevant and engaging for the target audience. Now’s the time to really focus on and invest in creating content on the next level.
There are two top level actions you can be making as a marketing manager in your business:
- Create fantastic new content that is relevant, valuable and engaging
- Revisit old content to improve its value to the target audience too
Creating new content
Your focus when creating any new content should be on making that content highly detailed around the topic in question, whilst keeping in mind how relevant the content is in terms of brand values and the overall messages of your website.
Here’s a process we use for coming up with great content ideas:
- Firstly, identify your target audience. Once you know who you are talking to, you will be able to create content that is useful, interesting and even helpful to them. We create an audience persona, where we gather information about the target audience and make personas for the type of people to whom we want our content to appeal
- Identify what brand stories you want to share with your audience, which may include your unique selling points, why your company came to be (what problem you are solving), how you are different from your competitors (not only product/service but branding and core values) and why your customers choose you
- Look for other topics that are related to your brand which interest your target audience. For example, when we created this piece for Harvey Water Softeners, we knew many of the people already investing in their product were also interested in the wider design of their home and as such the History of Interior Design gained a lot of interest and helped boost sales
Laura wrote a blog post on Smart Insights back in May on this topic, for more in depth information on how to create killer content, check out her post.
Once you have your content ideas, it’s important to set in place a strategy for creation of that content and for its promotion thereafter. We like to use tools like Buzzstream, Followerwonk, Topsy and more to identify influencers who would be interested in the content and have a plan in place to seed it with them.
Revisiting existing content
Revisit existing content on your site and make it more detailed and in depth whilst making sure that it is relevant to your site’s ‘voice’. Even older content can still be relevant to your audience – if the topic is still relevant now, work on improving it further. If the topic is no longer relevant, don’t remove it but do consider adding a link to the page which points people to a more up to date or relevant version.
Some common areas you might look to revise include:
- Content length – remember Google prefers a minimum of 200 words if possible
- Use of rich media – are you using and optimising your images, videos, audio and so on?
- Detail of information – whilst you don’t want to give everything away, is your page genuinely useful or did you, hand on heart, post it just to have it there?
By reviewing existing content as well as creating new, you can not only avoid any ranking detriment but you can benefit from higher quality content which itself leads to improved rankings.
Remember that we shouldn’t be creating content for Google’s benefit; it should all be created with the target audience in mind. By investing time in creating higher quality content, you’ll improve your user’s experience too, and this in turn improves brand reputation and conversion rates.
Aaron shared a really useful slide presentation on how to tune up your content marketing recently, which is well worth a look if you’re looking for content marketing advice.
Speaking to our contact at Google, they have recognised that in general, digital marketers don’t have long term content plans, only flash in the pan ideas that are one hit wonders that don’t build on a strategy. They want digital marketers and SEO’s to make long term online marketing strategies, with content that is relevant, detailed and in line with a site’s ‘voice’.
The Panda update is applicable to a wide range of business types too. It’s not just content aggregators that will be impacted; consider how the update applies to your business and industry. Selling a service? Ensure your service offering is well represented through your service descriptions and the supporting content you create. Selling a product? Consider your product pages and how well written they are. If product descriptions are not unique to your site or lack sufficient information, then your site will likely see some drops in rankings.
We believe that Google’s interest in content is going to stick around well into the future. The search giant is tasked with providing the highest quality search results if it is to retain its huge market share and as such, we strongly recommend any business invest in high quality content, irrespective of whether any algorithm update happens.
For example, Google now has the ability to understand images. Whilst previously Google would have seen a picture of a dog in a hat and wouldn’t have recognised what it was, it can now see that there is a dog + a hat in the image. Google is investing heavily in how well it can understand all types of content and Google is making big strides into understanding audio, the next step for the search engine is to be able to decipher video content. This illustrates the importance of having a coordinated content plan, with content of all types that is universally relevant, no matter what type of site you are running.
Examples of great content
“Great content” is easy to talk about and far more challenging to actually execute. What does great content actually mean?
We’ve been providing content marketing services to our clients since our company’s inception, because we believe online success is underpinned by great quality content. Whether you’re looking to improve rankings, gain links, build brand awareness… all of these things and more can be achieved with a strong content strategy. Here are some examples of content, some created by us and others we love from around the web, which exemplify what ‘great content’ looks like.
Vanish Tip Exchange
A great example of content creation is the Vanish Tip Exchange. This is an area within the Vanish website where users can submit tips and ask queries on how to remove stains using Vanish.
The content is user generated and contains both images and text both of which are highly relevant to the content already on the Vanish website. The content is relevant to the target audience and as such receives good user engagement with comments and ‘Tip likes’.
The greatest thing about the Tip Exchange is that it is effectively a glorified testimonial platform. Reviews and testimonials are a very important content area, as they increase users trust in the site and product. This will likely be something that the Panda update will attribute more ranking power towards.
There are new tips and queries being posted on a daily basis, meaning that the platform will continuously provide strong content. I mentioned earlier that Google has recognised that in general, digital marketers and SEO’s don’t have long term marketing strategies and plans, making this precisely the type of content that Google is wanting people to move towards.
This piece of content is exactly what Google are wanting people to make as a result of the latest Panda updates. There is lots of relevant content which includes both images and text, the content is generated by users and is on the Vanish website. As a result of the Panda update, Vanish should have an increase in ranking power.
We have recently launched a content piece for one of our clients, Akita, an IT support company based in Kent, England. The Akita Cloud Business Guide is a hub that is an extension to the Akita website. It contains guides for various cloud solutions for businesses such as email, accounting, project management storage and security.
So what makes the Akita Cloud Business Guide good content?
We offered the opportunity for businesses such as Big Red Cloud to contribute to the information on the site. As such, the content has been endorsed by professionals in each of the cloud solution fields as relevant, accurate and detailed.
We wanted to have interaction from the user’s reading the cloud guides, so we set up a comments area at the bottom of each guide, to encourage comments which would help engage the target audience.
The main content area is cloud solutions, which is a growing topic at the moment in the world of IT, the images are all related in some way to the topic of cloud computing and the text is detailed information on topics such as the costs, speed, technologies, support and convenience of cloud solutions, making the content very relevant to the rest of the content on the Akita website.
In theory, this is the type of content that the Panda update is encouraging, so we should see more ranking power attributed to the Akita website by Google as a result of this content piece.
There are lots of other examples of great content all around the web and lots that we’ve created for our clients. Feel free to get in touch for more, and also to share your examples in the comments below.