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Panda, Panda, Panda

Oct 11, 2011   //   by Amanda King   //   Contests, SEO Blog  //  23 Comments

Or Why Panda is the Marsha of the SEO World

google panda logo mashup

from seo-hacker.com

Everyone talks about it. Constantly. “Oh, my rankings dropped because of Google Panda,” or like just recently, the SEO world is all a-twitter over the new algorithm roll-out of Panda. It’s perpetually on people’s minds and has their tongues wagging. And I want to shut them all up.

Honestly, I don’t see why everyone is so surprised. Technology is constantly evolving – just turn out your pockets and see what gadgets fall out – so why shouldn’t search engines and the internet evolve with them? Even the internet is evolving – and social media – the red-headed stepchild of SEM is going through pubescence at an alarming rate. Everything is growing up around (and because of) search engines – so growth in the capabilities of search engines is inevitable.

If it wasn’t already obvious, I’m a writer. So the main thrust of Google Panda – to weed out s$^* content in whatever form – doesn’t phase me. I’ve always been an advocate of having unique, informative and relevant content on your website. Sitting down for a few hours a day for a few weeks to write unique descriptions (even just one or two lines per product) makes a huge difference. And I’m not the only one saying so, so don’t take it from me.

But it seems like what is straightforward to me is not so straightforward to everyone else. Let me vent my frustrations about customers who don’t understand the value of content and educate you at the same time! Two (angry) birds, one stone. (Gee, look. I made a funny…)

Angry birds

from rovio.com

Your Homepage is Not an Infographic

Yes, you heard me right. Your homepage is not the place to use just images. An image may be worth 1,000 words, but only if you can see it. While it may be pretty to have big, high quality images that dominate the above-the-fold of your website, frankly, it’s stupid. Especially if your developer doesn’t know CSS3 and the @font-face rule – any non-web-ready font that you use (unless you buy the license, and who does that…) will be cut and pasted into your site as images.

Thus, your website would look like basically a blank slate to search engines. Plus, the higher the quality, the bigger the file, the longer the load time. Not good.

And for customers, let alone search engines Рhaving a massive block of images does not immediately inform them what your site is all about. You want to make sure you do that, too, or your bounce rate will go sky-high.

My rule of thumb is to have at least 150 words of text on your homepage – basically, a short paragraph. And to make sure any text is actually TEXT and not image blocks.

Screenshot of Picture People's homepage

Picture People starts off well, but then they fail, because their very clean, modern-retro slider is all image. Fail.

Loosecubes homepage screenshot

And I would like to kiss the feet of whomever dev’d Loosecubes. Basically all of the textual elements that I ran across on the homepage were actually translated into text, and those that weren’t probably couldn’t be anyway. Follow their example (though unfortunately they don’t have my rule of thumb one paragraph of text – but rules are meant to be broken, right?).

Become A Resource

Have an e-commerce site selling yoga mats? Don’t just have unique product descriptions – but become a yoga resource for your clients. Have a page talking about different yoga styles. Have a page talking about the health benefits of yoga. Keep a blog and update it frequently with new and cutting-edge information on the industry (whether or not yoga can be “cutting edge” is another question…bad example choice?). And if you don’t want to write it – head over to MyBlogGuest and browse the topics there.

This should intrinsically make your website sticky – though keep your content length reasonable and break it up, of course. People are going to stay and read if you put the information out there, and engage with the community.

And a by-product of that stickiness is that you will be kept top-of-mind for clients – more and more research is showing now that not only is it long-tail keywords that make your conversion, but return visitors rather than initial visits. People shop around these days – a byproduct of the economy tanking.

Seriously, how do people not understand this?

Optimize Your Media…

Or goodness, have media! Make sure that your images aren’t too big and properly alt-tagged, offer product reviews, connect all your social profiles – badges and the whole shebang – for chrissakes, have a YouTube channel and make a few videos (and embed them on your site)…a big part of the content revolution in search engines is the push to really include not only social media metrics but also social media involvement. Just do it.

And Now I’m Running on Steam…

So that is the end of my rant. Do you see now why this all seems so straightforward to me? You want visitors to convert into customers, and the most obvious way – to me – to do that is to have the most interesting stuff to say.

Amanda King

Amanda King is a writer and search engine marketing specialist at Mountain Media in Saratoga Springs, NY. She has wanderlust like whoa - she wants to go to Romania next. You can find her and more of her writing on Google+.

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