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


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


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 – having 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.

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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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  • Brian Hawkins

    Hi Amanda, personally I welcome Panda if it puts an end to the content thieves and scraper sites. I have several that repost every single article I publish on my blog. I get more than a little frustrated when I see page-rank on an automated site that’s 100% stolen content.

    Help me Panda, help me Panda… Hey, that sounds like a great song! 😉

    • Amanda King

      Hi Brian!

      Oh, yes, thank goodness. If there are fewer (I’m realistic, I don’t think they’ll ever truly go away). I’ve never had that happen to me…perhaps because I’m not cool enough to be stolen from! 🙂 (Maybe that’ll change after I win this competition)

      And if you record that song, dibs on a finders/inspiration fee. I don’t know why I didn’t include it here, but check out the video I included in this blog post, sometime when Panda was first rolling out…check it out!

      • Amanda King

        Brian – I just realized I never finished my sentence. Oops…I meant to say “If there are fewer, I’ll be a happy camper.” It’s been a long day. (First day back to work after a long weekend is always tough).

    • Satrap

      Unfortunately I started seeing this with my posts as well. And to be honest, I never thought these sites would rank. But to my surprise and ANGER, a few of them are ranking rather well.

      One of them actually sent me a link exchange request (I think using an automated software- not knowing I am the one how he stills content from).

      So I went to check out his site and I was shocked to see every single one of my posts were posted there with no credit links what so ever.

      So, I contacted his host and just waiting for it to come down.

    • James Catter says:

      Hey Brian, i am a little SEO expert, but its misconception that after panada update google will rank the pages from their content, no its not like that, panada update was focus to rank sites as per the user experience, site structure. I think they have just changed 1 element of whole seo, every thing els is same, links to site, keyword relevancy etc.

  • Sandra says:

    I toddely agree. Technologies, information, the internet are evolving every day. Google is not going to keep the same algorithms forever. One thing will always be constant though… the importance of unique content.

  • emory

    Would that it were so simple as adding descriptions, optimizing media or becoming a resource. Panda is different than all the other updates. There’s no simple formula and Google isn’t saying much. Confronting the panda is going to take some creativity and different thinking IMHO.

    • Amanda King

      I would definitely agree with you, but for me…I don’t know. I think I approach it differently because my background is a weird mixture of English and business, and I’m younger, so a lot of the digital weirdness just makes sense to me. But yes, creativity is definitely going to be needed.

    • I agree here.

      How do you reconcile the PR of Panda with some of the sites that have been hit? It’s supposed to be good for “real” producers of content, a quality scale to promote in-depth content, and to clear some of the clutter in the SERPs by using some social information. Does it follow through?

      My favorite from Panda 1 was fonerbooks. I talked a bit about them in our Roundup here: . In essence, they had the content; they even had a relatively active blog! But it was something else that tripped the Pandalization. It seemed that style was what was lacking – basic tables and black-on-white text is hardly attractive UI.

      But it’s not just style. Cult of Mac had style (and, yes, they were brought back quickly and probably penalized for shallow content, but let’s ignore that for now) — what was it that ignored social signals AND on-page signals?

      BTW, nice Deerhoof reference.

      • Amanda King

        Doug – can I call you Doug? 😛

        Re the outliers: I would say that while Foner Books was definitely the UI and user experience – if you take a look at the webmaster advice for building high quality sites this past May, there are quite a few open ended questions that leave Google wiggle room to penalize sites like Foner.
        “Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?” – with Foner Books, my answer would be a short, “No way in hell.”
        “Would users complain when they see pages from this site?” – Yes.
        As for the Cult of Mac – when did they get penalized? I’m not sure. By shallow content, you mean thin content? I’m not familiar with the site..not geeky enough, perhaps, but I took a look through the first two or three archived pages of the blog, and it’s quite image heavy – a lot of galleries and how-to article that focus on screenshots rather than text.
        Depending on when Cult of Mac was penalized (as you said that it has since recovered in rankings, I wouldn’t be surprised if through these various iterations of Panda Google has been tweaking the weighting of different factors, and that specific one that downgraded CoM focused more on thin, shallow, content (and perhaps Google got too enthusiastic in attempting to bring down the scraper sites and over-calibrated), and since has taken a more balanced approach to the social signals and “following.”
        Panda is a series of actions determined by a machine, in the end. It isn’t perfect.

        What do you think happened to Cult Of Mac?

        PS – If the formatting doesn’t work in the comment, I apologize in advance. Cross your fingers that it does!

  • Marbella says:

    Hi Amanda,
    Great with Panda, away with any duplicated pages, clean out all the fake blogs that some bad SEO company has created the 100’s. This results in a better and more interesting Internet.

  • Rosalia says:

    Content is very useful in bringing up a website and driving traffic. Content stealers are on the hunt. I feel that Google Panda is greatly helpful in maintaining quality and fresh content. I think it can raise the standard of websites having great content and clean out those who put copied stuff.

    • Amanda King

      Rosalia – Glad to hear I’m not the only one who thinks that quality sites are better! Do you have a website of your own that you’ve been maintaining through Google Panda and all the changes it has brought?

  • Male boobs says:

    I totally agree with search engine marketing …..

  • Chris

    Agreed. Always try to persuade people against large graphics dominating their homepage. Bad for business I.e conversions

  • Nick Harris says:

    Panda isn’t as indiscriminate as people think, there really is a science behind it, but paying attention to your site and its content is indeed vital, original is key, I agree.

  • Carl says:

    I wonder about this article… a lot of things here don’t seem to make any sense to me…

    Is writer “Amanda King” is an SEO expert? She advises you should have at least 150 words on your homepage.. yet her own homepage has less than 100 words on it..

    A lot of the advice she gives seems to be “jump on the bandwagon” kind of stuff… same advice everyone gives when they are trying to add enough words to make an article a few hundred words longer …. make your site sticky, add a blog, etc…. which is all unnecessary if you are running an ecommerce site anyway. Go to google and type in ANY buyer/shopper keyword or brand name search and 99.999 times out of 100 you will get eCommerce sites, price comparison sites or affiliate scraper sites, ALL with no “sticky” attributes to speak of, just products, pictures, prices and a shopping cart… and if you are lucky, there might even be some product descriptions..

    Furthermore, some, actually almost all, sites have ONLY the large images on the homepage that Amanda recommends against… The website has a pr7 with a homepage that has a javascript image an 17 words on it…,, etc…. I can go on forever.. all the same story. Other than collecting an email address to try and get more money from you later, why would they want a sticky, wordy site? Customers/visitors are there to browse and buy… anything else is a distraction in the buying process.

    Amanda goes on to mention the Foner books site… I just don’t see how Foner books site is any different than Wikipedia.. aesthetically speaking. Wikipedia is ugly and boring,,, there is no blog, nothing sticky there.. nothing to email your friends about.

    Anyway… I think freelance writing is Amanda’s best talent… giving SEO advice is a stretch…

  • Sheila

    Panda was definitely one of the waves of the “future”. Quality is being raised across the net, which I guess is a good thing in the long run. Great tips in this article!