Or Why Panda is the Marsha of the SEO World
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…)
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.
Picture People starts off well, but then they fail, because their very clean, modern-retro slider is all image. Fail.
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.
Are you still struggling to regain your pre-Panda traffic levels? Then following these five steps may be just what you need to get back on track:
Understand That The Panda is a Different Kind of Animal
Many of Google’s big algorithmic changes are related to off-page elements. When a site is impacted by one of these changes, they can commonly fix it by attracting more quality links. From holding a blog contest to putting real effort into guest blogging, there are plenty of ways to tackle this challenge.
But the Panda update does not fit into this mold. This change is about the content and structure of your website. It’s also different because any changes you make may not have an immediate impact on your rankings. Although Google has rolled out at least 5 versions of Panda, it can take some time for any changes you make to be registered.
The good news is while you may have to wait for any changes you implement to sway Google’s opinion of your site, the improvements themselves don’t have to take a long time to make.
Find Where People are Leaving
Although there are shortcomings to using bounce rate as a metric, it can provide valuable insight into areas of your site that are falling short.
You should pull up your analytics data and sort your content by bounce rate. For your pages with the highest bounce rate, you need to ask yourself whether or not people should be leaving that page.
For example, a landing page that sends visitors to a third-party payment processor probably won’t have a low bounce rate. However, if it’s an article or blog post, you want people to engage with it and then continue exploring your site.
Bring in Visitors with the Right Headline
A strong headline is an extremely powerful tool. In addition to including your keyword phrase so Google knows what a page is about, you want to grab searchers’ attention when they see your listing on a SERP.
In addition to not being dull, you also want to ensure your page delivers what the headline promises. If you have a killer headline but lackluster content, people are going to hit the back button, which is not something Google wants to see.
By sharpening the headlines of your worst performers and adding any needed polish to the content of those pages, you can provide users with a top notch experience.
Add Related Links
Have you ever gone to Wikipedia to look up a single fact, only to then glance at your clock and realize you’ve been on the site for over half an hour?
The reason it’s so easy to get sucked into Wikipedia is the site does an excellent job of interlinking. You should do the same with your own content. One reason people may be quickly leaving your blog posts or articles is because you don’t give them anywhere interesting to go.
Look at your pages that are performing the worst and make them more interesting by adding relevant links in their body or at the end. If you’re using WordPress, the Related Posts plugin can help make this change extremely easy to implement.
Add Relevant Videos
There’s no value into pulling a bunch of random videos onto your site. However, a video that relates to the topic of a post or article can make that content much more engaging.
By browsing around YouTube for just a few minutes, you should be able to find at least a couple of videos that will increase visitors’ engagement with your content.
If you or your clients were impacted by Panda but have since recovered, let us know what change(s) were most effective!