By JOHN HOLLOWAY at Search Engine Journal
With the launch of Panda, SEOs are more nervous than ever when it comes to their site’s survival in the search results. The mood has become more and more tense with many publishers scrambling to “fix” their pages in hopes of redemption. People are reading horror stories of seemingly innocent websites being affected by Panda. How can you be sure that you won’t find yourself in this same situation?
Whether you are an in-house or freelance SEO, altering your approach to search marketing can help you increase your chances of surviving or recovering from a Panda update. Here are a few things to take into consideration when planning your approach.
Recently it seems Google has been getting better at determining the men from the boys, so to speak. It’s as if they woke up and realized, “Hmm anyone with a couple hundred bucks can make a website on a topic and possibly rank in our search results.” They are using their push for quality as a means to slash and burn any site that they don’t see fit for their organic results. So what types of sites stand the best chance at survival? No, not the ones wrapped in Adsense ads. 😉
Many SEO bloggers are always beating the “quality content” horse. Guess what? It’s not because it’s the cool thing to blog about this year! It’s because Google is transitioning away from ranking sites with run-of-the-mill content. The days of paying a random writer $10 to write on a topic are gone.
Not too long ago people had a process that went something like this:
“I’ll publish an article today on topic X. I’ll talk people into linking to the page. It will rank, hopefully.”
Nowadays it’s more like this:
“I’ll spend weeks creating an awesome piece. Due to its level of awesomeness, people tweet it, like it, etc. Blogs publish it. Authoritative sites link to it. My site’s search rankings increase.”
It’s clear to see which one will withstand the test of time with Google & Panda.
A wise man once said, “I want my competitors to look at my backlinks and give up hope.” Amen. This goes right along with the quality content mantra. Ordinary content gets ordinary links. Creative, quality content gets better links. People who are serious about their business will be serious about spending the time and resources on producing creative, link-worthy content.
I can feel the blackhats rolling their eyes, so I will say this: Ordinary backlinks still have their place in a search campaign, but the real components of a successful campaign are the links that your competition can’t get.
How about an Example?
In January, former TechCrunch employee Sarah Lacy launched PandoDaily. In light of all the drama surrounding this, someone was keen enough to see a golden opportunity for his or her linkbuilding. OnlineBlackjack.com created a cartoon which depicted the whole scenario as a hand of blackjack. PandoDaily not only published it with a link back to the site, but they also changed their Twitter avatars to the cartoon versions of themselves from the graphic and tweeted all about it. While this is only one link, over time a creative strategy like this can return great results.
But Infographics are Played Out, Right?
SEOs love to say that the infographic is dead. If that is the case, then why are so many companies still producing them? Sure most web savvy people are sick of seeing infographic after boring infographic, but the average person loves them. The key is to make sure they don’t overwhelm the reader with data. And please, make it about something interesting. No one wants to see an infographic about life insurance. Find a way to spin it and make it fun.
Try a Different Angle
Instead of packing a page full of colorful charts and statistics, I try a different approach when it comes to infographics. I like to shoot for “evergreen” type content, so I can re-promote it every few months and pick up additional links. This was something I went for with my ecommerce project’s suspension set up guide graphic. In this case I was able to create something that was very evergreen as well as a good resource for my customers.
Another thing to think about is a controversial topic or heated debate that relates to the niche. To try this I went after the topic of two strokes vs. four strokes. In motocross, riders are either one or the other, and they tend to be passionate about their choice. With a topic like this, it’s easy to spark a debate and get people talking about and sharing the content.
Better User Experience
Google is getting better at knowing when sites are faking it. They are figuring out when a site isn’t the real deal like its backlinks suggest. This is really the turning point for SEO. With all the data Google has on users’ browsing behavior, it’s easy to see how they could use it to know when a site should or should not rank for a certain phrase.
For fear of losing rankings, people are now focusing more on user experience. I find this somewhat amusing that it takes a change from Google to get people to improve their sites. For a company that is selling products online, you wouldn’t want users clicking the back button. You don’t want the page too cluttered and hard to navigate. The same principles are true for a site that sells advertising, unless you run Adsense, but that is a whole other can of worms. The key is improving your website without having been told to do so; however, this goes against our natural tendency to be lazy once we reach a certain level of success.
It’s easy to feel hopeless when Google has decided to bury you or your client’s site in the rankings. It’s also easy to sit back and assume you are in the clear because Panda hasn’t affected you yet. While no one knows a sure-fire way to fix a site that has been affected by Panda, the above-mentioned tactics are a step in the right direction. While many other factors might be in play, these are what I feel can have the most impact on a website’s success. Not only will these tactics help your sites in the Google search results, but they also make your site a better source of information overall; therefore, making it stickier to users.