What better place to start my first blog post with than the latest Google update. Dubbed the Panda or Farmer update, the SEO industry has been up in arms since Matt Cutts and Amit Singhal made the announcement on the Google Blog. What is more shocking however is not that it was rolling out, but the affect it has had on some of the largest sites in the industry, some for good reason and others that have left people questioning why they saw such a drop in search visibility and therefore traffic.

Here’s a list of 300+ sites affected by Panda Update in the US that have seen big losses as a result of the algorithm change, picked up from StayOnSearch. SearchEngineLand also compiled an article on the lessons that were learnt at SMX on tackling the farmer update. Another good article you should also read on the matter is the UK sites and the Panda / Farmer Update by SearchMetrics, demonstrating a loss of up to 99% search visibility by some sites in the United Kingdom.

What does the Panda Update mean for your SEO strategy?

If you had a good SEO strategy in place, it means nothing other than that you will actually see a benefit from this update. If you had a strategy in place that was designed to manipulate your site in order to achieve results without providing a good user experience or quality content, then it means it’s time for a change.

The industry is shaken up by this change because of the impact it has had on some of the largest sites on the web, but the algorithm is only designed to target sites that provide low quality content and a poor experience for users. Isn’t that what search is all about? After managing Search Engine Optimisation campaigns for a number of years and watching the changes that Google continues to make, it’s evident that this was coming. Owners of high quality niche sites that didn’t have large budgets like the big content farms were continually being outranked by poor quality content pages with 50 words on the topic surrounded by 200 words of text ads. This update has given people that provide a great user experience the chance to see the results for their hard work.

What this does mean for website owners that have a shallow content offering is that it’s time to roll up the sleeves and put in the hard work. Your content strategy is just as important as backlink building for your rankings, so you need to revisit your site content and look at how it can be improved. Here’s a few tips for ensuring that your site is optimised best to gain an advantage from this update:

  1. Do the pages on your site have a significant amount of unique, quality copywriting? You should aim to have a minimum of 200-300 words on a topic if you want to offer good quality, useful content. The same still applies as always has in regards to the use of headings, meta data, keyword density, page titles and structure when it comes to SEO, so keep them optimised as you should be doing already.
  2. Are there any images on your pages? One of the things that has been recognised is that sites that accompany quality copy with images are identified as higher quality sites and will thus help to improve rankings with the latest update. Add relevant images to your pages with appropriate Alt Tags and Filenames.
  3. Do you have ads amongst the copy? This has also been recognised as a factor that can reduce rankings in the recent Google update, so it’s time to make them less intrusive and get those ads to your sidebar as opposed to scattered through your content.
  4. Focus on backlink quality – It’s an obvious correlation that is being overlooked by some of the industry. With the reduction in rankings on article submission sites, website directories and low quality content sites, the benefit of those backlinks is also going to decrease. If the backlink building strategy is made up of a lot of low quality link building, these strategies are going to have even less benefit than before, so it’s time to spend more effort acquiring backlinks from targeted sites within quality content. It’s been essential for quite some time, but now it’s even more important than ever.

Thanks for reading my first blog post! I’ve recently left positions managing digital marketing and search engine optimisation for a number of Australia’s leading online brands in order to start Search Factory with the intent to provide businesses with my SEO knowledge and become Australia’s leading search authority. Wish me luck!