How to Respond to Google’s Panda 4.0 Update
Posted by drew on May 21, 2014, 6 p.m.
Last week, Google released an update to their search algorithm: Panda 4.0. While they have been continually updating the Panda aspect of their algorithm each month, this is a big enough change to warrant a name all its own and a special announcement. Let’s begin this article by remembering what all the animals in Google’s algorithm actually do:
Penguin - Penguin updates to the algorithm concern links. When Google refreshes Penguin, they are cracking down on black hat link building techniques that unnaturally farm links through comment spam, spam blogging, link directories, etc.
Hummingbird - The Hummingbird update made its debut in late 2013. It raises the importance of mobile friendliness for your site, and it emphasizes contextual search. Hummingbird truly understands how real users are searching, and it rewards sites that respond accordingly.
Panda - Panda changes target the actual content of your web pages, rewarding sites with strong, quality content.
While this current Panda update is being touted as “softer and gentler,” than previous updates, it also lays the groundwork for future updates that could dramatically change the environment on search engine results pages. So what is acceptable under the new Panda update? What sorts of behaviors will get you penalized or rewarded? Let’s do a quick refresh of the Dos and Don'ts of Panda-related SEO.
Keyword stuffing - Filling your pages with keywords you want to rank for used to be a foolproof SEO technique, but it simply doesn’t work anymore. You may see short-term gains in ranking, but they will not last.
Natural inclusion of keywords (and LSI keywords) - Some SEOs aim for a keyword density of 2-5%, but the most important thing to remember is to write your content for real people to read. Make it understandable and meaningful. Also, remember to think about Latent Semantic Index (LSI) keywords, which are groups of related keywords. You don’t have to use your exact keyword phrase every time.
Thin content - It’s a good idea to start a blog to help with your company’s SEO, but writing posts that are no more than a couple sentences does nothing to impress Google. On your site’s main pages as well, having a single sentence of content on the whole page will make it much more difficult to rank.
Robust content - SEOs used to proclaim that Google wouldn’t pay attention to pages with less than 300 words on the page. While this isn’t exactly true, it is still a good best practice to include a fair amount of content on your page, though what counts as “fair” will depend on the web page, your competition, etc. When designing pages, take into consideration how much content you have and where that can be incorporated.
Hiding content - Google wants you to build your website for users, not for search engines. Hiding content from users and only showing it to Google is called cloaking. Some sites try to get away with telling google they have a few paragraphs of quality content on the page, but then actually just displaying a large image to the user.
Focus on your user - This is always a good method, and one that I focus on in my ethical SEO practices. Always ask yourself, “What would be best for the end-user?” when writing content, designing conversion funnels, etc.