Google Releases Panda 4.2 - What It Means For Your Business

Netmatters Ltd
Posted by Netmatters Ltd
24th July 2015

Over the past few weeks, the world of digital marketing has been nervously anticipating the release of Google Panda 4.2 - and it was reported to have been set live this past weekend. This is the latest evolution of Google’s algorithm which was originally released in February 2011.

Typically, Panda updates have been released over a relatively short space of time and sites quickly get a sense of whether they have been impacted or not. This update, however, is reportedly being rolled out over a period of several months, so any impact may not be immediately evident, but may become gradually moreso over time.

What Is Google Panda 4.2 Update?

Google wants to make sure that it delivers the results which are most relevant to a particular search term, since most people want to find what they are looking for first time. Imagine the frustration if you were to type “car rental” into Google and you are shown search engine results pages (SERPs) that relate to motorbike rental. It’s pretty irrelevant to what you are looking for and means that you have to search harder for the information you require.

It has been known for unscrupulous webmasters to simply create a huge number of pages (known as gateway or doorway pages) or even complete websites (content farms) that target very specific keywords and search terms, which optimised to rank reasonably well in the SERPs and drive traffic to a website. These pages typically offer little in the way of useful or valuable content to the visitor and primarily exist to channel that visitor into other pages of the site or to present advertising opportunities to them.

Google Panda largely focuses on the quality and volume of content contained on the pages of a website and aims to weed out the sites with “thin” or poor quality content which do little to aid the visitor. In the past, content farm website or pages with large numbers of these “gateway pages” were “hit” by these updates and saw significant drop in rankings and subsequently, traffic.

This is exactly what Google intended as it, by default, meant that the quality of the results Google delivered increased from the visitor’s point of view as they were able to find what they were looking for much quicker and did not have to wade through poor quality websites.

What Does Google Panda Mean For My Website

Google is looking for websites that offer good quality information that is valuable or useful to a visitor. If your website has a number of pages with “thin” or poor quality content, then you may find that your rankings for keyword search terms may start to fall, which will eventually mean that traffic to your site will start to fall. In short, less traffic leads to less potential for business.  

What is “Thin” or Poor Quality Content?

This is a difficult question to answer with any degree of accuracy since Google doesn’t, unsurprisingly, provide this information. However, the general industry consensus seems to be that pages that contain less than 300 words is venturing into the region of thin content. Poorly written content, with spelling and/or grammar mistakes will likely count black marks against a web page.

The actual content itself should be engaging, offer value to a customer and answer pertinent questions they may have at each stage of the buying cycle such as:

  • What options are there to heat my house?
  • What types of central heating are available?
  • What types of underfloor heating are available?
  • I want a quote for underfloor heating.

I could go on, but hopefully you get the idea!

How Can I Overcome A Panda Penalty?

It’s all about the content. Your website should be written with the user in mind - not search engines. Undertake an audit of your website using the information in your Google Analytics account (and if you don’t use it, why not?). Some top level factors which may indicate pages with thin or less engaging content include:

  • Landing pages with higher than sitewide bounce rate
  • Landing pages with low time spent on page (use your overall sitewide time on site as a benchmark).

Once you have identified pages that may contain thin content, you should consider what is contained on the page and how you can offer increased value to your visitor. This will vary based on your business but some suggestions include:

Supplementary information such as:

  • Related products or services
  • Buying Guides
  • How To Guides
  • Downloadable brochures or factsheets
  • Videos about your product or service
  • Geographically similar branches or service

If your content contains a few lines of copy, consider how you can expand on the text contained on the page which will offer greater value to the visitor. Write for your audience, not for what you think Google wants to see. Stuffing keywords into your copy in an unnatural way is one of the clearest indicators to Google that you are trying to “play them” and you could run the risk of being penalised for it.

Write about your product or service with the passion it deserves and in a natural way – read the words back to yourself once you’ve written them and ask yourself whether it would make sense if you were to say that line out loud to someone in a conversation? If the answer is no, then go back to the drawing board.

Summary

If you would like a more indepth website audit, help with remedial action or for a longer term digital marketing or optimisation strategy, contact our team of Digital Marketing Specialists today on 01603 70 40 20

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