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The Panda Algorithm Update 4.1 List of Protocols
Much useful information has been written about the new Google Panda 4.1 algorithm update. Today I’m going to outline a Panda 4.1 prescription for success.
Webmasters, SEOs, and business owners should understand that the Panda algorithm, unlike the Penguin algorithm, is always doing its thing with your website’s search engine rankings.
Think of Panda as a beast of a search algorithm, always lurking in the background waiting for your SEO consultant to go against SEO best practices and Google’s guidelines. Or even worse, Panda could hit your site with a penalty even if you stick to protocol.
If this has happened to you, I’m sure you’re asking yourself, what can I do to deal with fixing website issues caused by Panda 4.1? If you’ve Google’d what to do when hit by Panda (is that irony?), you’ve likely come across more questions than answers.
Why You Need a List of Protocols for Panda
Since Google basically designed Panda 4.1, and every previous search algorithm, with their own subjective rules and standards, a list of Panda 4.1 guidelines, protocols, and best practices seems to be in order.
Thanks to Josh Bachynski from TheMoralConcept.net, a complete list of Google’s Do’s and Don’ts for Panda 4.1 is only a click away. It’s a LONG list and if you have the time and gumption, you can check the entire list here. If you just want some of the highlights, please continue reading.
Josh was fortunate enough to have the chance to speak with Matt Cutts this past March and discuss what he calls the “ethics of Panda.” His argument was that “it was immoral for Google to obfuscate the details of a quality algorithm that:
1. so clearly disenfranchises thousands of sites without warning according to nothing other than Google’s subjective opinion as to what they find “spammy” (a thinly veiled euphemism devised to punish sites that, we have to consider, must include, sites that simply do not fit into Google’s revenue model). But also:
2. there should be no danger (or so I thought, see below) in simply telling us what exactly is low quality or high quality in their eyes. The irony is that most webmasters do want to have a high quality site. And we have no choice but to rank highly in Google.”
Josh makes complete sense. SEOs would eagerly cooperate with Google’s SEO rules for Panda, if only Google, Matt, and his team actually published a resource containing these SEO rules for Panda.
An Incomplete List of Panda 4.1 Guidelines
As promised, here are my highlights from Josh’s complete list of Panda 4.1 Do’s and Don’ts. I’ll outline some high quality guidelines that every website should ensure sure they have in place today.
I’ll also fill you in on some of the low quality factors you want to make sure your website is completely missing. If not you’ll want to fix any opt those issues asap or risk being hit with a Panda 4.1 penalty.
Factors That Show High Quality
1. Social Engagement: Shares, Mentions, ReTweets, Likes, Clicks
Remember all the talk about “social signals” back in 2012? It turns out social signals are for real. If you’re producing quality content hosted on your website (blog/internal pages), and that content is being shared and amplified on social media platforms, that provides a very positive signal to Google. It shows search engines that your content is relevant and has the quality worth sharing on social media.
2. Positive Reviews on Independent Sites Verifiable by Google
This is the main reason why we push our clients with programs to stimulate user generated reviews of their businesses on Google verifiable sources like Trip Advisor, Yelp, and Foursquare. Talk about social proof and user generated content!
Encouraging customer reviews is essential for any restaurant, hotel, or attraction’s social media and content marketing strategy today. We now know that it also can help your SEO by showing Google and other search engines that your business is awesome.
3. Company Address & Contact Information on Every Page
Ever wonder why some of your competitors that are outranking you in search all have their company name, address, phone number, email address, and social profiles clearly listed in their footer? The website footer is a global element, meaning it’s shown on every single page of your website.
Google views this as a sign of stability. Noting that the business is physically located at a verifiable address with a current listed phone number shows that the company could possibly be a reliable source. Not a spammer or a spammy website.
While you’re checking this step, it may be a good idea to check all your citations all across the web. You’ll want to make sure your company name is spelled and formatted the same on every single website and social media profile.
Go so far as to ensure your formatting is consistent. If you have a local and 1-800 number, be sure to list them both always, or only use one everywhere. Format it consistently like either (123) 456-7890 or 123.456.7890. Same deal for your address: St. or Street, or Ave, Av, or Avenue.
4. Accurate Date Information on Every Page Including Copyright
Did you know that Google spiders check the copyright text on your page? You know, that little bit of text that should say “Copyright [your company name] [current year].” That’s one of the ways they can test to see how current the site is.
In the same way, they’ll look at the date stamp on your blog articles as well. If you have a “Last Updated” area on your site with an associated date, be sure that date is always changed each time you make a website update. Make updates regularly!
5. When Was The Last Time You Tested Your Shopping Cart?
Have an e-commerce website? When was the last time you or anyone from your team tested your shopping cart experience? Try it out today just for kicks. Make sure your shopping cart loads.
You can bet that the Panda algorithm checks to see if you have an e-commerce site and if it finds that you do, it likely will test your shopping cart to ensure it loads.
Your webmaster or SEO consultant should regularly test the shopping cart for efficiency and ease of use.
Factors That Show Low Quality
1. Aggressive Keyword “Stuffing”
Are some SEOs still doing this? You better hope you SEO person isn’t practicing this old school “black-hat” SEO tactic. Google’s spiders have been hip to aggressive keyword stuffing for many years.
Examples of keyword stuffing include taking your primary keyword for a particular webpage, and “stuffing” that keyword or phrase in the page title, url, header tags, link title tags, image alt/title tags, and even the meta description.
At one point, that was encouraged. These days, your best bet is to hire an SEO company that refuses to practice old school black-hat, and keyword stuffing SEO tactics. Instead, creating quality content, that solves problems for users, and is written for the user, not the search engine is the best SEO practice you cash practice.
2. Lazy SEO Tactics Duplicating Metadata
This one is a real pet peeve of mine. If I had a penny for all the website’s I’ve audited for SEO set up, that had duplicate page titles and meta descriptions, I’d be a very rich SEO geek. Why would you anyone want to duplicate a page title?
The page title is a key item for search engine spiders. Google will read that page title! The page title should be unique and descriptive to the content featured on that particular page. Hello!!! This is a major SEO opportunity.
Same goes for your meta description. While we know that a page’s meta description is not a ranking factor, many SEOs, including this one you’re reading, firmly believes that the meta description is a huge relevancy factor.
If you can understand your marketing personas and be able to get in the minds of what the user is typing into the search engine, you can score clicks and therefore website traffic. After all, what you put in the search bar gets bolded in the meta description for all the pages that show up in the search results.
This means that the user, when scrolling through the listings, will more than likely be drawn to your listing featuring the words he/she searched for, bolded below your linked page title!
To avoid any low quality SEO factors being associated with your website, be sure your SEO company is using unique and descriptive page titles and meta descriptions.
3. Duplicate Content & Cloned Websites
This is a huge huge factor for a Panda 4.1 penalty. If you’re still trying to game the search system by creating similar websites or landing pages with similar “optimized” content and linking back to one “main” website, you will get hit with Panda sooner than later, if you haven’t already.
You should also keep in mind that if your one site gets penalized, and you try to move that penalized site to a new domain, and also redirect all urls to the new domain, your “new” website on the “new” domain will be hit by the “same old” penalty you had on the “previous” website. (source)
4. Your Main Content is Below The Fold
Each webpage on your site has, or should have, one specific purpose for the user. The main content should be placed above the fold. The action you want the user to take should be placed above the fold.
Google’s spiders and Panda 4.1 police will rank a website with higher quality, and possibly higher rankings, if the main content is easily found and accessible by users. With the growing consumption of content on smartphones and mobile devices, these days the “fold” seems to be disappearing.
The point is, build your page for the user and give them what they came searching for in the quickest, most efficient way.
5. Page Load Time
Did you know that page speed is a Google ranking factor? It is. It should also come as no surprise. Take a look at how many of your site visitors are coming from mobile. These users want speed.
Desktop users are no different. If your website takes longer than 3 seconds to load. If you’re downloads take longer than 20 seconds to complete, you could be hit with a penalty.
In fact, any user dissatisfaction could have your site come under fire from Panda 4.1. User satisfaction, user experience, and the user interface, are all significant ranking factors as they affect how users consume the content on your site.
In this post today, we discussed the key guidelines that all SEO’s and business owners need to know about, and need to implement, on their websites. The Panda algorithm, and its latest incarnation, Panda 4.1, is always around the internet. It’s always watching for sites that provide a low quality experience for the user.
Social sharing, increased engagement, positive reviews on popular third-party websites, a seamless e-commerce experience, and updated information are all positive signs of high quality to Google’s algorithms.
Lazy incomplete SEO, slow page load time, duplicate content, and poor content layout are just some factors of low quality websites. Other factors that try to manipulate or “fool” Google like, intentionally misspelling your URL form that of a genuine site, having too many ads or pop-ups on your website, especially above the fold, and having a bunch of broken links, all point to a low quality, “spammy” type website.
If you’re in doubt of the state of your website optimization or on the strength of your current SEO strategy, I’d recommend a complete website marketing and SEO audit be completed on your site more sooner than later.
If you’d like me to help with that, we offer a complimentary basic website marketing and SEO audit. Just email me to start the conversation, I look forward to helping solve your SEO challenges.
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