According to a recent blogpost, Google has outlined 40 (yes, you read that right) changes to search quality this month. Although many of these changes are small, such as safe images and localised Youtube videos, hidden amongst these changes include two which could have a real impact on how your business appears in search.
“Panda Update” – which refreshes the Panda system, making it ‘more accurate and more sensitive to recent changes on the web’.
“Link evaluation” – which changes the way Google will help figure out the topic of a webpage. Basically it’s turning off a method of link analysis it’s used for over seven years in order to keep its system ‘maintainable, clean and understandable’.
So what does this mean for your website?
It has been a year since Google unleashed Panda. If you’re confused, Panda is essentially Google’s ongoing campaign to lower the rank of ‘low-quality’ sites in its rankings and return better sites. It does this by looking at a number of factors including duplicate content, web pages with poor quality content and how quickly people leave your site (called bounce rate).
What has become clear is that Panda is here to stay and the 3.3 update Google has implemented this month will continue to sift websites’ content. In order to overcome the changes, you need to make sure your site is:
- Fresh – If you have a news page or a blog, make sure it’s kept up to date.
- Useful – Don’t copy text from other sites and hope that tweaking a few words here and there will fool Panda. Write for your readers and make your content useful.
- Free from duplicate content – Make sure anything you’ve written is not hosted elsewhere. You can be sure Panda will pick it up and you could be punished.
In terms of link evaluation, Google’s changes are shrouded in mystery. How precisely does Google evaluate the quality of a link? Will this mean an end to traditional link building? Does this update spell the death knell for online directories and link exchanges?
It would be helpful to know a bit more about the specifics of Google’s link analysis, but these are cards that the internet giant will keep close to its chest. However, in order to keep up with these changes, I would suggest you need to make sure your site is:
- Linked from reputable sources – A link from a well-respected website to you will convince Google you’re a worthwhile site.
- Contains natural links – Links from bloggers or sites naturally talking about you, your products or your services will convince Google you’re a site which needs to rank.
- Has natural anchor text linking to it – Make sure any text linking to you is not over optimised. If you sell bathrooms, text linking to you should not all be ‘bathrooms’ – consider alternatives like ‘showers’ ‘sinks’ ‘toilets’ and ‘taps’.
There is no doubt these new changes by Google demonstrates an ongoing evolution of SEO rankings and the need to do you research and not be afraid to adapt (for example what an SEO agency does well compared with an in-house or non-SEO focussed agency). I’d love to find out precisely what Google changed this month, but then again I guess this would remove some of the fun of working in this ever-changing industry!