Please the Panda by Focusing on Humans

by Mark Brimm on August 17, 2011

San Diego Zoo Panda

Most people doing search engine optimization emphasize gaming Google’s system with various tricks like over-repeating the same keywords or phrases, misleading titles (or even image names), and then covering the page with ads to make money off people before they leave. Google’s Panda algorithm update smacked those strategies down. Recent announcements make clear that their new algorithm is meant to reflect what people want. But what does that mean for website managers?

The number one lesson is clear. Focus on what people want, not just what Google results may have returned in the past. Relevance not now only applies to keyword density (which is de-emphasized) but content relevance–that is true relevance, as Google is beginning to include user feedback results, so if users do not find what they are looking for, your site might be harmed in the rankings for giving off false signals. As a result, pages should help people answer the intent of the search query, and not merely title-content relevance alone. If someone is looking for information about acne medication, they should not be deluged in Viagra ads. The more deceptive the keyword relevance, even when happening unintentionally, the more possible it could be to get hit by the negative user feedback.

This is not to say that ads or ads sites are bad, but they should not be the only thing that users see. In fact, some site owners report that some pages with many ads benefited from the changes, because the pages provided useful information, while pages with fewer ads but less information saw traffic plunge after Google unleashed Panda. The key, then, is giving people what they want. If someone searches for the start time of a baseball game, they should be able to find that, and not just see ads. If viewers find useful information on the website, the Panda will nudge more of them to it.

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