Yesterday, friend and sometimes fellow Marcana dot come author, Justin McCullough, inspired this question in me by his comments on the original video that attempts to explain the impact of Panda on SEO. It’s a very good question raised by an update which has been a long time in coming. One nobody with a straight head can really pretend to fully answer all the questions on the impact in exacting fine detail, but some have done a pretty good job of seeing into the general trends it signals and seems to be inacting. We should look carefully at this new question now that Panda is gaining some steam and actually changing the search landscape enough to get people talking…
What the Panda update actually does
It allows Google to become more tuned in to engaging content rather than, say, correct content, or useful content. It also eliminates some additional potential for machine-written spammy sites (otherwise known as “content mills”) cluttering up search results with useless content. If your content stirs people share it, Panda will reward the content, regardless of the reasons why. It also micro-penalizes for things like outdated search engine optimization best practices: specifically, the (now) over-attention to keyword density tactic of 3 keyword instances per paragraph, or anything that too-closely resembles this traditional SEO copy writing tactic. Does this mean you should re-optimize your pages already optimized with this in mind? Yep.
What it doesn’t and can’t do
Tell you what sites and pages are the best information on the topic, which gurus know what they’re talking about, or how to smell an infomercial or a plug among friends. It also can’t tell the difference (read: care?) about which information source is simply building content for the sake of engagement, and which are speaking from real knowledge or a real need for such content. In the future, these types of sites might be called “engagement mills”–sites that engage, but only in an online junk food kind of a way.
Mainly the clever rats who can sniff and claw their way to the cheese using a new form of SEO. At first, it will be people with a knack for brilliant PR stunts and tabloid material (also read: effective bloggers). Then corporations, and finally, dictatorships and perhaps reflecive branches of governments.
It’s a mixed bag here. Many genuine information sources might perish, like, say, a great site on Sanskrit, which as we all know, is wildly unpopular. Also, news sites that appeal to an alternative angle, mom and pop websites, and just about anybody else who isn’t all that super-brilliant or super-motivated to engage a larger audience.
Not fair? What to do about it…
- Share & comment on little-known sites that offer good, relevant content.
- Don’t fuel big engagement sites that don’t contribute meaningfully to your life.
- Optimize your site with keywords in mind, but reduce the keyword density a tad per paragraph and consider trimming 3 envelope-pushing instances in the titles down to just two maximum, or even one if you already have an engaged following (you don’t need SEO tricks if your content has an active audience). Remember: the url can have at least one, the title can have at least one, and the anchor text of all those links to your great content will help even if they don’t all have an exact phrase, as long as they share that phrase. Truth is, they don’t have to have so all anchor text phrases to make the page highly ranked for the phrase, it just boosts the chances of ranking higher.
- Build (or tap into existing) engaged social networks around your website or other web content platform profiles that you think deserve a following, but try not to be that following.
- Be real in your online commentary, be it Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, or whatever your poison may be. By supporting a false persona online, you unwittingly contribute to the very factors that make it more difficult for algorythms to tell the difference between the stuff and the fluff.