This month sees another Google Panda update – the first in over 10 months. But version 4.2 is no ordinary Panda, because Google has once again changed the way it updates the search algorithm.
The first Google Panda update was rolled out over a period of a week or two in February 2011, and those that followed were updated in a similar fashion. This all changed in March 2013, when Google announced that the Panda algorithm was to be integrated into the main search algorithm and therefore updates would be effective almost immediately.
This was good news for website owners, as once again it was possible to make positive changes to the content of a website and see quick results. However, the latest Panda update will roll out over a period of several months, according to Google.
So far, few people have reported any Panda-related changes to their Google search referrals, which is as expected for such a slow change.
2%–3% of English language queries
Google has suggested that this update will affect around 2% to 3% of English language queries, which has the potential to be a massive change. What do we know about Panda 4.2? Why has Google needed to make such a big update now? This is the 28th Panda update – surely Google must have optimized this feature of the search engine by now?
What is new?
Google Panda is still a site-wide penalty that examines all of a website’s pages to determine the overall quality of a site. A few thin pages will do no harm, but a website that has hundreds or thousands of empty, thin or duplicate pages will very likely experience a drop in search engine referrals.
When the first Google Panda updates were released, many websites experienced dramatic falls in search referrals, often losing as much as 90% of all search engine traffic. In most cases, the problem was an abundance of thin pages – usually user generated profile pages and empty product pages. Deleting such pages would often lead to a Panda recovery.
For a while Panda took a back seat while Google focussed largely on Penguin, the web-spam algorithm. Now that Penguin has also been integrated into the main algorithm it seems Google is returning refocusing on on-site quality factors.
Google has made several specific updates in the last year, all of which point to quality. Google has been promoted secure sites, mobile friendly sites and has recently taking a stance against sites that display aggressive pop-ups.
The latest Panda update may simply be incorporating some of these newer quality signals into the main Panda algorithm.
How does this affect your site?
To protect your website from Google Panda you need to focus on building a quality site. This means ensuring that website code and architecture is clean to prevent thin and duplicate content pages, and also ensuring that the quality of content is high. To prevent Panda impacting your search positions, or to recover from being hit by Panda, you need to tackle these three areas:
Good web design
In this context, good web design refers to the structure and code of a website. Poorly built websites can cause duplicate and thin content issues that are interpreted by Google as being deliberately spammy.
For example, some content management systems create dynamic pages using parameters, which can be crawled and indexed by Google. Although there are ways to patch problems using Search Console, it is always best to resolve the problems by cleaning up website code and architecture.
Removal of thin content pages
Any pages that serve no real purpose should be removed. Empty pages are common in many older eCommerce websites – a product line is removed, or just out of stock, and the result is a content page with little more than a title.
Another common problem are profile pages, which are created by website members but contain no unique information. A good CMS will ensure that all of these pages are set to noindex, but unfortunately, many are not. This problem is made worse when members are allowed to add a link back to their own website in profiles – some Drupal community websites have over 100,000 profile pages that have been created by drive-by-spammers – and sites like these are affected by Panda.
Addition of quality content
Creating content-rich pages, with excellent copy and images, is a great way to ward off the dreaded Panda. Some people believe that Panda not only identifies low quality content, but also identifies when there is a lack of engagement on a page. Panda 4.0 was thought to factor user engagement – and Glenn Gabe reported on Search Engine Watch that improving user engagement can reduce the effect of Panda on a website.
A website that experiences a drop in search referrals following a Panda update can often be recovered by technical SEO experts and content managers, who together will improve site architecture and site quality. This is also why so many people are now using WordPress to run their business websites – WordPress provides a clean platform that allows owners to share quality content with ease.
If your website has been affected by the recent Panda update, contact FSE Online today to discuss your recovery package.
Google is currently the leading search engine for mobile sites, with more than 90% of the market share. Their decision to concentrate upon mobile accessibility sometimes works to the detriment of their traditional PC-based market.
Until recently, many Google website owners had sites which were focused upon the PC user, rather than upon mobile devices, but with Google’s decision to require mobile-friendly websites from its users, websites owners are now facing a choice: ignore the new directive, and risk sliding down the search engine rankings, or obey the directive, and try to make your site more mobile friendly.
If you are not sure how to convert your website, there are a few simple steps that you need to follow in order to make sure that your site is ready for mobile searches.
The first steps towards changing your site
You need to start your changes by reading the advice offered by Google on its Webmaster’s pages. This can offer you tools designed to help you learn how mobile friendly your website is, develop your third party software to ensure that it is suitable for mobile users, and will also supply you with advice such as mobile SEO, or more information about the technology you will need. There is also advice about how to work with a developer to improve the mobile-friendly benefits of the site.
Secondly, you should also learn the five ways to improve your mobile technology. These include: creating defined viewing areas to allow the website to sync with the screen size of the device; creating content that is confined within the viewport, so that there is no need to scroll across the screen; introducing fonts that are scalable so your content can be viewed by mobile users; touch-friendly elements that allow users to easy access the buttons they want, and mobile-friendly visual elements and movement between pages.
Advanced steps for improving your website
Once you have implemented Google’s current guidelines for your website, there are still other steps that you can take to ensure that the site is attuned towards mobile users.
The first thing to do is to check the CMS recommendations provided by Google. Make sure your CMS integrations match with Google’s advice. You should also make sure that the load time for your website is still working at a high speed.
Page loading speeds should be a focal point of any website design, and are considered pivotal to good search engine rankings. You can check Google’s page speed rankings, or simply visit your site using a mobile phone or tablet. Thirdly, you should look at the content of your site, including optimizing images so that they don’t slow down your page, and ensure that nothing on the site uses Flash, which isn’t suitable for mobiles.
How searching for apps is becoming easier
As the internet becomes more app-focused, and more people are using app-based devices to interact with websites and software programs, so it is becoming clear that Google has to develop its search technologies to allow people to find apps more easily. The key to the new process of finding apps is a technology known as app indexing. This process allows you to make your app easier to find through standard searching
What is App Indexing?
If you are using apps as your main source of income, then you need Goole’s App Indexing technology. With this technology, you need to use a technique known as ‘deep linking’, which can be enabled through your developer’s console. Once this is done, you can then connect the app to your business website, which will allow it to be searched. The app needs to work in Google Play, so that it can be found by the new indexing API which specifically searches for apps with these new deep links. This will allow people searching for apps similar to yours to be able to find your app easily.
What else will I need?
In addition to these deep links, you will also have to set up messaging to Google, telling them when people are viewing your apps. This is known as Intent Filters, and will show Google that your App is being used. When the content is seen, the message for the API will tell Google that you have this content in your app, so that when someone searches for that content, the user can easily find your app. At the moment, the app won’t send more details than the title of your content, and its location, but in the future it is likely that app analysis will be used by Google to keep track of your content, and remove malware-containing apps.
What this change means for businesses
If you are running an app, then you will have to ensure that your content can be found by search engines. If you are not able to make the changes to your app, then it could be left behind as more developers start using this feature in all of their apps. What it means is that, rather than just using SEO in the title and meta-content of the app listing, you will have to optimise your app’s content, too, demanding a massive sea-change in the way people create and use SEO in apps.