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Has Google’s Panda Kicked Your Organic SEO Ass?
In a kind of reverse SEO optimization alternate-reality that continuously shifts with hazy patterns, Google’s Panda update has significantly affected many companies PageRank either by bumping them down off the coveted page 1 and 2 of Google SEO search results for their most sacred keywords or by increasing their Google search presence.
(oh, before we go on. WHY is ranking on page 1 and 2 of Google SEO search results so important? According to an oft-quoted study by Optify (http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2049695/Top-Google-Result-Gets-36.4-of-Clicks-Study), when a person enters a search term into Google:
- The very first link on page 1 gets 36.4% of all clickthroughs
- The search results on page 1 combined get a total of 89% of all clickthroughs
- Being on page 2 will get you a share of 7% more of the clickthroughs.
- The remaining 4% of clickthroughs happen in the netherworld of Page 2+ results (useless!)
Any Google search results that occur after page 2 are completely irrelevant and utterly useless to your business.
… ’nuff said)
Google Panda’s Update the latest in a long line of Google algorithm changes
Google’s Panda update started in 2013, with a major Google Panda 4.0 update on May 20, 2014. It is the latest in a long line of search algorithm changes; I counted 119 Google algorithm changes at Moz.com since the year 2000 http://moz.com/google-algorithm-change (a wonderfully detailed account of the history of organic search!).
4 Trueisms of the Great Googlie
As marketers and business leaders, if we don’t pay attention, the Great Googlie will punish us. The converse is true. The opportunity to embrace Google’s Panda update and rocket our PageRank past our competitors is in our grasp. Change always creates opportunity.
For those paying attention, the Google Panda update creates great opportunity.
Google simply wants to give the person who is searching the best results possible. I have told my clients for years that:
- It’s Google’s world, we just live in it. And, yes, I’m sorry it’s complicated.
- We need to be technically efficient and diligent (with our own web properties, with keyword usage, in social media, with links, with images alt-txt, in Google+, Google Places, Google Tag Manager, Google Webmaster Tools etc…) so that Google understands who we are.
- We need to tell a good honest story that excites people (be human not a robot!).
- We need to continously measure, monitor and modify our approach
“Juice”: Quality backlinks vs. Quantity
One of the discerning factors in the Panda update is the notion of “juice” from websites that link to yours (a.k.a. “backlinks”). In the good ol’ days, it was just enough to have LOTS of links pointing to your site; a QUANTITY issue. Thus, a number of linkfarms grew, as did the generally bad practice of paying for widespread links.
Google’s Panda update rewards quality websites with better search rank results. See Google’s blog “More guidance on building high quality sites“
Now that Panda is focusing more on the QUALITY of those links, only those that have content that relate to your own website’s content really matter (a.k.a. “juice”) — in other words, do your group of peers consider you authoritative? Websites that have a bazillion links from random websites around the world have seen their Google ranking wane, and even moreso if they never really had any juice to begin with.
Backlink abuse is just one of the many things to consider. Scroll down to the bottom of this article for an [Infographic] about the various factors in Google’s Panda algorithm.
But at least it’s OUR murky ooze
We’re all just kinda wading through this murky Google ranking algorithm ooze together.
I help a company recently who’s page rank dropped, and they were scrambling. As I did some research, I came across a LOT of great thoughts from others that have gone down the path already and wanted to share:
- This blog at Social Media by Julia McCoy @ExpWriters discusses “Natural Flow” … I dig it. This post also mentions the notion of creating a “301 Re-direct” on your current site URL and actually creating a new website; an invententive approach that seems to obfuscate the passing of juice and re-establishes Google rank authority. http://socialmediatoday.com/
expresswriters/2233156/6-ways- recover-if-you-ve-lost-web- page-rankings-2014-begun
- Razvan Gavrilas at Cognitive SEO blog post http://cognitiveseo.com/blog/4644/6-google-ranking-drops-and-how-to-deal-with-them/ says there are 6 reasons your Google ranking has dropped:
- Manual or Algorithmic Penalty Rank Drop
- You got outranked by a competitor
- Your site was demote due to On-page issues
- Your site was dropped because it is losing links
- Google just updated their algorithm
- Google Flux (I love this one … quick get the Flux Capacitor!!!)
- In this post from the JDR Group, Will Williamson writes: http://blog.jdrgroup.co.uk/digital-prosperity-blog/bid/305292/Why-Have-My-Google-Rankings-Dropped-And-How-Do-I-Get-Them-Back and offers:
- 3 reasons your Google rankings have dropped:
- Competitors have gained an advantage
- Google algorithm updates
- Google penalties
- 6 things you can do
- Identify the cause of the drop
- Create reach, unique and compelling content and great user experience
- Diversify traffic sources
- Get more, high quality links
- Remove bad links and use the Disavow tool
- Keep calm and don’t panic
- 3 reasons your Google rankings have dropped:
- Neil Patel writes his post http://www.quicksprout.com/2014/02/12/why-your-search-rankings-are-dropping-and-7-ways-to-fix-it/ about 7 ways to fix your Google rankings:
- Internal linking
- Speed up your site
- Build links but not to the page that dropped in rankings
- Update your webpage content (fresh pages vs. old, stale ones)
- Increase your click-through rank (optimize title tag and meta descriptions, and use Google Authorship)
- Optimize design for device (mobile, tablet, desktop)
- Increase your social shares
- Emma North writes “One of the most common causes of significant ranking drops, penalties and deindexing is Google’s discovery of unnatural, spammy links.” is from this excellent post (with equally excellent video): http://www.koozai.com/
blog/search-marketing/why- have-rankings-dropped/ … a great list of the types of unnatural links she mentions:
- Reciprocal linking
- Interlinking between controlled domains
- Paid links
- Site-wide links (such as footer or blog-roll links)
- Links from low-quality or generic directories
- Links from low-quality or irrelevant sites
- Overuse of keyword-rich anchor text
- Any unnatural link schemes used as an attempt to manipulate rankings or PageRank
As you move through your SEO optimization, these are all great things to help you sort out the ebbs and flows of Google’s algorithmic dance.
The end of the story?
For my client, my out-of-the-box SEO analysis tools didn’t point to any stark, dark issues and so I kind of picked my way through all the possibilities from the awesome blog posts above. In increasingly difficult marketplaces, one must tighten down the SEO nuts even more than before.
After a quick analysis, I told my client they had 3,760 backlinks to their site, which seemed high based on the industry they were in and their relative market share, but the links weren’t necessarily unnatural, nor had Google given them a lot of “unnatural link” warnings. However, it’s worthwhile to comb through them looking for bad ones and then using the Google Disavow method.
Another thing that popped out from my analysis was that there were 2,740 Google indexed pages on the website; despite that the current slimmed down marketing site along with the blog couldn’t amount to more than 500. With my spidey sense tingling, I thought maybe there were a number of pages that were indexed that were either outdated, unused, irrelevant, low quality or even stub / sample website pages that could benefit from a “301 Redirect” treatment?
Like all things in our whacky world of web: Test, Measure, Learn, Iterate, Repeat.
[Infographic] Google Search Ranking Factors
A feller named Martin Missfeldt writes a great blog www.tagSEOblog.com. Again, while no one but the Great Googlie is 100% sure of the many factors that are used to calculate Google PageRank, this infographic authoritatively helps us understand the approach. The original Infographic appears here: http://www.tagseoblog.com/google-search-ranking-factors-2012-infographic.
Original “World of Warcraft” Panda illustration in featured image drawn by Rogier van de Beek; all his great work can be found here: http://www.beek-art.com/