Early in 2011, marketers got a wake-up call in the form of something called The Panda Algorithm Update. What’s a Panda algorithm, and why was it a wake-up call for marketers? The Panda algorithm is one of Google’s top-secret formulas for determining page rank — that is, where a particular web page will show up in a Google search.
The release of this algorithm was a wake-up call that showed marketers in no uncertain terms that to achieve higher online rankings meant playing by Google’s rules with white-hat Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics. It started in February when retail giant JC Penney made headlines through a tactic that Google frowns on: buying links.
The Wake-up Call: We All Work in Google’s World
JC Penney had hired an SEO firm that implemented the tactic to gain higher rankings on Google’s search engine. JC Penney received a stiff punishment and was dropped from many of their top rankings to pages 6 and 7 in search results. And, of course, the SEO firm got fired.
Not satisfied with punishing one culprit, Google took things one step further, also releasing the Panda algorithm in an effort to hunt down sites with lackluster links and low-quality content on sites. It wasn’t long before headlines mentioning more big name companies showed that Google was penalizing anyone and everyone who got caught violating the rules on link building.
Marketers saw first-hand just how important it is to have regular communication with any outside SEO firm that handles your company’s organic and paid search. And anyone who didn’t realize that Google runs the world of search marketing figured it out.
How Can We Optimize Business Sites in Panda’s Wake?
The answer really hasn’t changed since the release of Panda. The same key factors are still necessary for a strong SEO strategy; this means a website needs to provide valuable content through a large amount of links that are relevant to the queries that users what users search queries.
Besides great content and links, here are a few other factors that make up a strong SEO strategy and are factors in Google’s overall ranking system:
- Social Data – Google officially stated that engagement on social sites such Facebook and Twitter can have a positive effect on site ranking, so start sharing and tweeting.
- +1 Button – Allows individuals searching on the web to provide a sort of thumbs-up to content online. In turn as more people search for similar content, search engines are more likely to show content that has been approved by other users.
- Fresh Content – Continuous blogging and publishing press releases is more important than ever, now that Google upped the ante on the need for fresh content. Simply put, this means fresh is best, an old site with stale out-dated content isn’t likely to be ranked very high (unless you have a boatload of links of course!).
- Optimized for Mobile – Smart phones and tablets have taken over as the main devices people on the go rely on to search online and expect to be able to find content just as easily as searching on a laptop. If your company doesn’t offer users a mobile-friendly version of the website, this needs to change.
- Page Load Time – The days of slow, dial-up internet connections are gone and people searching online expect content to load fast (less than 3 seconds per page!). How do you find out if your site is fast enough? Google recently released a helpful reporting tool in Google Analytics to show webmasters how fast pages load on their website. Google stated that they will actually add negative points for sites that are slow.
- Browser Optimization – The days when Internet Explorer dominated may soon be numbered, as other browsers including Firefox, Safari and Google Chrome continually see increases in use. It’s important to make sure that with each new release and update, your website is compatible and will work the same in the most popular browsers.
Finally, it’s important to remember that search engine optimization is dynamic. What works today will not always work tomorrow, so it’s critical to have a strategy that incorporates these changes. Again, SEO is not something that happens overnight, it takes consistent effort and time but the payoff is a website that drives new targeted traffic which can end up being new customers!
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