There’s lots of talk about Pandas these days. If it’s not to do with their inability to put a round peg in a round hole, it’s something to do with Google’s updates.
But whilst the future for the Panda bear looks pretty grim, Google’s latest update makes a positive move towards promoting quality content and improving users’ online experiences.
So here I’ve highlighted some of the main things Google looks to stamp out through its update, and how you can improve your content to improve your Google ranking.
Google wants to provide high quality search results. And in order to do that they need to ask key questions about the content on your pages:
- Is it trustworthy content?
- Is it written by an expert or enthusiast?
- Does the page add value?
- Was it edited well or was it produced hastily?
- Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine?
There are many more questions Google offer as guidance on building high quality sites, but you get the idea.
If it’s good quality content, it’s worth ranking.
How does Panda 4.1 decide what is poor content?
Duplicating content is a problem because it shows a lack of originality and imagination. It suggests a lack of quality because you didn’t want to spend the time and effort putting your own slant on an idea, or adding your own value to a subject.
This is often the case with product descriptions on e-commerce sites. You don’t want to, or don’t have the time to describe the product you’re selling on your site. So you take the manufacturer’s description and it’s done. One less thing to do today!
But you’re not the only person to have done that for that product, especially if it’s a multi-national brand or global product. So by copying the product description, you’re duplicating content.
It’s sometimes for malicious or manipulative purposes, trying to look for a `darker` way to get around Google’s algorithms. Voodoo-like.
One example I’ve seen recently is having a detailed page for your services with a location name. The whole page is then copied with the location changed. Google now notices that you’ve got services specific to those two locations, so you rank for both.
Hopefully, not very well. And not for much longer!
If your content is very short, or not very relevant, or nobody reads it, then it suggests to Google that it doesn’t offer great value.
Overall, if the content on your site is a bit thin on the ground, you’re probably not going to feature very well, even if you’re publishing with a high frequency.
According to research by Medium, the ideal length of a blog post is 7 minutes, or 1600 words. That doesn’t mean that if it’s much shorter it doesn’t add value, or if it’s longer people won’t read it all. But it demonstrates that short articles and quick bits of information don’t tend to keep people interested.
You might think people don’t read copy on a page, but they will if it’s worth their while. If it benefits them by reading it!
So thin content seems to go hand-in-hand with limited readership, high bounce rates, and lower quality experiences.
High Bounce Rates
If your website visitors just stick around to look at one page, and leave straight after, it’s a sign that your site doesn’t offer a lot of value. They `bounced` because they didn’t feel there was much more to look at. It could’ve been for the following reasons:
- It wasn’t what they were looking for
- The content was `click bait` and misleading
- Poor quality
- Limited or no value to the visitor
- Limited value elsewhere on the site
- Errors on your pages
- Poor design, layout and functionality
There are lots of different reasons for a high bounce rate. It could be that the visitor was looking for one thing, they found it, and so they left. So all of your visitors aren’t expected to stick around to read more pages, but if your visitors aren’t engaging with your site, there’s probably something going wrong.
Google look at those sites who have limited engagement as limited in value. And if Google thinks it offers limited value it won’t feature as highly as it could in their search.
Keyword stuffing is such an old tactic! But people with limited knowledge of a) how Google uses keywords, and b) how to write properly, still think the trick is to cram your copy full of keywords!
Google only recommends a keyword density of around 1%-1.5%. So if you put that in perspective, for a short 500 word blog, you only need to use your keywords 5-7.5 times (check calculation, ed.).
So you don’t need a so-called SEO copywriter to manage that! If you’re talking about a particular topic naturally, it would make sense that you use the keyword a few times anyway.
And let’s not forget the most important thing about your content: people should be able to read it easily and get value from it! If you’re ramming certain phrases down people’s throats every two sentences, it will read pretty poorly and increase your bounce rates.
So what does this mean for your content?
Put simply, it means you’ve got to think about your content selflessly. You’ve always got to be thinking about what value you can add to your visitors.
So how can you encourage people to share and like your content? How can you keep visitors on your website for two or more pages?
Create original and unique content, regularly
Write articles about topics that haven’t been covered before. Write articles about topics that HAVE been covered before, but do it better!
Especially with e-commerce sites, take the time and effort to write original product descriptions. Take it as an opportunity to develop your branding and improve your search engine results with some short, imaginative and original copy for each product.
Once you’ve got some great content on your website that really adds value to your visitors, keep doing it!
If you’re website goes dormant for a while, Google will think you’ve done a runner. If there’s nothing new to add value, your regular readership will start looking elsewhere. So keep adding content to your site and keep it fresh and relevant.
Create longer content
Don’t write news flashes; write the full story.
Google recommends a minimum of 300 words per page, but that’s just an indication. An excellent article at 200 words that’s been shared 100 times on Twitter is better than a 400 word article that nobody’s bothered reading!
Just ask yourself, “Will my visitor get enough value from this article if it’s only a few paragraphs long?” If the answer’s no, go deeper. Don’t write fluff to fill spaces, break the subject into more detailed parts and really get to the gritty stuff!
I agree that many people won’t read longer content on websites. But I don’t agree that it’s just because people don’t like reading long copy. People will read it if it’s worth reading!
If you’re going to cover a topic, do it in detail. But here’s the thing: write it so they don’t have to read it ALL if they don’t want to, or don’t have time to.
If I’m faced with reading a huge article, I don’t bother reading it.
But if I’m faced with a huge article with a non-cryptic heading, sub-headings, highlighted words and phrases, and bullet points, I can quickly skim it and see what the article is about. Now there’s more chance I might read it and engage with it.
After all, why waste time reading something if you’re not sure what you’re going to get from it?
So don’t be afraid to write longer copy because you can add more value if you’ve got more room to do it in. Just do it in a way that doesn’t immediately put your visitor off.
Signpost your content with internal links
You know where all your good content is. Your visitor doesn’t. So show them!
Creating internal links shows that there’s more useful stuff on another page that the visitor might find useful.
Not only are you building value as your visitors read more and more interesting stuff, but you’re lowering your bounce rates too. You’re lowering the percentage of people that leave your site after visiting just one page.
Think of it like Amazon’s personalised suggestions. They give you suggestion linked to previous purchases because they know if you’re interested in one thing, you’re likely to be interested in similar things too. Not only is this more likely to increase the amount of money you spend, but it improves your shopping experience.
So think of your content doing the same. If someone is reading your blog about a particular topic, they can follow a link to another that develops an idea or is a similar topic. That way they’re interacting with your brand, and you’ve giving them a more valuable online experience.
Write engaging content
This is the hard bit. How do you make it engaging?
It would be fair to say that it takes a little bit of creativity and imagination to make something interesting and engaging.
That said, many people try and make their content `clever` in an attempt to make it engaging, when really this only serves to make it less clear and harder to read.
But even without a `creative spark`, you can make content engaging by doing the following things:
- Aim it at your target audience, not `anyone`
- Write a clear heading, don’t be cryptic
- Get the `hook` in your opening paragraph
- Give it a clear purpose
- Add practical information
- Create a tone of voice that your target audience will like
- Make it conversational
Engaging content will keep your visitors on your site for longer, give them more reason to return or subscribe to regular updates, and ultimately improve your ranking with Google. And your pages might just be in need of a quick fix to make them more accessible.
You don’t have to wow people, or make them laugh, or sound like you’ve got a PhD in metaphors for it to be engaging. It just has to get people reading it!
Include semantic keywords
When you type a keyword into Google, you don’t just get that keyword. You get related keywords and phrases.
For example, type `panda babies` into Google.
Out of the nine results returned, only one of them uses that exact phrase `panda babies`. The rest were `baby panda` and `cubs`, all words that are related.
That’s because Google looks not only for the words you’ve asked, but words and phrases that are closely related.
So think carefully about which words are closely related to your main keywords, and make sure they’re included in your article.
Again, if you’re writing naturally about a subject, it’s likely that those words and phrases that share the same meaning will already be included, but you could use Google’s keyword planner to check.
Create long-term search engine rankings
Creating sustainable and long-term search engine rankings doesn’t happen overnight. And if you try and cut the corners and apply some witchcraft, chances are, one of Google’s updates will catch you out.
One day you’ll be No.1 on the first page, the next you’ll be on page 16. Back to square one.
But if you’re creating good quality content, growing your online presence organically and ethically, no Google update is going to damage your website, because you’re doing what they want. You’re creating a better online experience for your visitors.
If you’d like more detailed comparisons between websites under the Panda 4.1 algorithm, Similarweb conducted a deeper analysis into the positive and negative impacts of Google’s update.