Google Panda 2.5.2
About 3 weeks ago, Google unveiled a doosy of a Panda update. The update was a big one according to a survey of SEO’s. And if you’ve mulled around the SBI forums, it’s very difficult to NOT pay attention to the despair. In many cases, people had spent years of building their sites and traffic, only to have a large significant portion of it wiped away with no explanation.
As far as fundemental problems go, I think it’s important to go back and re-read the post I made shortly before the actual update. From reading people’s forum posts, I could tell that people had an unnecessary reliance on Google traffic for a large portion of their business. And it’s not just the reliance on Google traffic, but it was the reliance on a LARGE amount of traffic in general.
Reducing your dependence on Google is easy, you just need to fiddle with one of the variables. (Traffic * Conversion Rate)*Average Profit=Total Profit. If you want to increase your income, you have to increase one of those variables. And for most people monetizing with Adsense, it’s a difficult choice to make. Increasing your traffic can get difficult at a certain point, increase your conversion means getting more people to click off your site, and there is no way to really increase your profit through Adsense. So what to do?
Well, that was covered in a previous post so I’m not going to go into it here. But what most people want to know is what to do now? I’ve read a lot of articles and have been attempting to figure out what I think might’ve happened during that Panda update. And I think I’ve found the explanation that makes the most sense to me.
Google & Machine Learning
There’s a search engine in Russia by the name of Yandex that actually was started before Google. It’s the dominant SE over there. They have an algorithm that uses human feedback to determine if a certain website should stay there. So I’m just going to summarize it upfront and then go into more of the details here.
Traditional SEO is what gets you to the top of the search engines, human interaction with your site is what keeps you there.
Ok, so let’s kinda explain a bit. I actually first heard this concept from a guy named Kurt Melvin at the WarriorForum. He called this concept “People Rank”. Unfortunately, the page he talked about it is not available so maybe he changed locations. Anyways, it was the first time I heard about the idea that people’s interaction with a site can have an influence on their ranking.
So for awhile, people have suspected that Google uses human reviewers to grade certain websites. It seemed like a big task, after all, what’s the algorithm for if you just have humans doing the ranking. Then there was a post here that linked to the actual grading criteria. To be fair, what the reviewers were looking for is nothing ground-breaking, but when you pair it up with other information out there, it starts to get interesting.
Shortly after that, I came across another article on Google’s Machine learning. I went through quite a few, but here’s a good explanation that I found. So this kinda tied together the whole concept for me. So here’s just a random guess as to how the whole thing work.
Human Reviewers–They are given search queries. And they have to decide their intent on that query. Is it commercial? (buying something) Is it navigational? (Leads to another search) Is it informational? (They are seeking information). Next they decide the vital sites for that query, if any. If they searching for Honda, then Honda’s webpage should be 1st no matter what, making it an overriding factor. Then they find good sites/bad sites. Then they find the common characteristics of a good site for that search term. If it’s an e-commerce site, maybe it’s credit card logo’s, McAfee logo, reviews, facebook page likes, etc.
Engineers-Next step, maybe the engineers go back and try to figure out a way to customize an algorithm for a certain type of search. In other words, how do they automate what the reviewers were just finding. They play around with it in the “sandbox” and then see how the results look. And when it works well, they roll it out.
Human Interaction: Like I mentioned above, I think good old fashioned SEO will still get you moving up the serps. In the old days, even bad sites could stay there for a long time. Now, things are more difficult and Google has MANY ways of monitoring human interaction with your website. They have Google Chrome, Google Analytics, Google Toolbar, and they could even tell by matching your IP with a search query. If you went to abcsite.com and popped right back into the SERPs, then maybe abcsite.com wasn’t a good match. If I were to guess, all they would need to look at was bounce rate and time on site.
Machine Learning: So I’m assuming that Google is probably rolling this out in phases. Kind of dialing it up, watching the results, and then pausing. In the future, I wonder if it won’t be much more dynamic. If people from all around the world start searching for a certain search term and they are looking for a certain website, then maybe that site will shoot up the SERPs in short order because that’s where people are clicking.
So what does that mean for you?
In the old days, you might’ve been able to trick the machine and get to the top of the SERPS. Nowadays, you actually need to have a website that is worthy of being there (as judged by humans). Good advice is to just pay attention to putting out content, but I think it’s important to go a step further. Here would be my action plan:
1) Content Matters, but the right kind of content-Words on a page is what gets a page ranked, but figure out what kind of content people are looking for. Pictures/Videos/Text?
2) Design Matters-Ugly sites can rank, but appearance matters. An appealing site conveys trust to the visitor and now, ultimately, to the search engines.
3) Navigation Matters-A lot of SBI’ers completely clutter their nav bar. All pages are NOT created equal so make sure you put the right ones in the spots that will get clicked most. You can view current trends simply by looking in Google Analytics. And a good idea is to separate links into sections that make it easy to navigate.
4) Get Into Analytics-Pay attention to your highest referring keywords in Analytics and watch the bounce rate/time on site. There is no “average”, it varies. So your 50% might be good compared to your peers. But always try and improve it by testing out new layouts and headlines. If you tackle your Top 10 keywords, you should put yourself in a much better position.
5) Know Your Role-I think it’s going to be very difficult going forward for content sites to get ranked for commercial phrases and vice versa. So if you’re a content site, give up on ranking for “Iphone Cases” and focus on getting ranked for “Iphone Case Review”.
A Few Closing Thoughts/Ideas:
1) Facebook/Google+ are very important, so keep getting people to vote on your content. Putting the button is the easy part, you need to get people to CLICK it.
2) Fix Duplicate Content Issues across the web and on your site (check webmaster tools)
Hope that helps, let me know you thoughts/findings!