Google recently changed the rules of high rankings by introducing a new update that targets low quality websites. And its time for you to change your SEO and marketing strategy accordingly.Millions of webmasters and SEO geeks are loosing traffic (and sleep) due to what Google calls PANDA or Farmer update which targets content farms and de-ranks them. Captain Google Panda is sailing against the Pirates of Content and punishing those who have been creating huge waves of content in their content mills or writing only to capture a sea of keywords on Search Engines.Impacting more than 11.8% search results worldwide, too much of noise, speculation, opinion and coverage over this update has ultimately caused too much of confusion in SEO community.Here is a complete guide on what you are up against, how to shape your high ranking strategy for future and a detailed survival guide against the wrath of Google Panda update.

What is Google PANDA update?

The experimental Panda Algorithmic change was updated in US on 24th February, 2011 (Panda 1.2). It was rolled forward globally to English Google users on 11th April, 2011 (Panda 2.2).By means of this update, Google expressed its wrath against low-quality websites (those with duplicate, irrelevant or worthless material). All the same, it expressed appreciation for high-quality websites (those with original, relevant and useful material).This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.– Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts Google’s Search Quality Engineers

So what does Google mean by low-quality website?

As per Google, it means content: – that visitors don’t want to bookmark – that is mass-produced or spread to multiple sources – that lacks original research, reporting and analysis – that has factual, stylistic or grammatical errors – that is hollow / irrelevant for end-users – that is contrived / keyword-stuffed just to drive trafficIn addition, this change also goes deeper into the long tail – Google representativesOut of all the websites hit by Panda, a good number have experienced a dip in their long-tail keyword rankings. Websites that relied excessively on long-tail pages to attract link-backs have been adversely affected by this update.So, it goes into saying that via Panda update, Google has reinforced the importance of long-tail keywords as well.

Learning from the mistakes of Big Publishers

Captain Google Panda is sailing against the Pirates of Content and punishing those who have been creating huge waves of content in their content mills or writing only to capture a sea of keywords on Search Engines.Here is a list of big publishers who were hit by the recent update. Closely observe and learn from what they did WRONG or what they did RIGHT and where they stand after PANDA update.

Ezinearticles.com –

The magnitude of poor-quality content (most of which was clearly spun) on this website was too much to cheat search-engines. Long-tail keywords were not targeted properly and there were too many anchor text links directing to other sites…primarily because writing and editorial guidelines were too lenient to check shallow content. Clearly, the website’s traffic was affected by both Panda 1.2 and Panda 2.2.

eHow.com –

eHow was hit just by the global roll-out of Panda update. eHow has a history of being openly criticized by search engine companies like Duck Duck Go and Wired magazine, labeling it as a content mill. eHow trains an army of writers (poorly paid) to write low quality content designed to rank high on search engines.Apparently, it was the poor internal linking strategy, irrelevance of topics and the inability to target long-tail keywords properly that pushed eHow down in search engines. The website, otherwise, has stricter content guidelines (as compared to ezinearticles.com and hubpages.com) and has recently (post PANDA) shut down new author signup.

About.com –

In contrast to eHow, this company is known to recruit one of the best writers that actually have domain knowledge of what they write about. The compensation of the writers is tied to the performance of the content (in terms of traffic and advertisement revenues). At one point of time, search engines like Google, Yahoo, Ask and AOL were interested to acquire About.com but The New York Times won the bidding battle.Inspite of so much concentration on content quality, the how-to giant lost on page views, although it gained on long-tail keywords. This is why it has remained stable throughout. Guess Google likes whoever plays by the rule: Don’t be evil :)

Blogspot.com –

Blogspot.com got a positive hit from the Panda attack. The website (both Google’s own blogs and other user created blogs) have experienced an approximately 22.80% visibility increase post the update and why not? It targets long-tail keywords effectively and provides fresh, relevant and valuable information to the end-users. Google loves such websites!

Google has nothing against articles, but against low-quality articles and their repetition

Google has waged a war against low-quality / duplicate content AND NOT against articles particularly! Since, a lot of such low-quality content was previously available on many article directories, it’s these directories that were hit THE MOST!Google’s recent search algorithm update did have an impact on our traffic, It was to the tune of about a 10-35% decrease – Christopher M Knight, CEO Ezinearticles.comAnd for that matter, such content copying may also exist within the website, what we call internal duplication. Would you stop writing for your own website also?Google urges webmasters to invest in high-quality content – it may be an article on your own website, a blog, an article submitted to top-notch article directories, a Google knol…whatever…

What NOW? Time to consider other facets of article writing

In a way, article writing is similar to the realty sector. Its all about the most profitable LOCATION! So, where do you put your articles now on?Matt Cutts, Google’s anti-spam mastermind, recently pointed a clue by saying that when there are better alternatives available, why stick to the fuddy-duddy ones?I am not a huge fan of article marketing. I will lean towards great content that naturally has links… do social media marketing so that people are linking to it organically for the reason that they actually love it.So, what is he exactly talking about? Good blogging and social media marketing, eh?Of course, yes! Blogging is just another facet of article writing, a better one you can say…! The online world seems to be abuzz with this new form of writing…

Start a blog (meaty, juicy and UNIQUE )

Include a blog in your website and optimize it for both short-tail and long-tail keywords. Keep it alive and kicking by adding fresh, catchy and relevant posts. You may even link it with other high-quality relative websites, if you wish. But if your posts are actually rich and juicy, they’ll be worthy of being linked and bookmarked naturally.

Guest post on niche-related blogs

Guest blogging on other blogs can get you authority linkbacks (and followers) to your website or blog. Every blog has its own guest posting guidelines. If you send a niche related blogger your post and it meets their posting guidelines, whoa! You’ll cyber-meet many new people and get a chance to improve your website’s visibility. Even better would be to cross-link all your guest posts together.

Invite guest posts from niche-related bloggers

Inviting someone to guest post on your blog is like inviting a star on your talk-show. Say for example you have a health related website…Wouldn’t it be great if you can loop in a professional diet expert to write a guest post for you, on your blog obviously? Remember, you must invite guest posts from only those bloggers whose interests are related to yours…

Submit your blogs in premium blog directories

If you submit your pulpy blog to a premium niche related directory, it will work! But ONLY if its your own, and not a stolen one! And that reminds me of BlogCatalog and Google knol…No, its not a blog directory but it lets you share your thoughts on just any topic under the sun! And since these are reputable content-sharing platforms, it’s a worthwhile consideration…

Use Social Media Channels for promotion

You need to inform your followers about your new story, isn’t it? And what better medium of promotion than social media! Nearly half of the world in active on social media sites and hence… .if you know how to bell the cat right, your blog is right there where you want it to be! And with Lord Cutts making it clear that Google considers social media reputation while according rankings, you should be doing it even more rigorously!!

I am already PANDA hit. How can I improve my condition?

Concentrate on content:

You need to concentrate on better content from now on and post more frequently. Write genuine content, without copying from other sources. Structure your content properly by using more headlines and optimizing it for keywords organically.Deleting overly used sources of content (like an RSS feed) may help (but it is entirely upto you). The duplicate content penalty exists on page level and makes your website more prone to it if you are copying content in masses. However, there is no indication that the penalty exists at domain level.

Build more backlinks

Since PANDA is about improving user experience, concentrate on the only feedback from users that search engines dwell upon – the backlinks. Get genuine backlinks to your content. Engage in deep-linking whenever possible. Structure your website so that every page is approachable within 3 clicks and easily crawlable.

Socialize your content

Make your content easily shareable, use Facebook comments, engage with people on Twitter or just entice people to digg or bookmark your content. Ofcourse, your content should be worthy enough for a bookmark, digg, Like or Share on social networks.Google can now read & understand shortened URLs & accounts them as backlinks (Dont get started with spamming twitter now). Google even launched its own URL shortening service to read the pulse of users. Google is about to launch +1, which works like Facebook’s LIKE button. All these are indications of how closely Google is following its users. Socializing with these users is a nice strategy.

Panda (emic) Attack : A battle against stale content; not against article directories

It ultimately boils down to the fact that search engines LOVE unique, relevant, informative and grammatically correct text. Call it an article, blog, knol…or whatever you will!  And it’s not just about the quality of your content but also about the quality of the location where you intend to post it!Google is clear in its message: Websites that do not pay importance to uniqueness of content and user engagement will be filtered out of search results.Mr Panda that is big and fat, has NOT had article directories fallen flat! It’s all about quality and location, and your site’s social media reputation!

Ricky Goswami

Ricky is an Award winning Ecommerce Marketing expert and Digital Marketing strategist, with 15+ years of experience of consulting Small companies to Fortune 100 companies. He is Co-Founder at KeywordCountry (@kwdcountry) and Smarter.Codes.