Building websites while keeping Google's Panda algorithm In mind
Google introduced a new ranking algorithm in February 2011 dubbed Google Panda with the purpose of shifting more of the low quality websites to the bottom of the pile and getting more higher quality gems at the top.
If you had high ranking pages you may have noticed a big change in their ranking when this algorithm was put into effect. Google has dominated the search market this past decade with them currently generating more than 65% of all search traffic. The new Panda algorithm affected almost 12% of search results, so you can imagine just how wide-scale this would have been. Updates to th algorithm have been rolled out since effecting thousands of websites at a time, infuriating some as they have seen their websites drop drastically.
So how do you build a website that's ranked highly with Google's Panda algorithm? Simply! Don't build websites for web crawlers, build them for humans! "Obviously!" I hear you say, but this hasn't been the case in the past web designer and marketers.
A brief history on how search engines evolved
As search engines have evolved in size and complexity, their ability to determine the quality of a website has improved exponentially. Back in 1998 Altavista was one of the most popular search engines; its ranking algorithm was based on the amount of keywords on a web page. So a page with keyword for instance "hosting" that appeared 50 times in the body of the page ranked higher than a website with only 5 appearances of the keyword. People building websites quickly caught on and realised they could easily manipulate rankings. So Altavista and other search engines using the same technique placed limits on how many keywords were permitted and the SEO market was born! Higher rankings meant finding the correct ratios of keyword to content. So these search engines returned results for websites that best new how to manipulate them and not necessarily the best quality websites.
In September 1998 Google came along and completely changed the game introducing their search engine that used the PageRank algorithm developed by Lawrence Page and Sergey Brin. The algorithm used can be summarised below:
PR(A) = (1-d) + d (PR(T1)/C(T1) + ... + PR(Tn)/C(Tn))
I won't go into the technical details but it's not as complicated as it looks; it works simply by counting the number of votes (in the form of links) to a particular page. The higher number of votes, the higher the page rank. The higher the PageRank the more valuable the pages votes are to external pages. So in essence to get a higher PageRank you would need to get links from other pages with high PageRank's. This algorithm was pure genius back in the day and blew the competition out the water putting Google on the map. It made it far more difficult to manipulate rankings.
Google is constantly modifying their algorithm in an effort to bring their users higher quality content more relevant to their searches.
With the Google Panda update they are now looking into the following metrics
- Bounce rate, what percentage of users click back just as the page finishes loading
- How much time does the user spend on the website
- How many pages do they visit on that website
- How quickly does the website respond
- Conversion rates, what percentage of people are reaching the goal of the website?
The above are how visitors to your website can affect your rankings, below are what Google's new algorithm uses to determine whether your website is high quality. You'll notice that some of these will have a direct effect on how visitors see your website too.
Spelling and Grammar are Important!
Careless and lazy is what one often thinks when it comes to incorrect grammar and especially spelling. You definitely do not want to associate your website with these adjectives! It's true, why would you want to read through something where the author seems even less interested in reading and correcting.
Bad spelling will negatively affect your reputation online and Google knows this. Check the spelling on your website and if it's atrocious and Office can't make head or tail of what you are saying, get someone who is fluent and proficient in the language to proof read the content for you! This is the easiest thing you can do and would come first if it weren't for writing high quality content, which brings me to my next point.
Is your content boring?
As mentioned above spelling mistakes often give this impression. To decrease your bounce rates you need to make your content engaging! Push the envelope, be controversial, challenge your readers, give them insight from a different perspective and make it exciting! Attention spans are at an all-time low!
More is more or less, LESS...
With duplicate content, you are basically diluting the quality of your website. Make sure your pages are unique. Quality over quantity has never applied more with the Panda algorithm. Less high quality content is far better than lots of mediocre content. The more content visitors find uninteresting the higher your bounce rates will be and the faster you'll slip down the ranks.
So all in all, we have to stop thinking about how to tweak our websites. Search engine optimizers may still promise you that number one spot, but for how long? Do they know your visitor better than you do? There are no more shortcuts, if you genuinely make your users interested you'll be rewarded with higher rankings from Google. That's the bottom line.