You’d think we’d be used to Google randomly throwing out algorithm changes by now, but lo and behold, Panda 2.5 – updated at the end of last week – seems to have caught everybody by surprise, decreasing rankings, reducing traffic and generally being a big black-and-white pain in the derriere.
So, what do we know so far?
Officially, nothing. Google has yet to officially confirm anything helpful other than the fact that the update did indeed happen, and that it is another advancement in the search engine’s war against content that sucks (my phrasing, not theirs). As usual when it comes to the big ‘G’, we’re rather stumbling around in the dark.
There are still things that we can surmise, however. Over the weekend, Searchmetrics released a report (which you can view here) showing the websites that have suffered the most as a result of the update. Whilst this definitely seems a bit ‘point and laugh’, it’s actually very useful data, as it enables us to look at the similarities between the top five sites and work out exactly what Google seems to have taken a dislike to.
Let’s look at what these sites have in common:
They’re huge. Most of these sites have thousands of articles on their server. It seems odd to think that Google would punish a site for overdoing it, but it’s a definite fact. An indication of quantity over quality, perhaps? One poem by Dante is worth ten by Pete Doherty, after all.
They have a broad focus. It’s worth nothing that within their fields, all of these sites cover a huge range of topics. Ace Showbiz and Starpulse will talk about literally anything celebrity rated, from Lady Gaga’s dress sense (worth a penalty if nothing else is) to Q&A’s with Wes Craven. Savings.com, whilst offering reductions, is not specific to industry, meaning that it’s focus is also very wide-ranging. Could this lack of focus be being punished? It could be argued that Google is taking the ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ viewpoint.
They update VERY regularly. With our clients, we take the viewpoint that one or two articles of fresh content a week is normally about right. Nearly all of the top five sites in the Searchmetrics report seem to update four times a day or more. It’s entirely possible that Google also view this as an indication of quantity over quality, and has acted accordingly.
Gossip is out. It’s worth observing that four sites in the top ten are Hollywood gossip/news sites. Is Google (like the rest of us) rather sick of hearing about Lady Gaga’s new dress, made purely from Edam cheese and Homebase garden sheds? The likelihood is that these sites are being punished simply because they offer something that can be found everywhere on the web. Gossip is cheap: Hollywood gossip even more so.
So, what lessons can we seem to take from these websites?
Be original. Unless you can avoid it, try and cover topics that aren’t already in abundance all over the web. You can still talk about your market, but try and put your own spin on it. Think about it this way: the first person who points out the toothpaste on your face is helpful – all the ones that follow are just annoying.
Be focused. Whatever your industry is, try to avoid being too general. Rather than offering advice on gardens, offer advice on pruning roses. Rather than talking about music, talk about different clarinet reeds. Specialism seems to be the way forward.
Don’t overdo the updates. One or two high quality pieces a week should be more than sufficient, as long as they’re not too formulaic or general. Updating anymore than that will often lead to poorer quality and writing for the sake of it – something that Google will punish.
In the end, one rule stands over all: quality over quantity. We have now reached the stage where we shouldn’t really be uploading anything that you wouldn’t read in print. If it’s not helpful, entertaining or informative, then it should forever be banished to the land of useless objects, where it will hopefully find it’s home alongside Paris Hilton, wallet chains that have no wallets and that little plastic container of red dust you always get with a takeaway curry.
To find out more about how search engine optimisation can improve your profits, give Zazzle Media a call now on 01778 382713
We hope you enjoyed reading this blog, it was written by Simon Penson, Founder and Managing Director of Zazzle Media.