Taming the Panda: Using Visitor Value to Climb Google

Sarah McInerney

Head of Content

Sarah has almost three decades of experience in crafting compelling, engaging content specifically designed to boost sales and enhance brand loyalty. She’s also an expert in developing unique tone of voice that helps brands connect with their audiences. Her marketing and client service background has given Sarah a natural understanding of how to write content that makes readers take action. Whether it’s signing up to a mailing list, making an enquiry or donation or clicking the buy button, Sarah knows precisely how to convert with words. Pen down, Sarah is a proud member of the Essex Wildlife Trust and spends most of her free time enjoying inspiring walks through her local woodland and nature reserves, admiring everything that flaps, flutters and flowers.

When you’re searching for something online, it can get incredibly frustrating if every time you click on what looks like a useful result, you come face to face with totally irrelevant information, English that’s so bad it makes you wince, and a sales script that scrolls on for eternity. Or information that hasn’t been updated since the last Olympics. Oh, and a page of nothing but adverts, sprinkled between rows of words that don’t make a bit of sense when assembled into a sentence.

And it’s this bad visitor journey that’s behind Google’s latest update: Google Panda.

Google Panda is on the website visitor’s side. Google is determined to deliver good search results to those who are kind enough to be patrons of its service. Happy days for us surfers. But for website owners, it could have – and has had – devastating consequences.

Panda was rolled out in America in February of this year. And pretty much instantly, several very high profile organisations stood agape as their rankings took a dizzying nose dive. No one was immune; including the mighty Microsoft’s shopping comparison site Ciao – their ranking dropped by almost 94%. Even pillars of community like the British Medical Journal and Computer Weekly took a hit and ‘content farm’ sites like Ehow and Mahalo became victims of the cull.

For some sites though, the update paid dividends. News sites The Mirror and The Independent benefited greatly, as did eBay UK and This is Money.

So what’s it all about?

Google is penalising sites that contravene its strategy to make everyone search happy and backing sites that deliver visitor value. By demoting websites with copied content, copy that doesn’t deliver good value or information that’s irrelevant or out of date, Google aims to ensure its visitors get to see the best sites at the top of their search results. And we all know that if it’s not found by page two, it’s just not found. In fact, only 1% of searchers go beyond the second page.

So, your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to make your website content quality content. Content that people stick around to read, because that’s another factor Google uses in its ranking calculations.

Want to stay on the right side of the Panda? Some tips:

  • DON’T EVER copy content from anywhere else on the web. Apart from being illegal, it’s going to hurt your site, badly.
  • DO make sure your content is completely free from grammar and spelling mistakes. Not only can schoolboy errors lose you sales because readers lose trust in your integrity, professionalism points are also deducted for poor quality in communication.
  • RUN an ‘is it useful?’ check through your copy. If you can say ‘so what?’ after any sentence, ditch it.
  • KEEP your content up to date. Make sure your last blog or news post wasn’t more than a month ago. Have you noticed how Google orders its results in a ‘most recent’ chart? Old news is of no interest and some searchers refine their results so they only get the most up to date listings.
  • MAKE your site useful to visitors. It needs to be ‘sticky’ so people stay, recommend, and return. Make it a hub of useful info – add resources like guides and reports, a blog, case studies. Anything to inspire ongoing interest and recommendations.

Google Panda has hurt many websites, and it takes no prisoners. International plc or sole trader, if your website isn’t delivering visitor value, it’s going to become an endangered species.

Talk to us if you want to make your website Panda friendly. Quality content and sticky sites are what we do.

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