Google has recently rolled out a series of new updates know as Panda. The Panda ranking factor is a filter created to weed out low-quality pages. Even if your pages are filled with unique, genuine content, they can be hit by Panda and drop in the rankings. It's important to note that even if you have a great site overall, a large number of low-quality pages that get caught in this new filter could drag down the rankings of your entire site. Unique content, written with SEO principles in mind, may not be enough anymore! Is the content on your site good enough that people want to share it? Or, compared to other sites in your niche, do your visitor engagement metrics indicate that people are engaging with the site better than others?
Since Panda relies on machine learning, and requires a lot of computing power, it is not running all the time. Instead, it has run approximately every 4-7 weeks since the first update. So if you believe that your site has been impacted by Panda, it may take several weeks before you have an opportunity to recover.
All aspects of website: design, user interface, visitor engagement metrics, social sharing, links, etc. now must be considered for SEO (or even more so now). Where it's possible, one must ask if a site is competitive within it's niche. Does your site's visitors spend a lot of time on your site? Do they share pages with friends on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.? Do people share and link your videos, photos, blog posts, or other pieces of content?
Cookie-cutter, boiler-plate approaches to site design and SEO won't be enough anymore, especially in competitive niches. The Panda ranking factor or update will force us to look more closely at how well a site is engaging it's visitors. I welcome the change that this potential paradigm shift presents us for search marketing, because it will likely reward those who look at the big picture and consider what their customers/website visitors, and their level of engagement as the most important metric.
To learn more about the Google Panda update check out:
Search Engine Land: Why the Google Panda is a Ranking Factor than a Algorithm Update
SEOMoz: How Google's Panda Update Changed SEO Best Practices Forever - Whiteboard Friday
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