There has been growing speculation of another Google Panda update in recent weeks after some sites have reported ranking fluctuations. Google haven’t announced anything official, but ranking fluctuations of this type points towards a Panda update and we are very interested in what this could mean for businesses and their marketing.

But what is Panda?

Google first announced the Panda update back in February 2011, after around 12% of searches had been affected by the algorithm. Originally, Panda was updated by Google on a monthly basis, however, in March 2013, Google added Panda’s core functionality to their main search algorithm.

The original Panda update was designed to tackle the following 3 main issues for Google:

  • For the search algorithm to be able to identify what factors make a ‘good’ page and what makes a ‘bad’ page in terms of both user experience and usefulness
  • To be able to determine what this looked like throughout a website and decide which sites were ‘good’ and ‘bad’
  • To stop sites with ‘bad’ factors from ranking high in the Google search results

With the latest ranking fluctuations, it seems that Google is tweaking the Panda algorithm in a finer manner than before, making certain ranking factors more or less important than before.

What does this tell us?

Previous updates have been purely about penalisation, where as it appears that this one is more about quality assessment, where the ultimate aim of the update is to encourage businesses to improve the quality of the content on their site.

‘How-to’ sites and directories such as have seen losses in rankings. This gives us some insight into who the update will affect, these types of sites have large amounts of unrelated, thin content. ‘How-to’ sites that cover a small number of topics in greater levels of detail are actually reporting increases in rankings…

On the back of this knowledge, it appears that the new Panda update aims to:

  • Attribute more ranking power to detailed content
  • Attribute more ranking power to universally relevant content

So What? How does this affect my business?

We’ve identified that the Panda update is set to concentrate on content quality, sharpening how Google identifies what is good and bad content. But what does this mean for your businesses marketing function and how can you improve search visibility?

Any business that truly wants to succeed online will already have a content strategy in place due to the effects of the original Panda update back in February 2011. Savvy marketers will have either learnt from or read up on the original Panda update and adapted their content marketing strategy accordingly.

That being said, the new update once again highlights the importance of having content that is valuable to your target market, being useful, relevant, detailed and engaging. Its the perfect time for marketers to invest in producing really good content.

There are two actions that you can start taking today as a marketer within your business:

  • When creating new content, focus on making it relevant, valuable and engaging to your target audience
  • Revisit older content and spend time improving its value to your target audience too

Producing new content:

The main focus when creating new content should be on making it highly detailed around the topic in question, with appreciation for how relevant the content is in terms of brand values, the existing tone on your website and overall message that is being conveyed by your digital marketing platforms.

We use a very specific process for creating killer content:

  1. Identify your target audience. If you know who your are trying to reach with your content, this will enable you to produce content that is relevant, interesting and most importantly, useful to this group of people. Create an audience persona. Gather information about your target audience and make personas of the typical people that will read your content and buy your products.
  2. Determine the stories you want to share with your audience. This may include unique selling points, your company's journey, how your brand and products differ from competitors and even why your customers choose you.

  3. Identify topics that are relevant to your brand, that your target audience will find interesting. This could be industry news, advances in technology, feel good stories or even extended benefits of your product/service that many people will be unaware of.

After you have decided on what content you want to put across to your target audience, it is vital that you put a strategy into place for the creation and promotion of that content. Use online tools to help you with the process. Tools such as Buzzstream, Topsy and Followerwonk can be used to identify people, websites and other influencers who may be interested in your content.

Adapting old content:

Older content can still be highly relevant to your target audience, if there is a hot topic that you have previously covered, revisit it. Work on making it highly detailed and in depth, whilst ensuring that it is in line with your sites voice and brand values. Remember, we shouldn’t be creating content for Google’s benefit, everything we do as marketers should hold the target audience at the forefront.

Some areas that you may look into revising with regards to existing content includes:

Length - Google prefers a maximum of 200 words where possible. Search for similar content to your own, that is ranking well in Google and take into consideration how long it is, and look at making yours a similar length.

Use a variety of rich media - Are you using relevant images, video and audio which is optimised?

Detail - Is your page at a sufficient level of detail that your audience will find it useful?

Reviewing existing content may lead to short term ranking losses, but in the long term your business will benefit due to the higher quality content, which itself leads to improved rankings. By investing the time into creating content that is of a higher quality, you’ll improve the experience for your users which in turn improves your brand’s reputation and conversion rates.

If the content is no longer relevant, do not remove it. Instead, place a link on the page to newer content that your audience will find more relevant or useful.

Examples of great content

Its far easier to talk about “great content” than it is to actually execute it. But what exactly does “great content” really mean? Great online content underpins digital marketing success. Whether you’re online strategy revolves around gaining links, improving rankings or even building brand awareness and online presence, a strong online content strategy can be fundamental in helping you achieve these and more.

Below are examples of what ‘great content’ looks like

Akita Cloud

Akita recently launched a great content piece called the Cloud Business Guide, a helpful hub, which is an extension to their main website. It contains guides for email, accounting, project management, storage and security cloud solutions that businesses can use to make processes more efficient.

But what makes the Cloud Business Guide a good piece of content creation?

They’ve got content on the guide that is written by companies that are experts in the various cloud computing fields. This means that the content on the hub has been endorsed by professionals and is therefore highly relevant and accurate.

There are comments sections below each of the cloud articles, meaning that the readers and users of the hub are able to ask questions and give feedback, allowing Akita to interact with their audience.

Cloud solutions is a quickly growing topic of interest in the world of business and IT at the minute, so Akita have been clever in selecting this as the topic for a piece of content. The images are all relevant to cloud computing and the text includes highly detailed information around topics such as the costs, speeds, technologies, support and the conveniences of cloud solutions, the content is also relevant to their website and Akita as a business.

Theoretically speaking, this content ticks all the boxes regarding content that the Panda update is trying to encourage and should have brought about some ranking improvements.

Vanish Tip Exchange

Another good example of content is the Vanish Tip Exchange, an area within the main Vanish website, where users can submit tips for their personal experiences as well as ask queries on how to remove stains.

Content is generated by the user and contains both images and text which is relevant to the content already on the website. The content is highly relevant to the target audience and receives good user engagement via comments and ‘Tip likes’ as a result.

Perhaps the greatest thing about the Tip Exchange is that it is effectively a glorified testimonial platform. Reviews and testimonials is an area of content that is becoming more and more important because they increase a user’s trust in a website. This is likely to be one of the factors that the Panda update will recognise as ‘good’ and will therefore attribute more ranking power towards it.

New tips and queries are being posted on a daily basis, this means that the platform will be continuously providing strong content to the website. I mentioned earlier, Google has recognised that digital marketers and SEO’s don’t have long term marketing strategies, generally speaking. This is what makes the Tip Exchange precisely the type of content that Google is encouraging SEO’s and marketers to produce.

The Train Line Michelin Star Restaurants

The Train Line’s Michelin star restaurant guide is a very clever piece of content marketing. It’s very simple, yet extremely effective in both to Google and most importantly, to users.

The Train Lines brand is all about getting more for your money with train tickets, whilst saving you time with the ability to buy online. This guide is about encouraging cheap days out. There is an integrated ‘buy tickets now’ button at the bottom of the guide, allowing users to buy a ticket to the restaurant of their choice, making the Michelin star restaurant guide perfectly placed within The Train Lines tone and branding.

There is a link on the guide, to a another page on their site, which contains a table detailing each restaurants name, address, town, county, number of stars, phone number and a link to their website. The Google Panda update should attribute more ranking power to the Train Line’s website from this piece of content as it ticks all the boxes which have been mentioned throughout the article: it is highly detailed, relevant to the existing content on their site, useful to the target audience, contains an integrated Google maps API and uses image and text both of which are optimised.


By James Taylor, Digital Marketing Executive at Impression Digital.

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