Google’s Panda Update: how to win the war with quality content

Guest Author, Derek Cromwell

I feel for those crippled, battered or left otherwise bruised by the big fat Panda.  There’s been a lot of discussion around the recent update Google applied and just as many cringes and cries from the world of online marketing and search optimization.

Those are cringes that occur every time Google makes an update worthy of a nickname – honestly it’s like we’re naming hurricanes… and every time Google sneezes we have to scramble to assess the damage that’s been done.

With previous updates, one of the most popular cries from the marketing community has been about article marketing – someone always raises the question as to whether or not traditional article marketing (submitting content to various article directories for the purpose of links and target traffic) is in fact dead.

As I’ve been reading through update after update it’s my opinion that this latest Panda update (or farmer update) was the nail in the coffin for article marketing.

Google was tired of that content mucking up the search results and finally did something about it.

A People Divided

Not all marketers are created equally, and from my conversations with various folks in the industry I’ve found people on both sides of the fence.  Some believed without a doubt that article marketing was the best way to gain quality links and traffic – others couldn’t fathom the concept of using articles to leverage a different website while crossing their fingers in hopes the traffic would funnel to them.

The newest update left a lot of site owners reeling because “obscure” websites were now claiming better spots in the search results… and many weren’t entirely certain how to combat the issue.  Produce better quality content and try different directories?  Do they push harder with link building?

Finding a Solution to Tame the Panda

An event to note is that I actually lost some rank for my own website for one of my targeted keywords during this update.  I typically sit in spot 2 or 3 for this keyword (depending on how much Google loves me that day).  With this Panda update, I lost rank to a blog post – originating in 2010 – that came out of “nowhere.”  In examining the page in question I realized it had one incoming link from Digg.  The post was informative, had upwards or 20+ comments (all dated from last year) and over 3k retweets.

This occurrence is a testament to the fact that the Panda update is doing exactly what Google intended.  It’s giving more relevancy not only to sites with original, quality content but it’s using social sharing and social proof as a ranking factor; proof in the fact that a dated blog post (and a well written one at that) beat out one of my magnificently written landing pages that has lotsa link love.

The Alternatives to Off Site Content Marketing

There are plenty whom have relied on off-site content marketing and article distribution to keep the profit wheels turning; some for personal gain, others for clients.  That simply won’t work anymore – and if it does you won’t get near the same results.

Google wants your website to be in the top of the search results – not article directories – so it’s time to give up the old strategy and give Google what it wants.

  • Use your Blog – If you’re not leveraging your blog it’s time to start.  That regular content will become high ranking landing pages thanks to this Panda update.  You finally have a chance to make your posts appear higher in the SERPs.
  • Optimize your Blog – Make sure you’re using keywords appropriately within your titles, descriptions and within the body of your content (just make sure it flows naturally).
  • Revisit your Site Content – Go over your content and landing pages – are there ways you can improve the content to maintain relevancy post-Panda?  Is it time to beef up your content to stand apart from the competitors?  Think benefit statements and useful intel.  If you did lose some rank then aiming to improving conversions is more important than ever.
  • Post a Media Section - Leveraging the power of press releases for marketing?  Make sure you maintain a press section on your site to share your media releases.
  • Guest Post - Offer content to people within your network or market. Invite them to do the same.  For a time-strapped person (all of us, right?) guest posts keep the content flowing on your site.

Playing it Big – Create Your Own On-site Article Directory

This is what I recommend above all else and this type of content should be separate from your blog.  Create your own resource section – why should someone else or some article directory be the authority?  A perfect example of a company that dominates with onsite directories is Service Magic.  Start plugging in searches for contractors, painters and other home improvement info and they’ll likely pop up.  They have massive on-site articles and resources.

If you’re a writer or a marketer, think about all the services you offer and what you know about your biz.  You could likely populate a wiki or article directory easily with what you know.  The same could be said for your clients.

Add to that the fact that you can drive traffic to your content and share it with a variety of social plugins on your site and you’re reinforcing that content with social proof.   Just as it was (and still is) with your link profile – it’s always a popularity contest with Google.

Your website is there for a reason – it’s time to give your target audience a reason to visit and stay.

Derek Cromwell is a graduate of the SEO Copywriting Certification program and founder of Thunder Bay Media.  He provides optimized content development and website copywriting to anyone willing to pay for his kids’ college education and game addictions.