Posts Tagged ‘Panda update


Content for the Sake of Content… or?

Content, content, content. Blah, blah, blah. That’s all you hear in SEO circles these days. Content content content content.

Well, then, let’s all just get us some of that! Lots and lots of it.

Um, okay, what if we wrote every damn thing we could think of when we launched the site two years ago? Now what? Just make some stuff up? But that’s not likely to lead to quality content, which is the where the trouble starts.

Say I’m an entertainment news site. No problem! Content just sort of oozes up out of the ground around us. How about a site selling seasonal stuff? Great! Just pick a holiday and roll with it. But just imagine for moment that your site is more like a yellow pages ad, three pages and a contact form. Maybe you’re a roofing company in an area with lots of competition. You want to—you really need to—show up at the top of the local search for “roofers.”

Is content the right tactic?

And if it is, just what the hell are you supposed to write about?

Let’s break it down.

Sites that absolutely need to worry about a continuous stream of high-quality content:

  • Wide-market websites in competitive topic spaces (non-geographical retailers, b-to-b businesses, or sites that are advertising-supported like recipe sites, magazines, or comparison shopping)
  • Sites in rapidly evolving topic spaces (news sites, product review sites, entertainment sites)
  • Sites in high-energy topic spaces (culture sites, fashion sites, music sites, porn sites)

Sites that maybe could benefit from a regular injection of quality content:

  • Informational sites (how-to sites, encyclopedic sites, data collections, historical sites, public domain arts & literature sites)
  • Non-profit membership-supported sites (clubs and organizations, large extended family groups, cause-related sites, political sites)
  • Sites based on repeat consumers of the same content (online games sites)

Sites that probably don’t need to worry about content once they’re up (although adding quality content can never hurt)

  • Local-only sites (restaurants, shops, professional service providers, health & medical services providers, legal service providers, personal services providers)
  • Single topic sites (individual person in-memorium sites, single-issue awareness sites, sites dedicated to permanent locations like historic architecture or unique geographic areas, specific item enthusiast sites like for a single model of classic automobile)
  • Sites not particularly concerned about search traffic (small family sites, advertising landing page sites, intranet-type sites)

If you are one of the last group, but you still want to add content, and you need help thinking of ideas, here ya go. You’re welcome.

  • Solicit reviews and recommendations from your clients and customers. Use attractive images to fill space and try to make as many pages as is reasonable.
  • Post articles on different ways to use your products or services.
  • Keep a blog related to your topic space. Don’t stress about daily posting, just try to put something up 3 or 4 times a month.
  • Post videos of people using your products or talking about your services. Definitely post video of any television presence such as commercial spots, or news program mentions.
  • Post HTML versions of any print product materials or brochures.
  • Post any and all press releases.
  • Put up a “Something of the month” section.
  • Publish a “Related resources” section and add a resource or two every month.
  • Watch for any news related to your product or service and post a brief synopsis along with your personal reaction.

And one last note: Always make sure you maintain a clear and usable organization when you start regularly adding content. If spiders can’t find and sort it, it helps you not.


What Makes Content “Good”?

With the recent Panda Update, Google has stimulated a strategic shift among web professionals that we believe is long overdue. By claiming that their intention was to improve the quality of the internet by rewarding “quality” content, Google changed the overriding question facing the SEO from “how can we game the backlink system?” to “how can we generate a ton of quality content?” Which, we believe, makes for a much more interesting game.

With a tremendously interesting side-effect: the overall improvement of the internet.

That is, as long as SEOs continue to play this game the same way they’ve started. A quick unscientific  survey of Craigslist ads shows a measurable uptick in classified advertisements for website writers (31,500 in the last week compared to 2,800 for the same week a year earlier). Some of that can be attributed to the painfully slow economic recovery, of course, but if you don’t think there’s a connection to Panda, why do you think so many of the ads specifically use the word “content”?

Every SEO company we know has been actively pushing the new model of more content, but quality content.

Which really  begs the question: just what the hell makes content quality?

Here’s our quick checklist.

  • Does your web content have a clearly discernible point?
  • Is your content interesting, amusing, controversial, and/or useful?
  • Is your content written in a style accessible to the audience for which it is targeted?
  • Does your content use a reasonable facsimile of grammar and spelling?
  • Does your content make sense?
  • Is your content displayed in an organized manner, with appropriate headings, subheadings, bullet lists, images, and emphasized text?
  • Is your content unique to the page it’s on?
  • Does your content add anything to the overall value of the page? The website? The industry? The internet?

Okay, to be realistic, backlinks still count for a lot and probably will far into the foreseeable future. But if Google’s dominance holds sway—and they continue to call the shots—all the backlinks in the world won’t help you if your content sucks.


cthulhu is your special SEO friend

Remember Squidoo from a few Friday SEO Site of Weeks ago? Well, we were trolling the forums over there when a particular thread caught our attention. It was a plaintive cry for help from a person who was pretty new at all this. They had published some content awhile back, and had grown accustomed to a certain amount of Google search traffic. As a result of the recent “Panda” changes, much of their traffic went away.

I’m sure the poster is a very nice person. Definitely stressed, confused, and angry about losing all their traffic. Which I can relate to. But here’s the thing. We hear that sort of complaint every time Google changes anything. It usually goes something like:

How dare Google take away my traffic! This is an outrage! There should be laws protecting well-meaning web business people like me from these bullies! They should be forced to index my site and return my keyword ranks and traffic to the way they were!

Which is an attitude that has always rubbed us a particularly wrong way. Luckily, this response showed up, and it summed up our thinking pretty cleanly.

cthulhu wrote:

  1. Google does not owe you traffic. You get traffic from Google if Google thinks your site is the best result for some particular query. If you want traffic from Google, do your best to have the best site for search terms that get traffic.
  2. Doesn’t matter what flaws Google may have, they are still the main game. About 70% of all search traffic worldwide comes through Google. This is a fact of life. Perhaps a sad fact, perhaps a happy fact. But a fact nonetheless. You can either deal with it, or you can give up any hope of that traffic.
  3. If your web business model depends on search traffic to survive, it is a very shaky business model. Search traffic comes and search traffic goes. It’s nice when it’s there, but it is not reliable. Never has been. You need to develop other traffic sources if you want long-term success. In-bound links from sites that attract people who might be interested in your site also. Email campaigns. Content that is useful, funny, pretty, entertaining, exciting, interesting, cute, whatever enough that folks will show up no matter how they find you. If you make content that web users find attractive they will come. And you know what? If you do that, and people find your content useful in some way, odds are very good that the search engines will too.

We would also add this: Google is not, nor should it be, a public utility. It is a corporation, run for the benefit of its shareholders.

Okay, we’re not sure about all that business about depending on search traffic. After all, if you run a web business, you should definitely plan to draw a large percentage of your drop-in traffic from search. But the rest, we think, is true. Don’t put all your eggs in the search basket. If you start getting good Google traffic, don’t just sit back and relax. Don’t assume it will last past tomorrow.

And mainly, don’t blame Google. It’s their game, and if you wanna play, you have to acknowledge who’s dealing the cards.


Google Algorithm Panda Update [like/unlike]

So it’s official! The Google update known as Panda, aka the “High Quality Sites Update,” has adopted user feedback as one of its ranking elements. User feedback is nothing new to Google, of course. For years, they’ve routinely used click-through rates and bounce rates to score AdWord campaigns, and they’ve also been thought to include a page’s overall traffic history when deciding where it should rank for a given keyword. The difference is, now the Almighty Goog has introduced two new features that operate through proprietary interfaces to collect specific data on how users feel about websites. Information they will then use in the calculation of search results rank.

Users of Google Chrome have at their disposal a new feature, domain block and those folks who have signed up for a Google profile can lay down a +1.

Essentially, domain block lets users unhappy that a particular domain shows up for specific searches can apply a filter that removes the offending domain from all future similar searches. (Just for searches done on that same installation of Chrome, of course. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could block every instance of a domain from showing up for anybody? Which just a click? Awesome!)

Google Profile’s new +1, on the other hand, is sort of a clone of Facebook’s “like” button. If you are signed into your Profile account—and it’s set to “public”—you have the option of tagging a search result as one you are particularly fond of. All of your +1s are stored in a separate tab in your account, where you can share or hoard them to your heart’s content.  Which is all seems like a weird attempt to turn search into social. You’ll get little messages in your Gmail saying “Your GPal Betty +1’d the Hamburglar Fan Page! Do you +1 too?” and you will then feel compelled to dash over there and register your opinion which will then be broadcast to all your friends who will feel compelled….

Ah, but  of course there is another shoe. What is Google really after? One very likely point to this exercise involves the collection of data. Every domain block casts a black mark, every +1 gives you a gold star. Which, when added into the algo, provides a clear, voluntary user-provided vote on the quality of a site. (Which will go into the algo mix along with the other 200 or so elements, but I’m sure it will improve search results in some mysterious fashion.)

I like Google. I’ve been +1ing them since the day they sifted their first result. But this Panda/social/user-contributed stuff really falls flat. First, you’d think they were the first to try it, based on all the hoopla. You’d be wrong. A company named Alexa has been providing search results and data sets based on user feedback for many years.

Second, Google’s strategy severely limits participation. Problem with Alexa is, nobody gives a damn. Alexa results come from a toolbar that some folks get installed into their browser. It’s really a kind of sucky toolbar, and a fair percentage of the people who have it got it installed deceptively by some other program they downloaded and just aren’t clever enough to remove it. This limits their data to people who really aren’t very aware of their surroundings. Google limits participation to 1. people who use Chrome, and 2. people who use Profiles. As of now, that’s a pretty small slice of internet demographics.

The new Google domain block schema improves the Alexa model in that half of the Google user votes come from people who’ve installed the Chrome browser—and use it. Which, because Chrome is actually a pretty sweet browser, makes the user base a lot stronger and thus their opinions  more valuable. The vote cast is also completely voluntary. The +1 feature, however, has much less going for it. Because Facebook already rules that space, and because nobody wants to have their “favorites,” “likes,” “iHearts,” and “+1s” scattered all over the freakin’ web.

And last but definitely not least, this model is just as open to manipulation as all the others. As your SEO, I will now include a guaranteed 250 +1s with every contract. And if you sign today, I’ll throw in 200 competitor domain blocks, absolutely free!

Google Chrome

Google Profiles



Content Isn’t Everything….

….it’s the only thing.

I mean, really. With the launch of Google’s newest update (codename: “Panda”), that’s what all the SEOs are talking about. Content, they say, is now the most important site element!

Newsflash. Content has always been the most important site element. And always will be. What’s more, everybody has always known this. Remember “Content Is King”?

Then why all the buzz now? Simple. Almighty Google has declared that content is the new backlink. You gots to have it, if you wants to play. And not just any old content, either. According to the Goog, it’s got to be

  • Original
  • Useful
  • Substantial

Which all just another way of saying, “C’mon people, if you’re not making the internet better, you’re making it worse.”

Your content must be unique to your site. No more copy and paste, no more sitescraper bots, no more one article published to 500 different domains. There are some important exceptions (like using manufacturer’s descriptions in your product copy), but for the most part, if you didn’t write it or commission it exclusively, it ain’t original.

And why not? If you go to the trouble of putting information out there on the web for all the world to see, why shouldn’t it be in some way—any small way—worth somebody’s time. This doesn’t mean every word on every site has to be deeply significant. Just in some way useful. Informative. Provocative. Funny. Cute. Entertaining. Nasty. Instructional. SOMETHING.

All of this useful, original stuff also needs to be something more than twelve words and a pass-through. For text content, there really isn’t any sort of word target (despite what you hear from a few SEOs) but there should always be enough to make a complete point, or thought, or at least a full paragraph. Images can be substantial all by themselves, but the criteria is very subjective. Does an image standing alone in the center of a page accomplish anything? If not, well, maybe you should consider filling up the space around it with some meaningful commentary. Or something.

I guess the true upshot of all this is:

Nobody really knows what Google means by “original, useful, and substantial.” But they’ll damn sure know when it’s not there.