‘Google is rolling out our Panda 4.0 update starting today,’ tweeted Matt Cutts, head of the webspam team at Google on 21 May, sparking a fresh debate within the PR and comms community on the Webmasters’ ability to regulate search rankings.
But looking back now, a little over a month since the algorithm was updated, it is safe to conclude that Panda 4.0 continues to do what it was set up for in 2011 when it first rolled out – removing low quality or in Google’s words “thin” content that manipulate page ranks, in order to allow natural or organic growth within its system.
What’s all the fuss around the update then? Simply put, it’s a refresh of Google’s terms, a strict reminder to websites that have disregarded its earlier guidelines on the consequences they can face if they continue to produce spammy content in a bid to rank high on Google (some sites in this instance have already seen a 60-85% drop in SEO visibility).
Interestingly, despite several small changes to the search algorithm made over the past three years, the latest update released in May, showed Google’s so called “softer side” giving less authoritative websites and small, local businesses a chance to climb up the ranks in reward for producing quality content.
Cision’s own press release distribution service is perhaps a good example of how simply adhering to Google’s links and keyword policies, can mean business-as-usual, allowing marketers to benefit from press release distribution, as it is intended to be.
As Google continues to refine search results, a requirement for improved content quality is increasingly being felt online. Revisiting the fundamentals of press release writing and content curation is undoubtedly the direction most marketers are heading, until the next update is released of course.
Follow the five steps to ensure you are Google Panda 4.0-friendly:
1. Assess the length of the content you publish: Google views short posts as unsubstantial messages that are only used for links. Keep your content original and consider trying to reach a target of approximately 500-600 words.
2. Overuse of keywords within the message: Focus on the topic instead of an exact set of keywords. It’s no use trying to improve your site rankings with your press releases, instead, focus on communicating information that is useful to your target audience.
3. Keywords in backlinks (links pointing back to your site): It is advisable, and recommended by Google, to use the “no-follow” attribute on links included in your press release. This would prevent your site from being associated with artificial site promotion in search results, a method strongly discouraged by Google.
4. Quality content = higher traffic: Every post published, every press release distributed should include content that is informative, educational and when possible, entertaining. Strive to solve a problem, address a query or simply arouse reader’s intrigue and traffic to the site will follow, organically.
5. Choose your partners wisely: Focus on press release sites (like Cision!) that are credible, trustworthy, providing a relevant platform to help you reach your target audience. However, this can be achieved only after you do your part in creating quality content.
Flavius Cerbu, Cision’s in-house SEO and web analytics expert, contributed to this post