The first day of the SMX New York saw an interesting and informative session on surviving tips post the Panda update. The participants of the session were:
Moderator: Matt McGee, Executive News Editor, Search Engine Land
Q&A Moderator: Chris Silver Smith, Director of Optimization Strategies, KeyRelevance
- Alan Bleiweiss, Director of Search Services, Click2Rank Consulting
- Micah Fisher-Kirshner, Senior SEO Manager, Become, Inc
- Mark Munroe, Senior Director, SEO, Everyday Health
Everyday Health's Mark Munroe took the stage first. He began with recalling the doomsday- February 24th when the Panda hit. He said that the sites that had managed to remain unaffected by the Panda must be on their watch as they can be hit anytime. He further threw light on the types of sites that were hit-
- Content explosion sites
- Thin content sites
- Heavy content aggregation sites
But the sad part here is the quality sites were hit too. Panda is the most important update since PageRank and link reputation.
How the Panda changed Google Search?
Mark said that in the Pre-panda Google, the search relevancy was defined by content and links (anchor text). As an SEO, one could get good results by creating new content and new pages, regardless of its relevance to users. They managed to get some conversions and clicks.
But post the panda, the scenario has changed. Now SERPs are modified based on site’s whole quality. This quality is determined by Google on the basis of how users are interacting with your site in the SERP. Now site owners may wonder what the users can do apart from blocking them straight from the search results. But there is more, and Google knows it.
Google Knows It All
The crux here is user experience. Google knows much more about the SERP user experience of a site than its SEO. As an SEO, one knows about conversions, bounce rates, 2 page visits, 3 page visits. But not more. Infact an SEO knows very less about a user's SERP experience with his site.
As Mark said, “Google knows more about the user experience of an SEO visit to your site than you do!” If user goes to one site but dissatisfied with the site hits the back button to go on searching, Google makes a note of it. It measures behavioral actions, that is based on extensive data collection.
What Does Google Want You To Do?
Google wants a better user experience. It cares about the customers and their pages. You need to improve the SERP experience to recover from the Panda. For the same address the pages that drive traffic.
Other steps recommended by Mark are:
- Survey your users, those who represent your overall traffic.
- Do usability testing starting on the SERP, by using keywords that drive the traffic. Try to work out what are people looking for in your site.
- Find out if the users trust your site.
- Drop the non performing keywords or the content.
- Use spam filters for comment and user generated content.
- Content should be very focused on the title.
- Link freely to relevant content (to direct user to the right content)
- Avoid irritating the users with too many ads.
- Site up time and performance must be top notch
- Optimize your site for mobile browsing.
- Analyze bounce rates on the metrics of 15 sec, 30 seconds and 1 minute bounce rates.
The floor then went to Alan Bleiweiss, Director of Search Services, Click2Rank Consulting. He spoke on the tips to make sure that a site is not hit in the next update. He brought to light two types of SEO- Myopic SEO – This SEO form focuses only on Google based magic bullet methods.
- Topical cross contamination
- Text anorexia
- Internal link poisoning
- Unnatural anchor text
Sustainable SEO – This SEO form works on the basis of user experience as seen through the eyes of search bots and algorithms. Sustainable SEO helps you achieve long term success and survive the Panda.
- Consistent signals on topical focus?
- Does this confirm or confuse focus?
- Does this page overwhelm the senses?
- Have to help Google better understand your sites
- Off-site diversity (links, social..)
- A stronger inbound link to root ratio- more sites sending fewer links to your site
- More visits from other search engines
It is possible to recover from Panda, you just have to be willing to make changes and focus your content. He then gave the specifics of a page with sustainable SEO-
- Section specific sub-navigation
- Micro-data bread crumbs
- High quality topic focused unique content
- Main area content
The idea is to understand your site and work on keywords that have close link-to-root ratio. He assured that if you do sustainable SEO well, you’ll find traffic coming from sites besides Google (20% to 40%).
He then went on to Bing and said that it finds it difficult to find content on their own so you submit a sitemap file to Bing webmaster tools. The next tip was that Bing prefers diversity of anchor text and also displays social results prominently.
So, what will be future SEO trends? Alan specified that you will need to go social big time. Also you will need to provide more diversity of deep information regarding-events, products, locations, people profiles. All this will be ranking factor in 2012. Also he believes that schema.org will be a ranking factor. With the idea to tell the search engines what you are about.
Micah Fisher-Kirshner, Senior SEO Manager, Become, Inc took the stage next. His focus was on – How to deal with Panda updates? For the same, he put forward a list of questions that the webmasters needed to answer. The list of 11 questions were designed to create steps and processes for figuring out what is happening, in the case of an algorithm update. Before you decide how to respond, you must turn to see what authority figures with more experience are doing. Remember that not eery traffic drop is from an algorithm update. There can be other reasons too, that you need to investigate.
The list of his questions and thought process following it are-
- Is the data fully in? (gather the pieces, learn the details of the damage with hourly analytics )
- Who else is affected? (look around and communicate with the others
- Algorithm update rumors? (has there really been an update?)
- What was recently launched? (can you rollback some changes that you made on your site?
- What areas are affected? (work on them)
- Did anything break? (your back-end functions may have slipped somewhere)
- Who’s talking? (learn all you can if an algorithm update is confirmed, learn from authoritative sources)
- What sites dropping? (are you the only one? Those not affected- study them)
- What are the theories? (understand what the search engine is trying to address-find the problem and work on what to fix on your site )
- What theories fit? (learn and analyze-why this happened)
- What can we do to recover? (what does a search engine want from you? Look at coding clues and do testing)
Micah believes that to stay informed and have a multidirectional approach to the problem will help you recover faster. The session ended here and went on to Q and A. PageTraffic Buzz has more session coverage coming up. Stay tuned.