What does the term ‘Panda algorithm’ mean to you? Well, if it makes you feel queasy and causes the hairs on the back of your neck to stand on end, then you’ve either been hit by Google’s algorithm changes and seen your websites’ search engine rankings plummet, or you’ve been hanging with the black hat brigade. On the other hand, your search rankings may have gone through the roof since the update, so I guess you’d see the Panda update as the best thing since sliced bread. Each to their own as they say: you can’t please all the all of the time. Whatever your feelings, Google’s Panda algorithm changes have transformed the science of search engine optimisation. Of that there can be no doubt. Content matters now, not the number of links you’ve managed to acquire, whether by fair means or fowl. The question is has Panda changed the face of search forever, or will things eventually revert to type?
The first thing to say is that the term ‘algorithm’ is a little misleading: it implies some sort of direct human hand and interaction in the process. That clearly is no longer the case. Panda is now underpinned by ‘machine learning’, in other words, using computers to recognise patterns that cluster similar things together. Panda is able to recognise what it believes to be good search terms, and by default also spot what it considers to poor search terms.
But how, you may wonder, can a computer manage to do that? Have computers become so sophisticated that they can now differentiate between such vague concepts as ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Well, not quite, but it probably won’t be long. This is where the indirect human element plays its part. Google employs search quality raters to sift the good from the bad and the ugly. These ratings then become the data set, or gold standard: the computer then crawls the web looking for these signals and clusters. Don’t forget, this new machine learning factor comes on top of all of Google’s previous tweaks that are aimed at increasing quality and improving content.
So, will this change the face of seo for ever? In short, yes it will. Any website that’s been trying to subvert Panda by backtracking and cutting out all the triggers it thinks might affect its ranking, is essentially backing a loser. Google’s wised up and won’t change course. So if you’ve spent your money on spammy links or farmed articles offshore to content farms, you might as well surrender now. If you didn’t already have enough to worry about, don’t forget either that Panda 2 is on the way, just to put the icing on the cake.
You may sadly have been one of those poor unfortunates whose site got slammed for no apparent reason: your content may have been unique and top notch, but Panda flagged it up. It’s a real shame for them. They are in a sense just collateral damage in the war against spam and have suffered unfairly, but that’s now history. Google won’t backtrack, even though it is aware that Panda isn’t by any means the finished article. It will simply keep tweaking until it eventually gets it right.
In the meantime, what’s the best practise for the rest of us? The answer is to write your content for your customers, not the search engines. Good quality, unique content stands out. The best seo is now all about providing the best content for searchers to find. If you do this and optimise for content, then Google will leave you alone and maybe even give you a helping hand up the ranking ladder.