Site owners and internet marketers that rely on high rankings on Google results pages for traffic and revenue must devote more of their resources to producing quality content, generating quality links, and creating a quality user-experience. Why?
On February 23, 2011, Google’s “Panda” algorithm update sent shockwaves across the ‘net, affecting 1 in every 8 US searches. Though many sites and site owners’ revenues initially escaped unscathed, the message from Google is clear: quality trumps quantity. While this has always been true, until Google’s latest search tweak, a herd of “scrapers” sites, “link farms,” “content farms,” and dealers of derivative, duplicate content had succeeded in penetrating the search engine’s highest ranks with their insidious mediocrity (ex: Suite 101).
Google is taking aim at those who don’t play fair, but it’s also raised the bar for what constitutes quality—a measure that will effect even “honest” sites who simply can’t cut the quality mustard. To protect your future profitability, you’ll need to “Panda” proof your website by getting uber-intense about your quality focus and developing a an understanding of the principles outlined below.
The Metric To Live And Die By: Bounce
Google uses surfer feedback to rate your website’s quality—complementary metrics like “number of pageviews” and “time on site” are open to interpretation depending on context, but “bounce rate” sends clear signals to Google about your quality. For example, while “time on site” may attest to the relevance of blog content, it could indicate a confusing navigation and outdated search logic on an E-commerce site.
Yet, high bounce rate always tells the same surfer story—”no way, I’m outta here, you suck.” The bounce response to your website indicates a lack of something essential to a quality session—relevance, credibility, easy navigation. That’s why Google uses bounce to judge your site’s ability to engage, and engagement to judge your level of quality. Hence, bounce is strongly correlated to quality. Hence, bounce should be your number one concern.
Relevance used to mean connecting a search phrase to a chunk of content optimized with the same keyword (and slight variations) and to a particular density. Today relevance means looking beyond the literal meaning of search phrases to understand a searcher’s intent, anticipate their needs, and meet all of those needs with useful information.
Useful content meets needs by answering questions, providing clarification, supplying instruction, etc. If you provide relevance, then you’re also providing usefulness.
Useful content is deep, presenting ideas that provoke thought, information that is detailed; deep content provides layers of links to additional, supplementary knowledge. Usefulness and depth go hand in hand.
The Real Currency: Thought Leadership
Unique content is original, meaning that the text is not copied or stolen from someone else. But unique content also means that ideas presented are your own–not a regurgitation of someone’s else’s analysis, made “yours” with generous application of synonyms.
Unique content is most unique when it references information from primary sources, and serves as a primary source link for other relevant content. Thought leadership is the real web currency.
Quality inbound links source from optimized or semantically related link text. The link text must be anchored in quality content from reputable, high PageRank sites.
Outbound links that mass muster provide useful, relevant, supplementary information to primary source content. Quality plus quantity is ideal, and quality without quantity is an acceptable foundation, but quantity without quality will destroy you.
Pander To the User
High-end design with frequent facelifts is a reality all website owners must embrace when trying to maintain top-tier credibility. Logical organization, easy navigation, and powerful search technology contribute to usability. Where applicable, social proof such as testimonials, customer ratings,certifications, and safety indicators like privacy policies, affiliations, and certifications increase trust and are indispensable. Interaction through commenting and rating features, social media and sharing integration are essential. A reasonable balance between advertising and actual content must be carefully analyzed to eliminate spammy and intrusive interfaces.
Contact our Interactive Marketing team so we can put these “Panda” principles into practice for you, protecting your future profitability.