August 10th – August 16th, 2015
Google started to roll out a refresh of its Panda filter on the 18th of July. For “technical reasons” Google chose to roll out this update very slowly, and warn that it will take months to complete. The fact that rankings are relative means that no one will get a definitive view of their changing positions until the rollout has completed. A month after the implementation began we should be getting some feedback from the SEO community about the effects of Panda 4.2. However, the SEO news sites are silent on the topic. This week’s SEO Trends examines advice on Content coming out of the SEO news sites, in order to seek buried news on Panda. Have the new rules of Panda been completely ignored, or are the SEOs integrating their knowledge of the new normal into their advice on content marketing? Search Engine Journal, the Moz Blog and Search Engine Roundtable have all been scanned this week in the SEO Trends search for Panda.
Moz makes a living by selling SEO tools, so the company has to keep on top of changes in Google’s ranking methodology. You may have played around with the free tools Moz offers when analyzing your law firm’s site. This week, the company produced its survey of ranking factors, as rated by SEO experts. They don’t mention Panda at all. However, Panda examines the quality of content and those issues are covered across a number of Moz’s site characteristic categories. Most experts seem to think that linking issues are increasing in importance, above those of content. The follow up article on the Search Engine Ranking Factors survey slices the data on a different plane, but doesn’t offer any more Panda-specific advice.
Search Engine Roundtable’s Barry Schwartz makes it his life’s work to track changes in Google’s algorithm. In this article he communicates information emerging from Google about the treatment of dead links. This is an odd one. Google is supposed to rate sites on the quality of the experience that visitors receive from a site. The 404 error message is the screen your browser shows when it gets a response from a Web server that the requested page does not exist. That means the user followed a dead link into a site, which is surely a bad user experience. Google’s Gary Illyes says that 404s do not influence the Panda score of a site. Schwartz explains that one SEO method to remedy Panda-downranked pages is to just delete them, ridding the site of their rank-losing poison. It seems that is a good strategy you could use for clunkers on your law firm’s site.
Google is up to something. Their staff seem to be giving misleading answers on the factors that influence ranking. It could be that they are being “clinically honest,” which is a tactic most lawyers would understand. The headline of this article states that user actions on websites do not influence ranking factors. However, the Google insider was specifically asked about users filling in forms on sites. He said Google’s Web crawlers can’t track such actions. However, the comments section of this article is more useful than the article. It is true that Google Panda rankings are not derived from monitoring the movements of visitors to a page. However, “bounce rate,” which is the time a visitor spends on a site is a factor. Panda assesses design quality of pages and computes attributes by analyzing its text and layout.
Wikipedia seems to have suffered a recent across-the-board loss in rankings. Could this be Panda 4.2 at work? The author doesn’t explore that possibility. Google has so many different algorithms and filters now that it is difficult to detect the effects of just one of them. However, given that Panda 4.2 focuses on content, and that Wikipedia is all about content, then there is a strong possibility that the bamboo eater had a hand in Wikipedia’s turmoil.
Informational pages on your law firm’s website will be the most likely targets of the latest Panda rollout.
Eric Van Buskirk explores why some sites get hit for content, while others seem to rank highly for almost identical content. He recounts the damage done to the eHow site by changes in Google’s algorithms. He attributes eHow’s failure to the introduction of the Hummingbird filter, but in fact, it was Panda that killed eHow. Many claim that Panda was originally designed specifically to hit eHow, which used to consistently fill up the first page of Google’s results. It is interesting that Wikipedia, which now occupies positions previously held by eHow, just got hit. It seems that 4.2 was aimed at Wikipedia the way that the original Panda was aimed at eHow. Writing articles on Wikipedia and citing your own site’s pages is an excellent source of link juice into your law firm’s website. It is a recommendation given before on SEO Trends, and it is a factor that this study by Van Buskirk includes. Follow the examples in this article and apply them to the informational pages on your law firm’s website to see if Panda damaged your rankings as it passed by your site.