On May 20th, Google announced a major update to its existing Panda organic search algorithm, called Panda 4.0. The Panda algorithm was first announced in February 2011. To date, Google has confirmed 25 updates to the algorithm. Panda’s goal centers around user experience: promoting the ranking of quality content in the search engine results pages (SERPs), while lowering the ranking of pages with poor content. While typical Panda updates tend to have small effects on rankings, Search Engine Land suggested that this update might be more major than just a data refresh, pointing to recent changes in web traffic for sites like eBay. Since the release of Panda 4.0, eBay has lost more than two-thirds of [its] ranking real-estate. And eBay isn’t the only loser (see winners and losers here). All brands should monitor organic traffic shifts over the next few weeks in order to visualize Panda 4.0’s impact. BEST PRACTICES in the PANDA ERA The Panda Era (i.e. the era of quality content in organic search) is certainly here to stay. For many organic search marketers, winning in the Panda Era requires a significant change in mindset—from SEO to Performance Content. Organic search marketers should now focus on (1) quality content and (2) organic measurement. Performance Content At Performics, Panda hasn’t adversely impacted our clients because our primary focus in organic search is creating and optimizing quality content. Gone are the days when SEOs could optimize poor content to rank highly in organic results. SEO has given way to Performance Content—the art and science of creating engaging and useful experiences that, in turn, are awarded high organic rankings because they’re helpful to users. In the Panda Era, every optimization must be executed with user experience in mind. If your brand has website content that isn’t valuable to users, it’s time to eliminate that content and create and optimize better experiences. It’s simple: Google’s algorithm now favors content that Google’s users favor. This fosters huge opportunities for brands to steal rankings by creating better content than their competition. Organic Measurement As Google continually tweaks its algorithm, it’s also important for organic search marketers to measure in order to protect against volatility—a back-up plan. Brands must be immediately aware if algorithm changes decimate their rankings, as this could significantly impact sales or lead volume. At Performics, we follow the below best practices for measuring changes in organic performance due to algorithm updates:
- Utilize a system for measuring clicks, on-site metrics and organic positions as algorithm changes can unexpectedly alter the landscape. This can include web analytics or SEO platforms, like BrightEdge.
- Automate in order to react to organic volatility in real-time. For instance, at Performics, we use a proprietary keyword-monitoring app that sends alerts to our account teams when rankings change, called Benchtools.
- React quickly. For instance, you may want to boost paid search rankings in the short-term to compensate for organic traffic/leads/sales loss due to organic algorithm changes. This will help maintain traffic levels while you focus on optimizing your organic experiences to regain rankings. To do this, it’s critical to integrate paid and organic campaigns and measure them holistically. Focus on overall (paid + organic) performance, rather than individual channel performance.
Algorithm updates like Panda 4.0 can be stressful for brands, as brands sometimes feel as if they’ve lost control of their organic search campaigns. However, brands can ensure that they always remain in control by focusing on quality content, which Google’s algorithm will always like. Additionally, you should have measurement plans in place to ensure that you can quickly react if you’re penalized for poor content. For more information on Google’s Panda 4.0 update, please contact your Performics Account Team today.