Panda Update Wreaks Havoc on Search Results — or Not

There’s nothing like the announcement of an update to Google’s search algorithm to strike fear into the hearts of webmasters and SEO consultants. So it was (again) last week when the 800-lb. gorilla of search engines rolled out Panda 4.0 as part of its ongoing effort to weed out low-quality websites.

For some websites, the effect was intense and devastating. According to Marcus Tober of Searchmetrics, several major sites lost huge amounts of search traffic, including ask.com and examiner.com, both which dropped 50%.

So what’s the owner of an aesthetic practice with a website touting a handful of procedures and products to do?

In a word, relax. While the recent update has hit some sites hard, it’s actually designed, in part, to help small businesses that provide quality content compete better against larger sites that may have more pages, links and other algorithm-attracting resources at their disposal.

The key words, of course, are quality content. While the update reportedly affects 7.5% of English-language searches, you can avoid what one SEO executive refers to as “Panda-geddon” by doing what you’ve (hopefully) been doing all along:

  • Provide quality content: Like previous Panda updates, the latest one targets “thin content,” Google’s term for generic, unoriginal content that provides little or no value to users. Share useful information and original insights that prompt people to stick around and better search results will follow.
  • Update frequently: Over time, the value of any content degrades as new information becomes available, other websites report on it and newer technologies (video, applets, etc.) attract users’ clicks. When it comes to search rankings, fresher is always better.
  • Avoid penalty-attracting tactics: The evolution of SEO is ongoing and once-favored techniques of improving search rank (backlinks, keywords, guest blogging) inevitably get adjusted, rarely for the better. Your webmaster or web marketing agency should be able to help you avoid getting bit.

Specific updates aside, the reality of SEO is that Google and its competitors are constantly tweaking their systems, SEOs constantly adjust their tactics accordingly, and search engines tweak them again when they believe people are trying to game the results.

Doctor Takeaway

Write for searchers not for search engines

Unless you think you can outwit the thousands of engineers on the Google payroll, the best way to score well in search results boils down to what it always has: Write for searchers not for search engines and the latter will provide the former with results that benefit all concerned.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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