Google’s Panda update has rocked the SEO world. Rankings have fluctuated and very few people have been unaffected by the changes in Google’s search algorithm. The big question on everyone’s mind: what can I do to get on the wave and surf it to success? The answer may surprise you.
Make your site experience more enjoyable.
Google has always been big on the user experience. They have based their algorithms on improving the user’s experience of Google. With Panda, they are taking it to the next level and placing more emphasis on how much users enjoy the experience of the websites that are ranking.
Google is doing this using cutting edge, mind blowing technology that makes me about as awestruck as I was the first time I thought about the vastness of space or quantum level phenomena (spot the geek anyone?). Google is using machine learning (!) to figure out what makes a good website from a human point of view (!!). They are essentially making a giant living, breathing intelligence that has eyes everywhere in the digital world.
Can anyone say SkyNet? The Matrix? Cybertron?!?
How this works is that Google collated a plethora of information from it’s panel of Quality Raters, who answered a bunch of questions about what they like about a set of websites. Based on the feedback, they split the websites into two categories – the sites that people like and the ones they don’t like. They then set their machine learning intelligence loose on this data and let it figure out what signals make a good site. They used these signals as indications of what makes an enjoyable site – think about it like a doctor using common symptoms to find an underlying conditions without necessarily doing any tests.
The factors that go into this analysis come from a variety of sources, including Chrome/Android usage data, Analytics, the Google user interface itself and more. There are three main factors that you should look at when evaluating how Panda will affect your rankings.
I’ve been blogging and preaching about web design for a while now, and it seems that Google has started paying attention to what I am talking about. So once again, look at your website and start asking some questions.
- Does it look good?
- Does your website have a user-friendly design with clear navigation?
- Do people enjoy using it?
- Do they trust it?
- Is the experience seamless?
- Does it convert well?
2. Content Quality
The algorithms are also learning to understand what makes good content. They are learning what the content is smart, well written, even funny!!! It fully freaks me out that this thing is getting so smart. I am genuinely worried about Google getting smarter than people and making us slaves – I was hoping Apple would do it first …
3. Usage Metrics
Google looks at site metrics to determine what a good site is. So get good at Analytics! Maybe you shouldn’t have bullied that nerdy kid from maths class with the spreadsheets and a pocket protector…he’d be able to tell you how to improve the following factors:
- Low bounce rate – basically, make sure no-one gets scared off by the first page they see on your site.
- Clickthrough rate from SERPs – this encompasses everything from title tags, meta descriptions and URL structure.
- Time on Site – the more pages that people view, and for longer, the better. This is particularly interesting considering that Google’s recent benchmarks which I got e-mailed to me showed that people are actually spending less time on websites as a result of better content scanning, mobile browsing and shorter attention spans.
- Diversity of traffic – get more variety from your branded vs non-branded traffic, from different locations, etc.
When looking at SEO, we never had to think about the user experience of the website before. Alas, the times they are a-changing! And they won’t stop, with additional Panda update refinements coming from the machine learning algorithms coming every 30-40 days. Now, more than ever, we have to look at a site holistically – everything from traditional SEO factors to web design, content quality, navigation and web analytics. My job of “SEO Consultant” has changed to “Web Strategist”. How has your world changed with this update?
Head on over to SEO Moz to see a great video explaining this.