Google Panda Update: 24th Data Refresh Rolling Out

 

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Yesterday, Google announced that a new Panda data refresh affecting 1.2% of English queries. This is the 24th refresh of the Google Panda update, and for those of you who don’t know what Panda is, let me give you some brief information on the Panda update.

What the Panda?

Google Panda is a change to the search engine’s ranking algorithm. The initial change took place in February 2011. This Panda update is aimed to give more credit to high quality sites by increasing their rank in the search engine and lower the rank of sites that have low quality or sites with thin content. Google places a huge amount of focus on (and rightfully so) making the user experience a positive one.

So What Can You Do?

As a website owner or online marketer, there are 23 things Google says you should ask yourself when looking at or improving your site to benefit search rankings. These questions will help you analyze your site better and help you find opportunities for improvement.

These 23 questions are:

  1. Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  2. Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it shallow in nature?
  3. Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  4. Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  5. Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  6. Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  7. Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  8. Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  9. How much quality control is done on content?
  10. Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  11. Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  12. Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  13. Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  14. For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  15. Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  16. Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  17. Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  18. Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  19. Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  20. Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  21. Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  22. Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  23. Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

There will be many more Google Panda updates in 2013.  It will be interesting to see HOW these updates will affect websites.

Can Bad SEO Hurt Your Brand?

A friend of mine is engaged, and I am to be one of her bridesmaids. As a four-time bridesmaid, I’ve unfortunately been to more wedding blogs and bridal shop websites than a sane human should. Some are fantastic, doing everything SEOs recommend: engaging and well-written content, a solid back link profile, good information architecture, attractive designs and clean code. And as with any industry, a large number are poorly designed and built, and even more poorly optimized.

Recently, my friend and I were going wedding dress shopping, and she sent me to the website of the bridal store she’d chosen. I was slightly horrified.

I’d like to say this was one of the worst wedding sites I’ve seen, but the errors they were making are quite common to sites across sites in all niches. From keyword stuffed content pages, to duplicate content, and spammy back links, this shop was doing nearly everything SEOs consider to be wrong.

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Alternatives to rel="canonical"

Don't use rel="canonical" as a bandaid solution

There has been some recent discussion in the SEO community about whether Google and Bing have different rules for the use of the rel=”canonical” tag. Google has said it is fine to have self-referential canonical tags (ie. the rel=”canonical” tag specifies the same URL as the page you are on), whereas Bing indicates they’d prefer the canonical tag be left blank in that case.

The proper use of rel=”canonical” can be confusing at best, and can produce devastating results at worst. So what is an SEO to do?

First of all, realize that using rel=”canonical” isn’t necessary in many cases of duplicate content. The canonical tag is a great tool for extreme situations and enterprise-level sites, but on small to medium sized websites there are often other solutions.
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Solving Canonical Problems with WWW

One of the most common problems I see in websites is the same content being available at both the WWW and non-WWW versions of a domain. I’ve encountered this in nearly every website I’ve done an SEO audit for, and I see it every day when browsing the web. Despite it being so prevalent, it is indeed a problem.

Having the same content available on both the WWW and non-WWW versions of a domain (such as authoritylabs.com and www.authoritylabs.com) is called canonicalization. While you and I might realize they are in fact the same page, search engines mistake them to be unique pages.

Most of the time, search engines can figure out that they are the same page and only include the canonical URL in their index. SEObook explains the canonical URL as:

The canonical version of any URL is the single most authoritative version indexed by major search engines. Search engines typically use PageRank or a similar measure to determine which version of a URL is the canonical URL.

Regardless, canonicalization can result in indexing problems and duplicate content issues. Most importantly, canonicalization will split the link juice between each version as people link to and share both.

What you want to see is a redirection from the WWW to the non-WWW, or vice versa, so that if the wrong version is entered or linked to, the user is automatically taken to the canonical URL. Fortunately, this is relatively easy to set up.

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Implementing Schema.org Microdata

Last week, Google, Bing and Yahoo announced collaboration on a single standard for structured markup. Yes, I’m talking about Schema.org and utilizing Microdata for “Rich Snippets.”

Since then, many sites have posted about why Schema.org might be good, bad or otherwise for site owners; some balanced, some not. Personally, I think structured markup and machine-readable information is always good to have on your site, regardless of potential SEO benefits. I’ve had a love for structured markup (in the form of Microformats) since I first laid eyes on hCard several years ago. I could have written a whole post about why I think Schema.org is good for SEO, but instead I decided to implement it on a site of mine.
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Using Cosmo to Develop Content

I’m speaking at Distilled’s Conference, Pro Boston, in a week (!) on Keyword Research. But not your everyday keyword research talk, this one will be focused on topics that have rarely been discussed. One of the things that people have a hard time with is content creation. Keyword research can help with that, but one of the most important things to getting content ranking is the title. It also happens to be the main way to get people interested in the content to start.

Cosmopolitan MagazineYou know who is great at writing titles? Cosmopolitan. The content is debatable in usefulness and truth, so much that there are whole posts dedicated to debunking some of their advice (and making fun of it). But no one can argue that their titles are not enticing. They have great keyword usage and really call to the issues women are having in society. So I am going to look at some recent Cosmo titles and how you can learn from them.

7 Facebook Habits That Guys Hate

This title encompasses three ways to get attention by title and includes a good keyword (even for search marketers!). First, notice the use of a number. This is a tried and true way to get clicks and reads because people love to skim. You are promising fast answers and the reader can choose which habit is of most interest to them. The title also goes for the negative with hate. Using negative emotions can get reads but you need to be careful when playing with fire. Finally this title tugs at emotion, specifically hate and relationships. Cosmo knows their audience, the issues the readers have and they play to that.
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