The session covered various strategies on how to avoid Panda and Penguin and focused on the future of link building. There were some very different viewpoints and some interesting takeaways.
Ken Dobell, President, Digital, DAC Group
Ken covered the why and the how of Panda and posed the question what is in the head of a panda or a penguin. Most adult search engine users say the relevance and quality of results are improving over time. This is probably because people are getting better at search. 43% of all searches consist of four or more words. 64% of these searches return zero exact matches. This shows the demand of search exceeding the supply of search results.
We as SEOs optimise for broad terms, this is a short sighted strategy and typically the first search undertaken before the search is refined. Relevancy is massively important as search engines try and become more focused on usefulness. Answering a skeletal question is no longer enough. This is why eHow got hit. Penguin was in response to Google telling SEOs to stop trying so hard. The next generation is universal and semantic search.
Google is going far beyond ten blue links and are moving towards a deeper more personal engagement. Combined with social signals this is only going to get more important. We need to keep it real and make sure you create great content which satisfies a need. People need to like you more than they need to notice you. Make sure your landing pages answer questions, are easy to use and are scalable.
Focus on what matters, create fulfilling user experiences and focus on where Google is going.
Simon Penson, founder, Zazzle Media LTD
Simon focused on understanding site penalties. Penguin is a filter to kill webspam but it’s had a far greater impact. It’s really ramped up of late as the rollouts get closer together. The greatest fear we have is the fear of the unknown. The continuum of understanding is a process that will help you deal with that:
1) Data – understanding your own link profile and work out where it’s weakest. Anchor text, relevance and low quality links are all issues.
2) Information – add context to the data and structure it in a way that helps you understand it. Add competitors. You should look for short paragraphs of text and groups of links & content, evaluate if you are there.
3) Knowledge – build up experience; look at your backlink acquisition graph. It should be a smooth graph, peaks and troughs are bad.
4) Wisdom – live with it long term
Key takeaways: understand your link profile using the methods above and rework if necessary.
Stephen Croome, Head of SEO Delivery, SEOGadget
Stephen shared a case study of PrezzyBox and how they got hit by Panda. They completely lost all rankings but recovered.
The work they did:
1) Get a good monitoring system – use AWR, GA, GWMT, Twitter, Email, if you don’t have a group of people on email you should do.
2) Use data to help clients make difficult decisions – getting clients to get rid of large sections of their website is tough. Check all the content that isn’t driving traffic, its low quality traffic and you could get rid of it.
3) Cleaned up the site’s index by dealing with extraneous URLs – there were loads of querystring based urls, they deleted or re-homed orphan pages. They cleaned up their internal linking and global nav.
4) Rewrote the content that drove money but got rid of the dupe content.
5) Throw away categories that had no depth of products – only target good content and throw away bad content
6) They created unique content for every category. Snippets were fine for now but they will need to improve that. They used related searches to build in snippets
7) Used UGC – each product was shared
Vince Blackham, Director of Social Media, 97th Floor (@vinceblackham)
Vince focused about how social is affecting search and how content plays a part in that. Last month 52 updates were made to the algo and authority was affected in 6 of them. Links are carrying less weight and there is more to come. With Google getting better at evaluating bad links content is going to be the best long term exercise. People are still more interested in data visualisation than a year ago. Bad designs won’t get you anywhere. Test various infographics and that helps you build up a case that works best.
Permabait is an interactive that’s based on an API that’s interesting and permanent. A breakdown on Warren Buffets money earning through a Yahoo API was a great success. Instruction based graphics target Pinterest and resulted in great visits but great revenue too. They also generate a lot of links and impact in the social graph. Do it all now and embrace social.