Google’s Panda Update was launched in the UK on April 13th 2011. It was, as you probably know, designed to further root out low quality websites and subsequently improve ranking results and user satisfaction. Its launch at the time saw roughly 12% of search results affected by the update and resulted in some websites dropping in rank. Following this update, Google has stated that it has seen improvements in the quality of search results and user satisfaction.
The SEO world is still taking stock of what this all means for online marketing strategy and various ideas have been traded. One opinion that has emerged is that text book SEO practices are no longer enough to drive your online strategy post Panda.
SEO’s have traditionally optimised with search engine crawlers and indexing in mind. Methods to do this included developing great unique content, creating quality design and building good value links. These factors, the bread and butter of search, are indeed still very important to SEO. However, with the addition of Panda, what it takes to rank and improve in the SERPs has changed in nature.
This is due to the Panda Update introducing the very significant use of machine learning and the subsequent use of user ratings and user metrics into the Google algorithm. These user metrics inform Google if a site has value for its users. It does this by applying user metrics such as bounce rate, the length a user stays on site, if the site is blocked by the user etc. The logic being that the level of site optimisation doesn’t necessarily equate to user value. Positive user metrics equate to positive user value.
This is significant as SEO must now give a lot more focus to the end user rather than just optimising for search engine indexing with the user as an afterthought.
Google will continue to prioritise the user experience when making algorithm changes and consequently all SEO strategy should do the same. Only this will safeguard against a drop in rank following any future algorithm changes.