Five Early Observations about the Panda 4.1 Update

Updated on | By | Under the Category In the News, SEO

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, or worse, smoking rocks, you would know that Google Panda 4.1 is out. A lot of people either get excited about Panda, or they get really scared. If you think back a few years ago, Panda really caught a lot of people by surprise. Previously high-flying websites that produce horrendous content and didn’t really care about their readers got hammered, and hammered hard, by Google.

Panda has always been about quality. At least, that’s what the press release regarding Panda has been about. There are a lot of theories regarding the real nature of Panda, there are a lot of conspiracy theories regarding how Panda works out with other updates, so on and so forth. I’m not going to dwell on that. You can easily do a search as to how people think about Panda, and you would find no shortage of blog posts regarding Panda. Still, there’s not enough digital ink being spilled regarding the latest update to Panda, which is Panda 4.1.

I have approached this topic in a very interesting way. Instead of just breaking to down to you, what I did was I basically looked at a compilation of credible sources on the internet, and basically looked at what people say the effect of Panda is.

Panda is like looking for black holes. You can’t really see a black hole, but you can see the effects of the black hole in the cosmic bodies around it. A lot of this list is circumstantial evidence. Keep that in mind. Take this list with a grain of salt. Regardless, these all come from credible sources. Here are the five things early observers learned about the Panda 4.1 update.

Panda is Still Dumb

Here’s good news. Let me begin this list with some pieces of reassuring news: Panda is still dumb. That’s right, Google still has not done the impossible. Google has not come up with software that looks at the substantive and intrinsic quality of the content it’s analyzing. In other words, Panda is still looking only at the forms and relationships within the content, but really can’t take a stab at the intrinsic, substantive quality of that content.

This quite interesting, because Panda has always been billed as a quality-focused update. In other words, this Google update is all about determining quality. The reason why Panda is still having a tough time delivering on high level quality assessment isósurprise, surpriseóyou need a human brain for that. So, up until the point where Panda develops a human brain, Panda is still dumb, and that should give some people some measure of peace of mind. With that said, here comes the bad news:

Focus on Content Presentation

A lot of the people that are complaining about being penalized by Panda 4.1 tend to share common factors regarding content format. A lot of them use very big paragraphs; a lot of them use paragraph setups that are really not intended for human beings.

You have to remember that the number one enemy of Google are blackhat spammers that use automated means to rip off content from all over the internet, reword that content, and mass publish that content to thousands upon thousands of websites scattered all over the internet. These guys don’t really care about user engagement. They don’t really care about user experience. All they care about is the fact that if they make enough websites, and make enough backlinks, from a purely numbers perspective, they would make a decent enough return on investment to make it worth their while to keep such shenanigans going.

Panda 4.1 is really trying to hammer hard on these types of websites by paying attention to paragraphs, picture layouts, picture inclusion, page organization, and other composition elements. Again and again, a lot of experts are saying that Panda 4.1 has a lot of sensitivity to page design.

Focus on Images

Panda uses a very template-driven approach to determining page quality. The moment I’ve said template, you probably should have had alarm bells ringing in your mind. You already know that if you are looking for real quality, it has to be done on a case-by-case basis. You cannot just use a template or a checklist to figure out what is ideal, and what is garbage. Unfortunately, that’s how Panda works. This is why it’s a good idea to use images and other checklist- or template-driven items, because as long as you have these items, you might be able to escape detection by Panda 4.1.

Now is the Time to Reduce Bounce Rate

A lot of SEOs are still doubtful regarding whether the bounce rate is actually a factor in Google’s ranking decisions. Well, I’m sorry to break it down to you, but regardless of whether Panda 4.1 factors in bounce rate, now is a better time than any to start working on your bounce rate. If you have a bounce rate higher than 70-80%, you need to start working on reducing that percentage to maybe 40-50%.

How do you do this? Very simple. Use a multi-page strategy. Not all SEOs agree on this strategy, but in my experience, this works wonders. When you use a multi-page strategy, you basically string the reader along, page after page. As long as you know what you’re doing regarding trigger words and trigger subheadings, you can get the reader to dig deep into the guts of your blog. Key part of this is a multi-page approach. The more pages they read, the longer they stay on your pages.

Another approach is to just use really long pages. Basically pack as much content into one page as possible. However, you format this content in such a way that the reader feels compelled to keep reading further and further down your page. The best way to do this, of course, is through diagrams, pictures, as well as leading subheadings. The more video, infographics, and other rich media elements you put into your long page, the more engaged your reader becomes. The more engaged your readers are, the longer they stay on your pages. This dramatically reduces your bounce rate.

Thin Content is Not Going to Cut it Anymore

There are too many websites out there that are basically just built around a domain name, seriously. They buy a domain name of a website that used to exist. This website used to have a lot of backlinks. They buy the domain name so they can leverage the existing backlink footprint of that domain.

However, after they resurrect the website, they get lazy and they just maybe make 20, 10, 15, or even 5 pages. This is thin content. This is basically saying to Google, “Ban me.” This is saying to Google, “Hey, come get me.” This is so obvious. Thin content, on average, is not going to cut it. There are a lot of people on the internet saying, ìWell, thin content is still alive. I don’t think I’m comfortable with Panda 4.1′s sword hanging over my head.

About the Author: Lewis Crutch

As the administrator of Marketing Bees, Lewis Crutch manages all of the free advice and tips available here on the Marketing Bees blog as well as spending time putting together in-depth marketing related courses covering a wide range of topics including email, content and social media marketing.

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