Google Panda Update: Editorial and Journalistic Best Practices Will Boost Ranking


baby panda china

panda cub china
Panda Cub from Wolong, Sichuan, China – Photo by Sheilalau via Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

In China, the panda is a rare and noble creature that spends most of its time munching bamboo in the mountains by itself.

For most users on the internet, the panda is a highly coveted animal universally renowned for its cute and cuddly appearance.

For the web editors of news publications, the panda is most important in its baby form, as a traffic boon anytime images of a newborn at the zoo invariably spike daily page views for the company.

And when it comes to SEO professionals, the Panda is Google’s flagship patented algorithm used to cull the wheat from the chaff of quality web sites based on down-ranking  pages with weak content.

For those whose job it is to keep webpages above the fold on page one of search returns, the Panda is a variable on which they hang all of their hopes and fears.

A special project of Google’s anti web-spam task force, a version 4.0 total update to the Panda algorithm aims to seek and destroy weak, thin, and replicated content from appearing at the top of search results.

giant panda

Giant Panda Tai Shan – Photo by Fernando Revilla via Wikimedia Commons (creative commons)

How The Mighty Fall

As you might well know, there are individuals who game the system of search engine results for profit. Their imperative is to achieve the highest placement possible without having to do any actual work in producing their own content. They develop and exploit ingenious machinations for automated aggregation of other people’s work with little regard for unique perspective or even attribution.

One popular technique involves the use of  “scrapers,” code driven robots who collect and re-disseminate the intellectual property of some of the most popular websites on the internet. They not only repackage it in their own image, but they aggressively over optimize its on page SEO to outrank those from who they source the work.

Panda uses machine learning, a multitude of variables, and a standard quality differential to determine which pages employ these techniques, or other similar ones, and disallows them from reaching that oh-so-coveted high search ranking.

So, the fear for SEO professionals becomes that all of their hard work, ethical or otherwise, will get caught up in the Panda’s claws like so much mountain foliage. And in the case of large multinational corporations, like eBay, who have traditionally reaped the generous benefits of these placements, losing their ranking can potentially cost them millions of dollars in sales.

panda san diego zoo

Panda at the San Diego Zoo – Photo by Aaron Logan via Wikimedia Commons (creative commons)

What Does This Mean For You?

Meanwhile, sites like Buzzfeed have (anecdotally) seen up to a 25% spike in their SERP for individual articles.

What it all adds up to is a heightened valuation by the Google algorithm for content that functions under the same basic tenets that govern editorial, journalistic, magazine, and publication standards like an original viewpoint, in depth reporting, quotes with attribution, outbound links from a variety of sources, inbound links from trusted authorities, proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar, timeliness, shareability, and how quickly traffic is generated through organic sharing.

Now, what does this mean for the local mom and pops, and other small businesses who count on their search results for very real and necessary returns? It means that they must focus on learning about and practicing storytelling with these standards as the foundation for their content production.

The need for storytelling that meets these standards will likely be rewarded with spikes in traffic. Have you been practicing these basics, will you benefit?

It’s time to ask this of yourself, ask it of your team, determine a strategy to make these visions a reality through decisive action, and realize your goals through persistence, determination, drive, and most importantly consistency.

Panda is ushering in a new era of content whereby great storytellers are going to be able to strike it rich with the rewards of high search engine result placement.

This isn’t a restrictive action on Google’s part, it’s actually a democratizing process by which anybody willing to put in the work to create their own original, quality stories will reap a search benefit.

Furthermore, Google’s recognition of the importance of Javascript and CSS3 in the burgeoning mobile environments will also help operators who have been unfairly lowered in the results because they have been early adopters of this new technology, which has traditionally been more difficult to crawl and index.

In conclusion, we see that by implementing a sound editorial content strategy, the Panda will be our friend.