How did your approach change after Google's 'Panda' updates and its effects on the SERP's ? Is long tail still relevant ? What are the things you suggest SEO'S/Marketers should do or avoid today ?

panda update

Tom Critchlow, Distilled

Focus on the user experience. This has of course always been true but in a post-panda world we can hopefully get more people to buy into it! I.e. there’s no point in ranking a low quality page and in fact you should be conscious of a user’s worst experience with your site and look to improve that.

Paul Rogers, GPMD

I think that long-tail is still alive, but is not as big as it was before panda. I think that, in most parts, panda did SEO's a favour, as it eliminated a lot of spam websites from the SERP's.

I think that high quality, compelling content is a lot more important now, and webmasters will need to allocate more time to vetting user-generated content and ensuring that they don't allow Google to access valueless pages.

In terms of my approach, I am a lot more focused on making content and websites useful and appealing to 'real' users – as opposed to thinking about the SEO side of the project straight away.

Dixon Jones, Majestic SEO

We looked at the questions posed that Google suggest we consider about a site – which were very “human” attribute questions. We then found some Stamford research that looked at similar things that humans like or don’t about websites. We then considered how such a question might be answered by a computer at scale and then built a tool that was able to go and collect data to answer these questions at scale.

Is long tail still relevant? Not so much – but Google suggest, not Google Panda is the main cause. SEO’s should avoid ignoring traditional marketing factors today, because human “opinion” is becoming more and more important.

Jane Copland, Ayima

I work with a client who maintains a large portfolio of websites. After the beginning of the Panda updates, we found it even more necessary than ever before to stress the importance of eliminating duplicate content across these sites. Copy and paste was our worst enemy: it’s so important that content be properly canonicalised or blocked from search engines if it has to be duplicated, even though we’d prefer all content on sites to be unique in the first place.

Neil Walker, SEO Mad

Ah Panda, our first point of call was to look at a content creation, in the past we used lower cost methods of generating content and for some client did push out blog post after blog post, we extended the length of these posts, giving more research time to have fewer posts with more stickiness.

In terms of long tail I personally researched long tail the past two years downloading analytics for 500 websites to see how long tail has been affected and I think it is still very relevant, Google suggest may steer searches down a specific route and long tail may have reduced slightly but it is still a requirement and still being used.

In terms of avoiding things, I think multiple pages about the same thing is not as useful anymore and we used to have creative ways of placing content, we try to simply use none of this i.e. scrolling box, tabbed affect or use it a little more responsibly.

Will Critchlow, Distilled

Our recommendations for most clients didn't change dramatically. We actually had a big international project whose recommendations were almost exactly "how to avoid a panda slap" months before it rolled out (through serendipity rather than insider knowledge, sadly).

These days, we have quite a few projects running with sites that were badly impacted by Panda who came to us for help afterwards. Our approach for them varies depending mainly on the depth and quality of their content. If they have a solid basis and poor presentation, we'll focus on improving the site. If the whole model depends on poor quality content ranking in the long tail, we're more likely to be pushing for wholescale business changes.

Peter Handley, The Media Flow

Fortunately I didn’t have to change my approach too much due to the Google Panda updates and on-going iterations. Developing good quality and depth of content was a core focus in my approach ahead of this, and in my previous role, steps we’d taken in advising towards that regard that moved away from article syndication techniques and focussed on guest blogging and quality content exchanges. It’s not that complicated – develop good content, develop that content to be as good as possible for the users of the website – make that content relevant and useful, and Google usually regards it highly.

I did work on a few projects that have been badly affected due to Panda updates, and in all bar one case, it was fairly obvious to see why this had happened – on in particular had no unique content on their website other than their about us page, which made it hard to see why Google should value that site against others in its niche that put time and effort into developing more useful ways to be interacting with the audience for that search traffic.

The long tail is still massively relevant in my opinion. The “head” terms may drive volumes of traffic but often can convert at rather low rates.
I often see attracted traffic from head terms on the longer tail end up driving more conversions and revenue than the specific head term itself – the more specific a query is; the more likely it is that it will convert, particularly if your websites content delivers what that user is looking for.

SEO’s these days need to focus on providing value to users and not just manipulating Google’s results to their own ends. This is going to be a stronger longer term strategy than most manipulative tricks that I have seen used, and whilst you want to gain results for clients quickly, there needs to be longevity in that websites visibility in most cases – most people I’ve worked with would not be prepared to “burn” a website for short term gains, although this will differ from niche to niche.

Steve Lock, Analyticsseo (iseo)

To be completely honest, my approach hasn't really changed. I believe the key changes from “Panda” is that the bar has been raised and executing holistic campaigns that consider the user, conversions, quality content and all round performance are now becoming more essential.
Cutting corners and ignoring poor design, content strategies and user experience are now much more risky than ever before.

First hand I have seen the dangers of aggressive advertising to the extent that a high quality and extremely authoritative site was hit badly, with aggressive advertising being the only shortcoming. It took up a large amount of real estate above the fold on key pages including the homepage and also tried to blend advertising to the point it was difficult to differentiate advertising and editorial content.

Key areas I would be especially careful of are: thin content, duplicate content (including images), lots of pages with very similar amounts of content, advertising (especially above the fold), poorly designed websites, websites/sections of websites that are clearly performing badly in terms of time on site/bounce rate etc.

Building a strong content strategy that encompasses social media, online branding signals and high quality backlinks will also be increasingly more important.

Grant Whiteside, Amber Green

We didn’t change anything, the vast majority of our clients got more traffic, mainly because competitors were using content and link farms, as a result most of their competition lost some visibility. The long tail is still relevant. Avoid spammy links, blog spam, run of site links, links from irrelevant content, in fact avoid just about every dodgy directory, they are all a waste of time and money and effort.

Hamlet Batista

I pay a lot more attention to the user experience of users going to the site. Are they finding what they are searching for or not?

I recommend most SEOs do the same thing.

Neil Pursey, Web Growth

It really depends on the website and your target market. Large traffic websites, which rely on advertising space to make money, should be careful as to how they place their adverts. If they get the ratio of ad placements to content incorrect they could find themselves being penalised.

User generated content has proven to work well, as it provides quality unique and fresh content. My advice to smaller sites is to ensure that they producing quality content on a weekly basis and work towards getting contributors producing content for their own blog. Contributors help with small business infrastructure restraints.

Nickolass Jensen

I did not change anything. Still focus on great content, differentiated products and services and the right inbound mix of links. Still try to keep onsite SEO as clean and straightforward as possible. Maybe one could add that the making of unique, usefull and easy shareable content whilst finding the right peers to provide valuable links via Twitter and other blogs is of greater importance now. It has allways been, but more people now gets it;-)

Barry Schwartz, Rusty Brick/ SMX

Whenever writing a piece of content, it is about providing something unique and valuable to the reader. I don't care if the update was the Florida update or the Panda update – the strategy is the same for me. Provide content that my readers want to read, consume, use and share with others.
That is the content that people link to, share on Twitter, Facebook and Google + and that is the content that Google wants to rank.

Shaun Anderson, Hobo-web

I don't promote crap sites so my knowledge of panda-struck sites is limited – though I have looked at a few affected sites analytics. Looks as if it was targeted to sites with a lot of similar content/titles etc with a perceived primary intent to monitise pages. Long tail traffic is a lifeline to all businesses and will continue to be so for a while until Google successfully kills it.

Long before Panda I was making sites that Google would classify as a 'proper' business site – with the signals those have.

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