Although it's likely that the full impact of Google's “Panda” update hasn't yet been felt, it's safe to say that this algorithm change has dramatically altered the playing field when it comes to search engine optimization.
What has become clearer than ever is that Google is looking to promote sites that are (or at least resemble) authorities in their fields. So if your site doesn't pass the “Would you recommend this site to a friend?” test or the “Would you feel comfortable pulling out your credit card and buying something from it?” test, be aware – Google's coming after you.
So to understand how to structure website content in a post-Panda world, we need to first consider what a good, organic authority site looks like naturally. From there, we can apply these findings to our on sites in order protect ourselves from future updates to the Panda algorithm change, as well as completely new updates that may be coming in the future.
The following are some of the features of these sites that Google has given increased preference to recently. Even if you weren't affected by the most recent algorithm change, you'd be wise to start implementing these tips on your sites ASAP!
Article Length – How Long is Long Enough?
Say you truly are an expert in your field. Can you really impart any kind of wisdom to your followers in a mere 300-500 word article? Probably not! True authority sites share loads of free content, much of it at least 1,000 words in length. In the wake of recent algorithm changes, it's a good idea to be sure your posts are at least this long – possibly even longer (2,000-3,000 words even) if the topic you're writing on can support it.
But not only should you focus on writing longer posts than ever – don't forget to spice up your articles with relevant images as well. Adding images that depict data trends or clarify a process are great for usability and give you another opportunity to improve your site's SEO with keyword-rich alt tags.
External Linking Strategies – Sharing the Love
Even if you are an expert on your chosen topic, chances are you recognize that other authors and website owners have valuable insight to share as well. And, as a true authority site, instead of worrying about how much link juice is flowing away from your site through external links, you connect with these other sites anyways, because you know your readers will benefit from what they'll learn there.
So when writing content for your website, don't be afraid to link out to other sources. In fact, it's a good idea to link out to relevant sites 2-3 times in each piece of content you publish on your website. Just be sure that you're linking to true authority sites to get the most benefit from this strategy!
Internal Link Structures – Promote a User-Friendly Environment
Recommending well-crafted internal link structures that reduce the depth of your website and contain keyword-rich anchor links isn't exactly news. In fact, correctly structuring the framework upon which your site is built has been a de-facto part of search engine optimization advice for years.
However, this recommendation becomes even more important following this most recent algorithm update, as Google has made no secret about the fact that they value sites that enable users to quickly move from one level to another. If you aren't sure that you're getting the most benefit from your internal linking structures, it's a good idea to focus some time on this area to prevent your site from suffering in future slaps.
Demonstrated Authority – Why Should Your Readers Care?
In the past, the standard search engine optimization advice has been that anyone can put up a website and get it ranked, provided he or she follow a set of guidelines – including posting a certain number of words of content, obtaining a certain number of backlinks and so on.
But there's some evidence that this gravy train might be ending, as Google has filed patents that may indicate the search giant is going after a way to measure perceived authority. According to Richard Zwicky of Search Engine Watch:
“The patent's title and obvious focus is around combining a blog post with the information referenced by the blog, and using the resulting information to determine the relevance of the original entry to a search query. A lot of signals or factors behind links can affect the quality, relevance, and value of these citations. Perhaps there's another signal to consider: Author.”
As you might expect, this idea is frustrating to a lot of website owners – especially those who have significant experience in a field, but no educational credentials to back up their claims. But instead of getting frustrated with Google, why not try to work within the framework they've established?
For example, you might not be able to go back and get a degree in the field you've chosen to write about, but are there any industry organizations you could join that demonstrate your commitment to the niche? Could you submit a guest post to an authority site in your field so that you can claim you're a published author on one of your niche's biggest resources?
Even if you decide not to pursue any of these additional qualifications, simply expanding your “About” page (or adding a good one if you haven't done so yet) to talk about why you're passionate about the field you're in could be enough to pass the Google authority test.
Active Social Networking Profiles – Measuring Engagement Among Readers
We've already talked extensively about how Google is placing more of an emphasis on active, engaged social networking profiles. But what key factors determine whether or not a social networking profile is “active” enough? And how can you set up your own profiles to earn the biggest possible benefit?
In most cases, you'll find that Google values the same things on social networking profiles that it rewards on traditional blogs and websites. There, Google rewards freshly updated content and user engagement by indexing new posts and comments. On social networking sites, as discussed by Leah Beatty on Search Engine Journal, that same reader engagement is measured in tweets and likes:
“Attention generates commentary, articles, and conversation. Every mention, Facebook like, and retweet helps rank organically while simultaneously adding to authority. That authority is key for SEO.”
To see a few examples of how traditional websites can best harness the power of social networking, be sure to check out our post on “9 Companies Doing Facebook Right“. What similarities do you see between these profile pages? Do you see regularly updated content? Advanced user tools (like the Chik-fil-a picture brander)? Pictures and other resources for fans? Yes, yes and yes! When it comes to building your own social networking profiles, you can't go wrong using these campaigns as a model for your own efforts.
Adding these new strategies to your promotional efforts isn't meant to be easy. However, think of the added effort you're putting in as your insurance against the next Google slap. You reap what you sow, and if you sow good quality content, strong link profiles and engaged social networking efforts, you'll be rewarded in the long term with continued traffic and rankings.