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Google Panda 4.1

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Many business owners who rely heavily on website traffic get a little nervous when they hear another Google algorithm update is on the way. But early rumours suggest that most recent update, Panda 4.1, may be beneficial for small to medium businesses – at least for those who’ve paid attention to the content quality on their website. Some say the update may prove to be a bit of an equaliser – allowing SMEs that don’t have a paid army of content writers yet make the effort to regularly update their site with quality content, to rank well.

What exactly has changed?

As always, it’s difficult to tell because Google don’t publish the details of the ‘signals’ they use to determine quality content. However, the focus of the Panda algorithm is content quality. After each significant update SEO experts around the world scramble to analyse traffic data and compare sites that have experienced big increases or decreases in traffic in the wake of the update. This allows them to identify the factors most likely to be involved.

What is fairly clear is that Panda 4.1 has added more signals to help determine quality content. According to the Search Metrics SEO Blog, the losers in this round appear to be websites that have ‘thin’ or low quality content, aggregate content from other sites, and those that don’t refresh content. Winners appear to include news based websites (constantly refreshed content) and sites with a high quality of content.

How to impress Google with your content

While exact signals aren’t published, the work done by SEO experts suggest the following will benefit your site rankings:

  • Regular content updates. A blog is a common way to achieve this however, adding fresh pages or updating outdated information is also likely to help. Remove outdated content.
  • Ensure the quality of the writing is up to par. Grammatical errors, poor sentence structure and typos can all be markers of low quality.
  • Add useful content. Copying, aggregating, or merely rewriting content that is all over the web gives you a ‘thin content’ site.

My content tips for the small business owner

More than ever it’s a case of quality over quantity. If you can’t afford to engage a blog writing service and your writing skills are reasonable, you can do it yourself if you set aside just a few hours each week. Here are my tips:

  • A good quality site with 10 pages and a blog that’s updated even twice a month may be better off than a site with 600 low quality pages of content. If your time is limited don’t burn yourself out trying to write 3 posts a week – you’re more likely to stay consistent if you aim to write content once a week or fortnight.
  • While you certainly do want to please Google, if you focus instead on creating content that prospective clients and existing customers will find useful or interesting, you’re likely to please Google by default. Getting your content past Google merely gets you more website traffic. Pleasing human readers can bring in paying customers.
  • Put in the effort. Don’t opt for simply rehashing articles already written by content writers around the globe. Reading other content is a good starting point – but go on to think about the concepts and read alternative views. That process is likely to lead to some really great article ideas and more interesting content.
  • Be sure to think about your target audience while you’re writing. Professional people in particular sometimes make the mistake of writing as if they’re addressing their peers rather than potential clients.
  • Don’t be afraid to adopt a personal voice. If you’re a small service based business or professional, good personal branding can develop trust.
  • Don’t view the content writing process as a chore. Instead, treat it as a break from your regular routine – a few hours where you can put your feet up, and skim through online publications and competitor blogs. Added advantages of this process include self-education and a boost to your creative thinking – which may help you with other business challenges.

Monitoring your results

As with all marketing efforts, it’s important to know if the content you’re writing is bringing a benefit to your business. One of the easiest ways to do this is to make use of the free tools Google Analytics and Google Webmasters. Using these you’ll have access to information about the number of people visiting your website, how they’re finding you, which content they’re reading, keywords they’re using, and importantly, how you’re positioned in the search results for those keywords – all on a day to day basis.

For those who really do struggle with writing, and those who have reached the stage where outsourcing to professional writers is more practical, feel free to give me a call or send me an email enquiry. I have some brilliant content writers on the team, able to cover everything from wedding topics to law related blog content.