Martin Panayotov recently wrote a post for SEOmoz about how a site (MyMovingReviews.com) he works for managed to benefit from the Panda updates. It's an interesting article because usually you see articles about people who have been hit by the Panda update. Those who actually gained from the updates don't have much to complain about, so they're not as vocal.
We reached out to Panayotov for more on the site's Panda success, so perhaps you can learn a thing or two (if your site was negatively impacted) from what he has to say.
Some will no doubt dispute this, but Panayotov believes Google's search quality has gotten better with Panda.
"Until the last update, Google emphasized on quality with the Panda updates," he tells us. "We saw a lot of content farms going down to make space for the niche websites. Usually the niche websites will be more informative since they are operated by experts in the niche. General websites have less in-depth knowledge on the subject and given that they should be below the experts. Also duplicate content is gone and the thin pages are nowhere to be found on the 1st page."
So what did the site do right?
"With My Moving Reviews we started with improving the quality," he says. "We thought what would someone need to know before moving. Since we are in the moving and relocation niche, we try to be the most user friendly and informational source on the subject. Also we wanted to improve the visibility of all the great articles within the website."
"This helped keeping the visitor more engaged and at the same time improving the metrics that Google monitors so closely within the Panda algorithm - the bounce rate for example," he says. "We also worked on the CTR to make sure we are preferred within the SERPs. We also included some rich snippet markups as well as authorship markup as our authors are experts in the niche. We wanted to make sure the readers know who created the article and to be able to interact and connect."
"We love user generated content," he adds. "Starting from the moving company reviews, the company responses to the blog comments and Facebook comments - we are working on making it even easier for the visitors to share, comments and interact. We want to cover every side of the story by making the process easier and more user friendly. I think every major website and brand should try to utilize more and more UGC within their websites. This will also help with the search engines since they love fresh content."
They do love fresh. Google, in particular, has displayed an increased emphasis on freshness of search results in recent month - even since the Freshness update in November, Google has made more subtle improvements here and there related to fresher results.
I say improvements, though in all honesty, I think they go too far with freshness sometimes. The right answer isn't always from this week. Though, Google certainly had to do something to help fill the void left by the expiration of its deal with Twitter.
"We analyzed our traffic closely," continues Panayotov. "It turned our that people are searching for moving services directly from their phones more and more. First we created iPhone and Android apps to cover that, but it wasn't enough. This is why we created a mobile website. This was a great move because we instantly increased conversions, increased the apps downloads, reduced the bounce rate and we made your visitors happier."
By the way, Google just released some new mobile AdWords features that could help in this department as well.
Panayotov offers five points of advice for those who have struggled with Panda:
1. Produce great content on a regular basis. Make sure you have a plan on content marketing. Don't go for the keywords articles only. There are a lot of great content opportunities out there - make sure you utilize that.
2. Sometimes the most unexpected articles get the most shares and re-tweets, so make sure you try different approach with every article to find the right spot.
3. Improve social metrics and especially Google Plus and Twitter. Be active there and connect with your industry leaders. Share great stuff on a regular basis not only from your websites, but from other great sources in the niche. This will help with SEO too and also will give you ideas about new content.
4. Work on your website and make sure you can receive user generated content. This will help your engagement metrics and will boost your rankings. Also try to markup all content properly. If you do, you may get rich snippets which will increase your click-through rate. If applicable, go with the authorship markup.
5. Improve bounce rate and make sure visitors won't leave your website seconds after being there. Make them read what you have to say. You can do that by making your articles easy to scan before reading. Use a lot of H tags, bullet points and great images. Save your visitors' time by structuring your information better. There are also some other tricks you can do like adding a fly-box on your blogs or by having a news section visible from within the posts.
With regards to recent Google updates, Panayotov says, "There is another factor introduced that I think have something to do with keyword density and synonyms. It affects some of the heavily mentioned main keywords as well as long tails. As it is a pretty fresh update there is still not a lot of information out there."
"On the other hand, the new Penguin update might be looking after the links," he adds. "There are some recent speculations about penalizing footer links and also too many links from blog websites. There are some interesting signals from Google that we are just starting to analyze."
"As Google tries to make sure it gets harder for SEOs to manipulate the SEPRs, an idea would be to structure your website and information as there was no Google," says Panayotov. "Focus on the visitor. Make sure you lead them the way they were supposed to and not for the best SEO benefit. I believe this would be the best long-term advice."
Given that Google always says it wants to deliver the best content for the user, and that Google's Matt Cutts said Google wants people doing no SEO at all to be "free to focus on creating amazing, compelling web sites," that's probably not bad advice.