Can Content Marketing kill Google Panda?

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  • June 7, 2013
Stephen Kenwright

Stephen Kenwright

Director of Search

For the last few years it seems that SEOs spend more effort trying to avoid penalties and updates than attempting to get rankings. It started in 2011 with Panda – an algorithm update designed to stop users writing content just for search engines that is notoriously difficult to recover from.

eHow was reported to be among the biggest losers from Panda 2.0

Graph from searchmetrics illustrating eHow.co.uk’s Panda problem. eHow was reported to be among the biggest losers from Panda 2.0.

Panda is very effective at catching sites with thin, spun content that provides no value to users, but surely nobody who still has a reliance on SEO is still trying tactics like these? We’re still finding plenty of sites in need of historic content clean-up operations, but with Google supposedly working on “softening” the Panda update, now is the time to take stock and learn the lessons. Don’t think for a second that low value content will get a thumbs-up from Mountain View in future, and that things that are just about passable now will provide value five years down the line.

Don’t rely on Panda to keep your standards high

If you’re creating content just to recover from Panda then you’re still writing content for Google’s benefit, which is exactly what Matt Cutts and co. are trying to eliminate. This is why it’s not a case of adding another hundred words to the paragraph on your product page in order to escape, and nor should it be.

Panda is at the top of the funnel – passing that test doesn’t entitle you to revenue. Search engines aren’t your customers, and Google doesn’t convert for you. Search engines deliver you leads, and since you can’t sit a salesman on every single landing page, you need copy in place that will do that job for you and capitalise on those leads. You’re selling your products to your customers, not to Google, and at no stage in the buying cycle has a customer ever been persuaded to make a purchase by “150 words of unique content”.

Are Panda’s days numbered?

No Panda will be around forever

No Panda will be around forever.

Google can see through your “150 words of unique content”, and there’s a good reason why increasing the word count won’t help you. With Chrome’s increasing market share and Analytics code implemented on more than 70% of sites across the web (this time last year), Google has so much data detailing which sites are providing value to users. They can’t use it all right now, but they don’t be surprised if it features in the big picture.

Regardless of the numbers stored safely away in Google’s database, some engagement metrics are plain to see. No social shares; Likes; comments – these are Panda signals of the future. Google looks set to take traffic into account when calculating search rankings too; and content that’s valuable on desktops but unreadable on mobiles will become a hot topic. And it should!

How to kung-fu Panda

Among other things, Panda is designed to crack down on duplicate content. Content Marketing is the antithesis of this – it’s all about providing value that nobody else is, and creating content that fulfils a need. Analytics gives us access to some of Google’s own data, and with the help of many other tools we can discover what that need consists of.

Content Marketing can help you to grow, but there’ll always be a need for SEO on your site if you’re trying to recover from an algorithm. If you’re still worried about Google Panda in five years’ time you’ve not learned the lessons, and the companies who have invested in expanding their content library properly will have left you behind, even if you get your rankings back.

Some of the internet’s most revered marketers say SEO companies should do it like the ad men do. But advertising agencies – commanding fees in the millions of pounds – don’t have the understanding of how search engines treat content that SEO agencies do, which gives us a massive advantage online. A traditional marketing campaign can live or die by its next ad, but for us it’s not all about the next piece of content. You can’t recall a TV commercial that generates no revenue; you just have to cut your losses…but you can always edit a landing page.

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