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Penguins, Pandas and Google SEO Animals

If one thing’s for certain with Google, it’s that the search engine driver is always changing its algorithms to stay ahead of websites that try to game its ranking system. These days, the algorithms – let’s just call them formulas for now – go by names like Penguin and Panda, but holy page rankings, they all come down to the quality and accuracy of your content and links.

If you’re into car-computer analogies, you really don’t want to know about all the little details about the systems that make your car run. You just want to know it will get you to your destination reliably. Same thing with your SEO – search engine optimization. Your big concern is getting qualified prospects to visit your site so that you can convert them to sales. And, just as you rely on your mechanic to keep your running in top condition, you should rely on SEO experts to cut through the clutter and help you position your pages to work their magic.

So, what’s behind the math? In a word, truth. Along with the latest versions of the Penguin and Panda algorithms, which have been around for a while, Google is making a concerted effort to raise truth to the first page of searches. It has deployed Claim Review, a fact-checking markup, that will be used to verify the facts in all content. Google will continue to use Panda, which does not run in real time, to measure the quality of the content on a page, and it will use Penguin, which runs in real time, to look at the sources of links on your site to see if they are spam – or spam-like.

First, truth. To determine the truth of content on a website, Google is going to scan websites to see if they follow widely accepted policies for checking facts. Various writers who cover Google and SEO on a regular basis note that the fact-checking move is motivated by social media, where a lot of faked stories get promoted, and inaccurate stories appearing on all channels. One writer characterized it as an assault on false, misleading, irrelevant and improper content.

Google will reportedly rely on fact-checking collectives to police themselves, and that’s raising concerns in some quarters. One of the concerns is that Google could be attempting to decide which articles or reporters are legitimate.

It’s worth noting that the first newspapers were started by printers, who had access to the means of communications in those days: the printing press. Later on, well into the middle of the 20th century, the high cost of printing and distributing newspapers was a barrier to entering the field. The Internet changed that. Practically anyone can get on the ‘Net and promote his or her own point of view without any formal filters – such as an editorial staff of a newspaper, magazine or TV or radio station. Anyone with access to the Internet is the same as the printer who had access to a press.

That’s the world we live in and in which Google is unleashing its Penguins and Pandas.

Panda’s effect on page rankings has more to do with visibility, and the freshness of your content is a big driver in getting better rankings. Looking at Panda in one way, user intent may play a role. Some of the SEO pundits believe that fewer pages with more content may help you get better numbers from the Panda algorithms.

But this is also where art and science could conflict. You need to look at how you want visitors to your site to absorb the information you present. Do you want them to, in effect, see headlines and summaries? Or, do you want them to see a narrative that brings together several related ideas that are designed to motivate an action?

Moving to real time, the latest version of Penguin, 4.0, could refresh page rankings shortly or immediately after a search-engine re-crawl or re-indexing. Again, Penguin looks closely at spam, and it will rank each page individually, based on the sources of the links on that page.

What does that mean for you? It means you must play closer attention than ever to your content. Any articles that you write or repost must be clearly true and relevant to your website – and your business. We emphasize clarity as well as truth because truth is being determined by a mathematical formula that may not pick up the nuances of the words you use. It also means you need to pay close attention to the websites you associate with. They, too, must pass the mathematical test.

At NicheLabs, we can help you with the art and science of your digital marketing. We can help you with the writing and design of your website and provide a second set of eyes on the content you want to repost and the links you want to include on your pages. And, we can take the deep dive into the science – the algorithms – Google uses to help the numbers add up to higher rankings. Contact us at 888-978-9254, or by sending us an email using our website contact form. We can also help expand your universe with news coverage and validate your customers’ context with your website, SEO program or other marketing activities. We love to talk about marketing, best practices for SEO programs, brand messaging and content strategy.