Rumour is rife in the world of SEO and marketing that Google could have released an unannounced (possibly Panda) algorithm update, just before or during the Easter holiday period.
The rumour started with a forum thread on Webmaster World, with previously well-ranked and organic sites commenting on huge drops in traffic. Read the full thread here: http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4438366-2-30.htm.
Changes in traffic of anything up to 40% on various dates after March 23 (the last ‘official’ Panda update) were reported, so the question remains:
is it the effect of the refresh following Panda 3.3, Google’s latest batch of webmaster advice, the Easter holiday, or something a little more sinister?
As nobody is sure yet of what exactly has happened, all we can do for now is adhere to the latest Google guidelines, which pretty much back up everything it has been working towards and the use of organic White Hat methods of attracting traffic. There were a total of 50 guidelines; here are the most important in summary:
The word ‘fresh’ is once again at the top of Google’s list. Ensure that fresh content is added at least on a weekly basis, paying particular attention to landing pages. As news items carry plenty of weight, press releases are a straightforward way of achieving this if you are struggling to keep up.
Visuals of any type have become a big thing with Google of late, perhaps since its purchase and revamp of YouTube. Any type of visual content is carrying more weight, but especially video – no surprises there then!
Images and infographics used to replace textual content are much more likely to be shared by visitors than an article written on the same subject. Make it easy for people to share by providing visible sharing buttons, not forgetting the +1 button, especially.
Increased emphasis on image content means making sure that every image is of good quality and published in a format that will load quickly and correctly in all the popular browsers. All images should have a unique Alt tag, which describes the image and contains relevant keywords.
On the subject of written articles, Google has upped the ante somewhat in its quest to flush out machine-spun, low quality content, by increasing its power to track down synonyms. If an article needs to be rewritten it will need to be done by a person, not a machine, to pass muster.
Google has also indicated that it has added more weight to ‘deep-linked’ anchor text i.e. inbound links that take a visitor directly to a page that contains content which is relevant to the search phrase they have used.
Inbound links that take visitors to a generic Home page and leave them to try and find what they want will be penalised.
No doubt Google will shortly tell the world about any stealthy changes they have made recently and this could well have been a bit of a test to see how many webmasters have actually been paying attention to Google’s advice on the way they should optimise and market their websites.