Giant PandaGoogle has whispered to its media bed-partner, Search Engine Land that it will be rolling out a new Panda update over the coming months. According to Barry Schwarz, version 4.2 will be rolled out slowly over the next 10 months.

So what will the new updates mean for web owners and SEO technicians?

Google has said the roll-out will happen “incredibly slowly” which means most people won’t notice it until one of their sites gets hit.

On the plus side, the lengthy roll-out does give SEO agents a chance to recover if you make the right changes. If you notice a drop in organic search rankings the chances are you have been hit. Check your webmaster Tools for messages.

How does the Panda algorithm affect websites?

Google’s Panda algorithm focuses on the quality of content. Websites with the following content are likely to be affected:

  • Duplicate content and redundant articles
  • Lots of short articles by a number of creators
  • Short articles that do not provide substantial or in-depth information
  • Articles with spelling and factual errors

To avoid Panda penalties, product pages featuring similar items should have unique content. Simply changing keywords is not sufficient and because the Hummingbird algorithm can interpret the context of information, there is no escape for near duplicate content pages.

Blog pages are also being targeted. If you accept contributions from third party writers make sure the information is detailed and correct. Dispense with standard 500-word blog posts so that articles are fully explained by the relevant number of words.

And that works both ways. If a subject only requires 250-words then write 250-words. Fluff is low-quality and even though search engine crawlers cannot identify poorly written articles, readers can.

What articles should contain to avoid Panda penalties

Content should be varied. A combination of feature articles of 1000-words or more can be supported by shorter articles ranging from 250-words to 750-words. As long as the content is unique and informative, readers will be happy – and so will Google.

There is however, some concern as to what unique content is. Some commentators claim “stealing” content ideas from other writers is not unique. On the other hand, it is impossible to write unique content every time.

Providing you write old ideas in a new way, this is unique. You cannot copy or slightly rewrite somebody else’s article, you must bring your own ideas into the subject.

Another ranking factor that will be considered favourable to your ranking is trust and authority. This will be measured by interaction with your site; the length of time visitors stay on one page, how much they view other pages and how many visitors return.

Social ranking?

Social rankings with Twitter may also be incorporated into future rankings. Earlier this year, Twitter signed a contract with Google allowing the search engine to access their data. Although neither company has confirmed likes, shares and favourites will be counted as a ranking factor it makes sense that is should be.

Trust and authority is also measured by inbound links – third party sites linking into yours. To attract these type of links you should be publishing in-depth articles readers trust. Position yourself as an authority on your specialist subject. Writing for industry magazines will help improve your trust and authority over time.

If you stick to Google publishing guidelines you should not have any concerns about being hit by Panda. Publishing good quality content has been a focus for search engines for some time now and webmasters that adhere to the rules have benefited from higher ranking positions.

When publishing content, write with your readers in mind. Ultimately, visitors to your site are the judge and jury of how well you perform in search engine rankings.