Putting Pandas out to pasture – clarity in content

Posted on 21. Apr, 2011 by in Digital Marketing, Thoughts

Zen Panda relaxing

Pandas are sometimes too chilled out for their own good

While the recent Panda (or Farmer) update primarily focuses on cleaning up sites Google sees as cluttering our search results, it’s also a perfect reminder of why we should all keep our content – and increasingly copy – as clear as possible.

Why ‘Panda’, I’m not entirely sure – unless Google is drawing some parallel to the, ahem, unfortunate reluctance of the cuddly bears to reproduce and keep their species strong – but the intent is clear. Google has reminded us that, as far as it’s concerned, content is for users, not just algorithms.

A familiar refrain for copywriters

Now, in many ways, the Mountain View giant is preaching to the choir – few site owners, search agencies or marketers (and certainly no copywriters) will tell you otherwise – but how many of us always practise what we preach?

Panda should be a prompt for us to have a look at our own websites so we can make sure our content does what it should be doing.

Panda parallels – hub content

The Panda update provides an excellent example of the way a once-brilliant idea can be slowly devalued and depreciated over time in the cutthroat world of the search engine. While article sites and hubs once represented one of the best places to share information and gather links for sites, many now suffer from a dilution of quality in the content they offer. When this happens, those sites are often seen as less valuable as a result – highlighting the importance of keeping quality high.

The same can be said for the kind of copy once recommended by many SEO agencies: Back in the early days of search, the parallel between clear, focused copy that paid attention to what SE were looking for and rankings was palpable.

SEO shortcuts?

We still know content is key to clinching good rankings, but the types of tips and tricks people once thought of as a shortcut to the top have been largely discounted. Content for search campaigns no longer slavishly follows (if it ever did) a set of rules dominated by keyword positioning and density – instead it’s all about clarity and quality.

Balance is crucial to your content

A panda balancing on top of a stick

The balancing act in practice

Web copywriters familiar with search have typically developed some excellent balancing skills over the years. Think of things such as strict keyword density rules as training wheels – we needed to learn how to get going with them, but now it’s time to achieve the same centre of gravity with them off, and let the keywords work for us instead.

When it comes to populating your site with content, you need to make sure you are forever balancing the needs of your users with the things SEs are looking for (how helpful these are so often one and exactly the same thing!) – but that doesn’t mean the process can’t be fun.

Salute the SE, never forget the user and always keep it fresh

Freewheeling with content that offers something new can be the best way to keep your site relevant, and as long as you always think about whether your new page has something worth saying – whether that’s showing someone where to sign up or sharing your latest social media venture – you can make sure your site’s content never goes the way of the dodo – or is that Panda?

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