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Search Update #3: Panda and Semantics


Digital Globe

As we’re working hard in the St. Louis summer heat, search engines continue to better the results for users across the globe. We examined the most pertinent search marketing news from the last couple weeks and boiled it down into this search update. We’ll be covering a couple of new topics this week, so I’ll try my best to make it digestible, yet actionable. First up is Google’s search ranking algorithm – Panda.

Search Marketing with a Panda

I can’t begin this section without mentioning one of our most valued employees, Peter Panda. He was born on a Chinese game reserve in 1969 and emigrated to the United States in 1987, but you probably know him for coining the phrase “social media” in 2004.

peter panda

Google’s Panda is a little different that ours. For starters, their Panda is more of a robot that aims to lower the rank of “thin sites”, and return higher-quality sites near the top of search engine results pages. Google recommends that webmasters build out sites with more original, high quality content that brings value to users on the web. For example, if you have a solid site with several pages of one or two sentences of copy, you might experience a drop in traffic.

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Last week, Google confirmed an update to Panda that is more finely targeted than ones in the past. They said, “In the last few days we’ve been pushing out a new Panda update that incorporates new signals so it can be more finely targeted.” Basically, this update will incorporate new signals to help sites than have not fully recovered from the original Panda update.

The team over at Search Engine Journal cataloged the experiences that webmasters have had so far:

- Increase in the amount of times sites show up in organic results but the same amount of click-through rates.

- Informational sites like Wikipedia and About.com have been heavily impacted.

- Authority sites will be getting more prominence in search engine results pages.

- Although correlation does not prove causation, some webmasters are noticing higher rankings for sites using Google+. Our search update #2 should explain the growing importance of social signals in how Google ranks sites.

How should you take action on this update? Start producing blog content, white papers, infographics, guides, or anything that will help your customers understand your product or make a buying decision. If you have a blog, enable Google Authorship (more on this in the next section) and start sharing your blog posts on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks.

The Science of Semantics

The word “semantic” is closely tied to meaning in language, which is important to the search engine with the white box. Google has a lot of data, and their goal is to deliver the most relevant, authoritative information for a user’s query. They want to enable users to find, share, and combine information more easily, ultimately making their job easier and service better.

Search marketers are finding schema markup to be an effective way for webmasters to tell Google things in a way they understand. Here’s an example of how structured data works for the search query “Italian restaurants”:

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As you can see, the results are being shown with the reviews associated with several Italian restaurants around the area. Here’s another example using Google Authorship:

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Google has recently implemented the Authorship Markup tool, which gives a lot of value to those producing content on company blogs. Individuals using authorship will see their blog posts show up higher than those who are posting their content anonymously. Eric Schmidt, Google’s Executive Chairman, has said, “Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top result.”

Google Authorship is a great idea for businesses that blog with few or many authors, and it gives you more personalized results with the influence of authority working in your favor. Start linking your Google+ profile to the content you create!

It All Goes Back to Content

This update was very content oriented, with Panda and semantics being the drivers of this week’s post. Remember, Google’s goal is to deliver the most relevant and trusted information for a user’s query. What is that information? It’s content. Start planning, publishing, and marking up your content on a regular basis. You’ll be surprised in how much your rankings can improve from adding content to your site, especially if you aim to improve the research and buying process for your customer base.

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