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10 Ways to Rise in Search Rankings after Google’s Panda Update

July 13, 2011

by Dave Crader

Wondering why one of your website’s pages isn’t rising in Google for your chosen keywords? Your on-page Search Engine Optimization (SEO) may not be up-to-date with what post-panda Google spiders are crawling for. Google’s Panda update severely affects the way its search engine ranks pages on the Internet. It was first released in February 2011 and is constantly improved upon every couple of weeks. 

Google’s goal with Panda is to reward webpages that contribute extremely high quality and unique content to the Internet. The company specifically aimed to remove unattractive, copied and out-dated webpages from its search engine’s results. 

Meta Tag optimization and the use of a proper keyword density isn’t enough to achieve high rankings in search engines anymore. There are now over 500 different factors that contribute to a website’s ranking in Google’s search engine. We’ve compiled a list of the 10 most important of these 500 factors so your website will have a better chance of rising in search results. 

Make the Panda Hungry

Well optimized Meta tags will capture the Panda’s initial interest

1. The <Title> Tag – The title tag is one of the most important on-page optimization factors. Research has shown that keywords placed further to the left in the title tag will rank better than those placed further to the right. The title of the page must make sense and should never contain more than two keywords. Never use more than 70 characters (including spaces) when writing a title for your webpage, as this is the limit that Google displays in its search results. 

2. <H1><H2><H3> Tags – These header tags should be used for headlines to your content. They should be different than your <title> tag and should accurately depict the text written below them. The <H1> tag carries the most SEO value because it is the main title of the page. It should include a variation of your keyword, but it’s not absolutely necessary after the Panda update. The <H2> and <H3> tags are the sub-headings of the page. They receive SEO value too, so it may be a good idea to query your keywords in Google and create a few <h2> and <H3> sub-headings based on the suggested searches.  

Google's Suggested Searches


You may also want to use Google’s related search recommendations at the bottom of the page too. Another great way to get ideas for popular searched keywords/phrases. 

Google's Similar Searches


3. Alt Attribute & File Names – Both the Image and page file names should be named after your chosen keywords. It may sound nitpicky, but every little bit helps.  The alt attribute within your image tags are useful for both the optimization and accessibility of your page. Its purpose is to describe images to anyone who cannot view them due to a slow connection or visual impairment. A 50 character sentence that includes your keyword should be enough for you to accurately describe the image. 

4. The Meta Description Tag – The Meta description will appear just below the <title> tag in search engines results. Although the Meta description has lost nearly all of its SEO power it can still be useful to improve the Click Through Ratio (CTR) of your website. Think of the Meta description as a 150 character (including spaces) billboard that is displayed on search engine result pages (SERP’s). Its sole purpose is to persuade searchers to click through to your website. Including a keyword in your Meta description will make your listing more attractive because the keyword will be bolded (See how “web design” is bolded above). 

Let it Salivate

Robust pages with video, images, links and perfect grammar tell the Panda you’re confident, and you mean business

5. Keywords in the text – Your chosen keywords need to be strategically placed throughout the page in a way that makes sense to readers. A good rule of thumb is to include your keywords, or a variation of your keywords, once every 100-150 words. If you’re targeting a long-tail keyword that is 4 or more words you should probably avoid placing it quite as much. It’s always better to sacrifice keyword density if you can provide a better reading experience without it. 

6. Video Optimization – First, create a YouTube account and include a link to your homepage in the profile section. Next, upload a video and title it based on the keywords of the page you wish to embed it on. Make sure to enter some keyword targeted tags so the spiders have an easier time classifying the video’s category.  In the description field of that video place a link back to the page you are optimizing on your website. Embed the video above the fold so that users can see it without having to scroll down on the page. After the Panda update Google’s search engines have begun looking at what is above the fold much more closely. A perfectly optimized webpage usually contains at least one video produced by the website owners. 

7. Image Optimization – Aside from optimizing your file names and alt attributes, you’ll also want to flatten your images and reduce their file size too. After Panda, Google has aggressively begun penalizing sites that take too long to load. If your webpage is taking longer than Google’s recommended 1.5 seconds, you should consider either switching hosts or reducing image file sizes. To make more compact images we usually reduce their quality in Photoshop® by about 25%. The quality loss will hardly be noticeable, but the gains to the page’s load time will be. You should also avoid using copyrighted images as it’s not only illegal, but could hurt the SEO value of your page as well. 

8. Outbound Links – Outbound links to authoritative webpages are very beneficial for SEO after the panda update. We highly recommend citing each and every one of your sources to get the most from this new change.  We all know search engines hate duplicate content, but taking a short blurb from an authoritative website and placing it in <cite> tags on your own website might not be such a bad idea anymore. You’ll still want your page to be around 85% unique though. 

The authority of a website is determined by a variety of things.  The easiest way to interpret authority is by looking at the page rank and domain extension of the website. Domains ending in .edu or .gov are instantly authoritative because they’re only affiliated with universities and government agencies. Websites with lots of traffic are also viewed as authoritative regardless of page rank or domain ending. Use this footprint “Site:.edu your keyword” when searching to easily find authoritative .edu domains to link to. 

9. Internal Links – A superb internal linking structure is still, and always will be, a huge factor in search engine rankings. Your website needs to be extremely easy to navigate for both search engine spiders and viewers. It’s important that the anchor text, or “link text,” contain descriptive keywords that explain what will be shown on the next page. For example, “Mobile web design” would be a better anchor text than “click here” for a link pointing to page about mobile web design. 

10. Grammar & content length – Pages with poor grammar are now rightfully being penalized in search engine rankings. One page with poor grammar can damage the entire website’s rankings, so make it perfect. 

Feed it the Best You’ve Got

Google’s Panda is very high maintenance. If it doesn’t smell the best content on the Internet, it’s not going to eat it

One of the biggest changes to SEO after the Panda update is the amount of text each page needs to contain. Previously, pages with 300-600 words ranked just fine in search engines. Now, almost every page on your website needs to be at least 750 words long to even have a chance of ranking. For example, if you would like your product page for “golden spoons” to rank well you’ll need to write the page like an encyclopedia would.

Where do gold spoons come from? Why are they used today? What is gold and what are its properties? What is a spoon? When should you use a gold spoon? Etc…

When optimizing webpages for Panda we must constantly ask ourselves “Is this the absolute best page on the Internet for this topic/keyword?” Search engines were developed to provide relevant and useful information to searchers as quickly as possible. They love returning results from Wikipedia because its articles are filled with robust information, pictures, citations and links. Each article has multiple internal links as well as outbound links to reputable authority sites. Designing your webpage like a Wikipedia article is the most surefire way to rise in today’s ranking algorithm. 

Need some SEO advice for your website? We’d love to help! Give us a call at 330-331-0211.