Building a user and Google-friendly website, and maintaining one, is actually much easier than you think. Yeah, there’s 200 factors Google changes around twice per day.
But you don’t need to be afraid of it. When you stick to the general principles of what Google’s trying to accomplish with the web, you’ll be safe regardless of what the latest update does. I wrote a general guide on this – it’ll get you through Panda 4.0 too.
Here are some additional factors a little more specific to Panda 4.0 that you should watch out for also:
- Bounce Rate
This is the number of people that enter on a page on your site and leave. If the number’s high, above 70%, that means they’re not finding what they’re looking for. Google logically figures that page shouldn’t rank highly for targeted keyword searches.
The more social shares and bookmarks your content gets, the better it is in Google’s eyes. Some SEOs dispute whether this truly affects your rankings, but most seem to agree it’s going to be important in the future (if it’s not already now).
- How Many People Close Their Browser After Visiting Your Site
To Google, this indicates they found what they were looking for and stopped. If they don’t, that means to Google they’re going to keep looking for a better resource.
- Up-to-Date Code & Mobile Responsiveness
Google recommends mobile responsive design in its official blog here. By the way, if you like technical reading about SEO and the like, that’s the resource to go to.
Also, the coding you use to design a website changes over time. Google wants to see that your website loads in the most efficient way possible – which gives a great experience to your users.
- Valuable, Clear Content
Content is valuable if it entertains, informs, or persuades. Most sites go the informational route.
And that’s fine – just make sure you have unique information that’s only available on your website. That gives people a reason to visit your site instead of someone else’s.
It’s also got to be clear and professionally written in conversational language – that’s what today’s web reader wants.
And Here are Some of Panda’s No-Nos
- Duplicate Content & Meta Tags
When is content really “duplicate?” Some SEOs say 40% of the content on a web page has to be different from another page to be original.
If you look at it that way, though, you’re not understanding the full value of content. For geo-targeted city pages, it’s okay to repeat an idea using original language.
But for blog posts, that’s not. The idea with those is to be completely original so people have no reason to read at someone else’s blog.
- Linking Issues
You can use anchor text that matches your keywords exactly about 5% of the time. Nobody’s done a study to confirm that exact rule, but generally you don’t get in trouble with Google for it. If you want to be safe, go even less than that, or even 0%.
You also want “earned” and not “built” links. Built links come from places where the site owner doesn’t review them (common with forums or blog comments). Earned links happen when you expose your content to the public and they willingly choose to link to it in their own way.
- Website Structure Issues Like Sitewide Links
Sitewide links appear on every page of your website. As long as you use them in a non-manipulative way, they’re okay.
It’s okay to have a menu on every page of your site that links to all other pages on your site. That’s helpful for your visitors.
However, footer links can get you in trouble, depending on how you use them. If you link to the same place as the menu at the top of your page with different anchor text, that tells Google you’re trying to manipulate SEO authority. It hurts your rankings when Google catches you doing it.
This is when you use the particular keyword you’re targeting way too much. You can get away with different densities on various types of content.
But you always want to use natural language first, and get those keywords in there second. It’s really quite simple – get that keyword in your URL, SEO title, meta description, on-page H1, and then another time or two in your content. You’ll rank for it or very closely related terms.
Don’t Worry about Panda 4.0!
At the end of the day, don’t emotionally go too far up or down with a particular Google update. If you keep doing what it wants – building a website that’s more useful than any other in your niche, you’ll do well in the rankings for the long run.
And you’ll definitely avoid penalties, some of which it is not possible to recover from.