Google’s latest update – known as Panda 4.2 – is placing more importance on the quality of content on your property website and will help the search engine reward businesses and websites that publish high quality content with higher search engine rankings.
This update has already started impacting hotel websites and I’m going to explain what you need to know, how you can avoid any negative ramifications and even benefit from the update.
“Based on user (and webmaster!) feedback, we’ve been able to discover a few more signals to help Panda identify low-quality content more precisely,” said Pierre Far from Google, according to The SEM Post.
This update has been out since early August and is rolling out over the coming months (compared to Panda 4.1 which spanned roughly eight weeks) which means you have some time (not much) to make changes and reap the benefit.
The update is meant to stop lower quality sites with “thin” content from appearing within Google’s search engine result pages (SERPs). Panda has been updated several times a year since Panda 4.0 in 2014.
Why the Panda 4.2 Update Matters to You
Although the update (technically a refresh) is said to only affect two to three percent of English language search queries, it’s important for three reasons:
- It signals Google’s continued focus and emphasis on rewarding websites with better quality content (last year, a similar refresh affected over seven percent of queries)
- There are billions of searches every month so even what might seem as a small update affects millions of search results
- It forces you (which is a good thing) to provide quality content on your website to travel shoppers, which is not only good for SEO but also for conversions (because you’re providing travel shoppers with the right information they need to make a decision)
How Does Google Define “High Quality” Content?
To benefit from this update, it’s important to understand how Google determines what high quality content is in the first place.
The Google blog lists many different factors that help them determine if a website has high quality content or not. Here are a few to keep in mind:
- Is the information trustworthy?
- Is the information original? Do you publish very similar content on multiple pages of your website?
- Does the content provide valuable insight (and more so than other similar content on the web)?
- Is the website considered authoritative?
- Is the content in-depth or shallow?
- Is the content written solely for search engines or is it geared towards the interests of your readers?
Although there’s no magic formula to get to the top of Google, they say themselves: your best bet is to “focus on delivering the best possible user experience on your websites and not to focus too much on what you think are Google’s current ranking algorithms or signals.”
And now’s the perfect opportunity.
The Time is Now
One of the biggest benefits of Panda 4.2 is that it is being rolled out over the next few months, giving you ample time to ramp up the quality of content on your website and improve your rankings.
Unlike previous rollouts, the changes will not be immediate – they’ll be gradual and it may take time before you see any results. Your opportunity is now: take a close look at every page of your website, review Google’s questions determining high-quality content and analyze if your content meets their criteria.
You have the opportunity to react quickly before waiting to be penalized.
What if I’ve Been Impacted by Panda 4.2?
A good place to start would be to read the SEO basics for property websites – a comprehensive guide designed to help you understand the basics of SEO and how to increase your search engine rankings.
Next, review Google’s post on “More guidance on building high-quality sites” (which although released in 2011, is still quite relevant to help websites make general updates if they feel that they were negatively impacted).
Finally, if you have improved the quality of your web pages, Google needs to re-crawl these pages before it will be reflected within the search engine rankings pages.
There are three ways you can entice Google to do that:
- Use the fetch and submit function in Google Search Console (aka Webmaster Tools).
- If you have a parent page that leads to all of the lower-level pages within that section, then submit that page and specify the parent page and all the linked pages to be crawl again.
- Update or set up a XML Sitemap file and submit it to Google with all recent changes.
Essentially, you’re telling Google that you have made updates to the whole website, it has a new change date on it which Google will try to use to speed up crawling.
High Quality Content? Nothing New
In all honesty, if you have been providing great, useful and trustworthy content, you should have nothing to worry about.
But if you have little to no content or very thin content, then today is the best day to start providing value to travel shoppers – beneficial for your search engine rankings and most importantly, the travel shoppers coming to your website to find the information they’re looking for.