Duplicate Content and its impact on Search Engine Rankings
Recently, we analyzed a site for a company that was referred to us by one of our customers. They couldn’t understand why their site had over 300 pages and suddenly they couldn’t get found anywhere on Google. “What happened” they asked.
What happened was the March, 2011 “Panda” release of the Google algorithm!
This new version of Google results in a major change to the best practices for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). These changes are a by-product of Google efforts to dramatically improve its own efficiency by addressing “machine learning scalability”.
Briefly, Google engineers identified the metrics that are highly correlated with how humans view a web site in terms of trust, credibility and appeal. They are presently taking steps to upgrade and downgrade websites accordingly. Before Panda, SEO objectives were to (1.) deliver good content that was (2.) easy for search engines to read, combined with (3.) effective keyword research and (4.) quality inbound links.
Post-Panda, these practices will not be good enough unless they are combined with attractive design and a great user experience that drive competition beating site performance metrics. Now design and user experience (beautiful, easy to use, not cluttered, entertaining, fun, funny, great photos and videos) have first order effects on your Google position. Delivering stuff that people want to share is the goal. Google can tell if you do.
Panda is here to stay and likely to get more aggressive. Success will breed success. The first sites that are revised to conform to Panda will have an advantage because this is a long-term game where cumulative efforts pay off. A strategy that incorporates new video content, and the associated text and pictures, designed and optimized for a particular key word phrase, is a great start. At the same time, however, site design and usability have to be at least as good as the competition to win a material share of the 10,000 monthly visitors searching for the stuff you are selling. It’s clear that the winners will have to closely monitor their metrics (click through rate, direct visits, sharing of links, browsing time, etc.) and take steps to get and keep them up to snuff. In the end, it’s still all about content, content, content! That’s what Google’s users demand and that's what Google is serious about delivering.
As more and more business migrates to the web, it’s publish or peril.