Google Panda is an attempt by Google to improve the search results by forcing webmasters to improve the quality of their websites.
Does it achieve that aim?
Well, this is a question which gets lots of different responses from lots of different people.
We will let you decide if the Panda algorithm has been successful at improving search quality and website quality by explaining what Google considers “quality” to be.
Google Quality Scores
You are probably aware that Google crawls the web via its automated robotic software known as “Googlebot”.
However, you may not be aware (largely due to Google’s own propaganda machine) that Googlebot cannot read anything on a web page. Regardless of what Matt Cutts or any other Google employee may say, Google bot is completely unable to determine what is good content and what is bad content simply because it cannot read!
Even if Googlebot could read, computers and computer software (which is what Googlebot is – a piece of software) are simply not sophisticated enough to determine quality and usefulness in the same way that a human brain can.
So, if Googlebot cannot read how does Google tell what is a good quality web page and what is a bad quality web page?
Well, this is a question that Google has struggled with for years (and still does).
In order for Googlebot to determine which site has better quality than another, so that the algorithm can rank it higher in the SERPs, Google engineers had to come up with a way to determine quality.
The only way they could do that with the current level of technology they have at their disposal was to look for indicators of quality – certain things that occur on a site which could be used as “road signs” showing whether the site was offereing good quality or bad quality.
The Google Indicators of Quality
Before we venture into the debate about what a quality site actually is please bear in mind that what you and I consider quality is not necessarily how Google sees things.
Because Googlebot cannot read, and thus determine if what is on the page is useful or not, Google had to look for other indicators of quality.
The most important indicator of quality as far as Google is concerned is the “user engagement” on a site.
For our purposes we can consider user engagement as time spent on site and amount of pages viewed by a visitor plus the amount of returning visitors versus new visitors.
The longer a visitor spends on the site and the more pages he/she views the higher quality the site – at least this is Google’s reasoning.
They believe that a quality site will retain a visitor for a longer period of time and engage them so much that they will browse different areas of the site.
If a visitor clicks on a site link and leaves within a very short time via an on-page link, or worse hits the back button to return to the search results, Google views this as an indication that the site was not a good match for the visitor’s search.
Do we agree with this?
A visitor can land on a page and find exactly what they need within a few seconds and leave that page more than happy with their online interaction feeling that they had a quality results because they achieved their aim.
To us this can be an indicator of quality and usefulness – the exact opposite of what Google thinks.
Of course, it could also be an indicator of no quality whatsoever.
The simple truth is that it is no real indicator at all.
However, Google does not see it this way and if you want to rank in Google and get all the traffic they send then you need to play by Google’s rules.
Improving User Engagement
In the coming sections we will look at easy to implement strategies that will dramatically improve your panda score by improving the user engagement stats of your site.
We will start with improving the time a visitor spends on your site.