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Treat Google as a valued member of your target audience. It’ll love you for it.

Google has been coming down hard on ‘spammy’ content for a while now, but it only hit home for many after big fat Panda 4.0 stomped out of the tech jungle and into cyber city.

Traffic dropped 63% for PR Newswire, one of the web’s largest content distribution sites, following the release of Panda 4.0 in May this year. A hefty drop and one that could’ve spelled the end for a less established website. What this algorithm update made perfectly clear was that Google had changed its mind, again, about content. They had rolled out the Panda again but this time they unlocked the cage and set it free.

PR Newswire’s answer to this scary predicament was to overhaul their quality guidelines for press release submissions. It meant saying ‘bye bye’ to SEO agencies writing hundreds of worthless releases on behalf of clients, just for links, and ‘hello’ to everyone having to make a concerted effort to produce quality writing. Great news for purveyors of such content (us) and for all internet users who would no longer find a terrible press release clogging up the first page of search results.

Since Panda 4.0, organisations have had to up their game and create useful, relevant, shareable and regular content. It’s no longer enough to churn out blog posts in the hope that fulfilling the ‘regular’ criterion is enough to keep everyone happy. Despite being a machine, Google is all about masquerading as just another internet user, rejecting badly written, unoriginal or frankly irrelevant content outright. It’s something we know readers do because we asked them.

It turns out (not surprisingly to us) that nobody likes spelling and grammar mistakes when they’re browsing the web. What was a surprise is that it was the biggest no-no for 28.21% of 18-24-year-olds looking to buy from a website, a larger percentage than 65+-year-olds who you might assume would be sticklers for such things. It was this age group that proved to be most impatient when it comes to web copy getting to the point. Just 4.65% said they’d read on until it gets to the point, compared with 15.38% of 25-34-year-olds. If you’re interested, you can see a selection of results from our poll in our Price of Bad Content infographic.

So there are two learnings from Panda 4.0:

  1. Only create relevant, useful, shareable content. Regularity and keywords are definitely not enough.
  2. Know your audience, properly, so you can successfully achieve point 1, above. We did a whole blog post on this, here. Pandas like bamboo but it doesn’t mean anyone else is remotely interested in this evergreen plant.

Have you been trampled over by Panda or slapped about a bit by Penguin? Let our readers know what changes you had to make in the comment box below or by tweeting us @strattoncraig

  1. Mike the Copywriter : 1st December 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Yes, or take it a step further: forget SEO and just make it so damn good that it gets passed around by real people who love it. Google will soon catch on – he's so shallow he only wants to like what you and I like anyway.

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