Last year, Google made some of the most sweeping changes to their search algorithm in the past nine years.  These changes are referred to as Panda, in addition to a follow-up known as Penguin.

Panda is an update that Google that places a lot more importance on your website page content, or “on-page” factors.  Prior to Panda, the on-page factors were heavily outweighed by the links coming into your site. Now, the quality of your website (and blog) is much more important to Google.

If you look at it from Google’s perspective it makes a lot of sense. They want to provide quality search results that effectively “end the search” for the user.  That means when Google sends you a site visitor they don’t want them coming right back and continuing their search.  They want to know that the user accomplished what they were searching for, and that the search was effective. That makes Google a more effective search tool.

As a result, it’s important to understand some of the on-page factors that Google looks for and uses to assign a “quality score” to your overall site. A higher quality score means that they trust that your site will make their search tool look like it is doing its job.  We’ve made a list of the important on-page factors to help you get your arms around beginning to improve that score:

  1. Place content above the ‘fold’, not just images.  In fact, if you can place your image so that it starts above the fold, and continues after it, you can likely get users scrolling down your page.  And that follows the adage, “an object in motion stays in motion” – if they start interacting with your page, they’ll continue checking out and reading your page.  That means longer time on your page (and on your site).

  2. Internal linking within the body of your content to other pages within your site.  Think about Wikipedia, and how it refers you to other Wikipedia entries to extend your knowledge of what you are seeking to understand.  That is also something that can help your visitor engagement, and is looked at positively by Google.

  3. Any external links from your article should be “NO FOLLOW”.  This isn’t entirely true in all cases, but as a rule of thumb you want to make sure that any advertisements or similar links that go off of your site pages are marked as NO FOLLOW, because that is what they should be in Google’s eyes.  That includes any links in the comments area of your blog. (This might be something to ask your web developer, but it's the way the links are created.  They need a specific parameter that is called "No Follow").

  4. Dynamic, instead of static, content in supplementary columns.  This is a big one for blogs, as most blogging platforms keep the same content in the supplementary column across all posts.  That is no longer looks good in Google’s eyes.  That is because it doesn’t necessarily help users accomplish what they came to the site to do. Google prefers site’s feature content that is related to the page the user is currently on.  This means that you want to make sure the supplementary column content is relevant and topical to the current page, instead of static and probably unrelated to most of the posts. (Shameless promo: Genoo’s blogging platform accomplishes this easily.)

  5. Lower your bounce rate.  Google Analytics measures the bounce rate as the percentage of people who come in from search to a page then go right off the site or back to search. Google wants to know that users are finding what they need at your site, not bouncing away when they don’t find it.  To that end, you want them moving around your site and going to multiple pages and consuming your content.  Ideally, you want 45% of your visitors staying on your site for greater than 10 seconds.  Here are some ideas about accomplishing that:
    1. Create longer blog posts that can be split into pages, and include a table of contents at the top of each page, that links to each section - then paginate between the pages. (Shameless promo #2: Genoo's blogging platform also makes this easy to do.)
    2. Make sure your "related content" is dynamic, and relevant to the subject of the page -- so users want to click through and read your content.
    3. Videos can help engagement.  Sprinkle some videos into your pages and blog posts.  Get them transcribed so you can also include the transcription as the blog text.

There are more, but this will get you started.  The most important thing is to understand your target audience, and then develop content that helps them.  Sprinkling in some calls-to-action is also a very good idea that can help you guide leads through their buying process.... but I'll cover that in a separate post!