Apparently, Google's sole desire is to help people find high-quality sites in the search results. The jury is still out on whether or not they really intend to rule the world and updates like Penguin and Panda are just a precursor to their total domination of our lives.
We'll assume the best and just trust Google when they say Panda was only about assessing website quality. But their lack of specific guidelines and tips leaves us wondering, especially when they come right out and tell us they intend to tie our hands.
"Of course, we aren't disclosing the actual ranking signals used in our algorithms because we don't want folks to game our search results."
That is particularly helpful for those of us who want to follow the rules but don't know how. Google does, however, invite us to step into their mindset.
So, according to Google's own suggestions, here are the eight, not 10 (since nothing in SEO is that neat and tidy), commandments of anti-Panda writing.
1. Thou Shalt Provide Truthful Content
Lying is not nice - ever. It is especially frowned upon when you do it under the pretext of being an authority on a subject. Therefore, it is essential to provide content that is not only useful, but also truthful.
For example, if you are writing on a health topic, are you quoting and referencing doctors, health professionals and accredited research studies? Or are you nabbing information from Joe Blow's blog who may or may not know what he is talking about?
Also, it is important to present both sides of a story. Don't be prejudice, only offering readers what you think they want to see. Throw both sides of the argument out there. Let readers decide for themselves which opinion/idea is more credible.
2. Thou Shalt Become an Expert about Something
Whether you are the site owner or a content writer, you really should be an authority on something.
If you are the site owner, what is your site about? Do your categories include health, family, education, business, travel and entertainment? If so, you are probably angering the Google decision-makers.
If you are a content writer, what are you writing about? Do you pen articles about Web design, exercise routines and hair extensions? If so, Google might think you are a fake.
Abraham Lincoln said, "Whatever you are, be a good one." You can't possibly be an authority on all those topics. Pick the ones you do know something about; write about those. That way, you can actually build credibility and become a reliable source of information.
3. Thou Shalt Use Keywords Wisely
Oh how we loath and love keywords. It's a love-hate relationship, really.
While writers and site owners might oscillate between affection and dislike, Google doesn't waiver at all. They hate writing for keywords 100 percent of the time.
By now, most of us know it is a no-no to keyword spam our content. However, keywords are essential for a site's success. There is a very muddy, blurred line between what Google thinks is acceptable and unacceptable.
However, we do know that Google frowns upon sites that have duplicate, overlapping or redundant content. If you have page after page that discuss the same or similar subjects, you could be in trouble. It is also not OK to write articles that cover the same general idea but are optimized for slightly different, or synonym, keywords.
4. Thou Shalt Write Content that People Actually Want to Read
In general, sites exist for one of two reasons:
1. Build as many backlinks and/or earn as much money as possible by posting crappy, no-one-cares information.
2. Provide quality, helpful, insightful information with relevant, useful links that ranks well because they are just that good.
Which do you suppose Google likes better?
For quite some time, we have all known that quality content is a must. However, it needs to go one step further. No matter how masterfully it was written or how naturally it links, content needs to be applicable to a target audience.
Writing about PHP on a social media marketing blog is not of interest to the readers. Similarly, trying to write content you think Google will like is pointless. Instead, write content you think your readers will like. Google is much more likely to reward that content.
5. Thou Shalt Conduct Quality Control
Someday, Google will probably be able to predict the future or at least control the weather. In the meantime, we'll just have to be amazed by the fact that they can "read" content on the Web.
If you think spelling errors don't affect your ranking, you're wrong. If you think having a few factual mistakes doesn't matter, you're wrong. If you think Google won't be able to tell that guest bloggers write all your content, you're wrong. If you think the bots won't notice you threw something together at the last minute, you're wrong. If you think it doesn't matter that you are routinely writing little, insignificant articles that are devoid of useful specifics, you're wrong. If you think it is pointless to go beyond the basics, you're wrong.
Google can detect all that and more.
6. Thou Shalt Encourage Sharing
Many of us dislike social media - it takes a lot of our time and doesn't produce much noticeable ROI. Even so, sharing, liking, tweeting and all that jazz is apparently more important than we would like to admit.
Google likes to assume (and you know what that means). They assume content that gets shared is quality. After all, if someone took the time to read the article and decided it was good enough to recommend to other people, it must be worthy of a better ranking.
7. Thou Shalt Not Suffocate Readers with Ads
Google is all about enhancing the user experience. Therefore, it shouldn't come as a shock to learn they dislike in-context ads or anything else that will detract from the readers' overall goal - consuming useful information.
In reality, they probably just dislike any moneymaking scheme that is better than AdWords. Either way, ad bombing, according to Google, is just as heinous as link bombing.
8. Thou Shalt Design a Killer Website
From start to finish, Google wants users to have a nice time at their little social gathering. After all, they are the bigwig host. And nothing makes guests feel more welcomed than a pleasant, enjoyable, relaxing, comfortable ambiance.
When analyzing the quality of their site, Google encourages owners to ask themselves, "are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail?"
How on earth can Google tell if a page is produced with great care? We have no idea. But apparently, you had better do it.
There you go; our eight commandments of anti-Panda writing. Did that clear things up? Do you now have a very thorough understanding of exactly what you are and aren't supposed to do? Have Google's tips and suggestions helped your writing? Sound off in the comments section below.