A Cuddly (Google) Panda for Small Businesses?

pandaYou’ll have to forgive the pun. Matt Cutts, Google’s gatekeeper of organic search, recently made an announcement that’s tailor-made to grab headlines.

Back in early 2011, Google released a major algorithm update called Panda. The change was the first of several Google shifts that aimed to reward “high-quality” websites filled with useful, reader-friendly content while penalizing spammy sites that didn’t offer much value for regular visitors. By most accounts, it served its purpose. Post-Panda, many spammy sites’ page ranks fell through the floor.

A Cuter, Hopefully Cuddlier Panda Algorithm

Panda may have been too effective for its own good. In July of last year, Google announced that it was releasing an update that would “soften” Panda’s rough edges and reduce the likelihood of punitive search rank declines for legitimate websites that play – or try to play – by the rules.

Along with future updates that are expected to occur on a monthly basis, the current Panda shift aims to right these perceived wrongs. In particular, it should reduce penalties for small business websites that provide relevant content but don’t have massive marketing budgets or streamlined development operations.

This is great news for small business owners in competitive industries. When you’re boxed in by larger competitors, trying to reach and persuade prospects can feel like jumping up and down in a crowd of NBA power forwards. Your hairline might punch above their shoulders for a split second, but then you’re right back to being invisible.

As a small business owner, it’s nice to know that Google has your back. Like all algorithm updates, though, the exact effects of this “cuddly” Panda shift will only become apparent over time. If you’re struggling with less-than-stellar search rankings and can’t seem to edit or update your way out of it, you won’t notice an overnight change.

Creating a Compelling Brand

What can you do to increase the chances that the “new” Panda positively affects your company’s online visibility? Continue to do what you (already should) have been doing: Create a website that speaks directly to your target buyers, showcases how your products and services fill an unmet need and differentiates your company from its competitors without resorting to underhanded tactics that Google abhors.

The endgame, of course, is an engaging Web presence that presents a clear, compelling case for your company’s offerings and is optimized to draw organic search traffic. Create enticing product or service pages that highlight your competitive advantages. Regularly update your blog with engaging topics that your customers want to learn more about. Leverage social media posts and third-party websites to draw additional users to your website’s blog, landing pages and other key components.

Buyer Personas: The Missing Link?

It’s also crucial to speak directly to those who matter most to your bottom line. Using existing lead-generation and conversion data from across your marketing channels as well as information about completed sales, generate reliable “pictures” of the consumers and decision-makers who are most likely to purchase or authorize the purchase of your products and services.

Each of these pictures is known as a “buyer persona.” As long as your conversion and sales data allow, you should always be looking for ways to tailor your onsite videos, infographics, copy and other forms of content to these ideal buyers. Speak their “language” by hitting on the pain points that bother them most or highlighting the benefits that only they understand.

Trying to divine Google’s intent is a tall order: Even when it makes public announcements about algorithm updates, the company is notorious for keeping things close to the vest. That said, it’s nice to know that Google keeps small business owners in mind when designing and rolling out such changes. Just as Google continually strives to improve its search technology for its core constituencies, you should always be looking to improve your site’s content and appearance. As the cuter, cuddlier Panda update proves, your organic search rank could depend on it.

One thought on “A Cuddly (Google) Panda for Small Businesses?

  1. I am glad to know they are finally doing something about Panda. I know a lot of people who felt like they were “punished” unfairly when the change first came out. Thanks for the heads up!

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