Panda 4.0, the latest change to Google’s algorithm, was officially rolled out on May 21 of this year. Since Google originally introduced Panda, their goal has been to eliminate poor quality, “thin” sites from ranking higher in search results than those sites with quality, relevant content.

Overall, this has led to an opportunity for many professional services firms to be able to get more visibility for quality, educational content they create that may have been buried in the past by spammy sites engaged in black-hat tactics that earned them top rankings.

What does this mean for your professional services website? It means that your firm has a better opportunity to get visibility for your high-quality, relevant content. After analyzing the effects of Panda 4.0 over the past several weeks, there are several key takeaways.

Content is Still King

Panda 4.0 solidified what Google has been preaching for some time now. Websites with “thin” content continue to take a hit in rankings and it looks like that trend will only continue. Google wants to reward sites with content that is useful, shareable, and engaging. For professional services firms, this means creating content that those in your industry will find educational and would want to share with others. As social networks continue to grow, this provides a great opportunity to increase visibility and demonstrate your firm’s expertise in certain areas.

When it comes to creating great content, always keep your target audience in mind. What are the challenges your potential clients are dealing with on a day-to-day basis that you could provide insight on? What would they want to learn about? By demonstrating your ability to not only solve their problems, but also understanding their problems, you put your firm in a position to differentiate itself from others.

Duplicate Content is Getting Riskier

Duplicate content has never been recommended, but Panda 4.0 has made it downright risky. Many major sites with an excessive amount of syndicated and duplicate content took big hits after Panda 4.0 was rolled out. If your site has a lot of duplicate content issues and hasn’t already been hit with a penalty, consider yourself lucky and start taking steps now to remove the duplicate content.

Many professional services firms offer similar services for different industry verticals. It would seem simple enough to create several different vertical pages and just switch out the particular industry name while keeping the same copy. While many understand this is a bad practice, it is still something that is seen on a regular basis on low-quality, “thin” sites. Instead, try to create content that speaks specifically to issues within each particular vertical. While your services may be similar, there are always different issues to discuss in different industries to avoid having duplicate content on your website.

Don’t Forget To Optimize Your Site Pages

Be sure to keep your title tags and meta descriptions in mind. Each page should have a unique title and meta description. Try to keep your page titles under 55 characters and your meta descriptions under 160 characters. This will ensure that when your pages are displayed in search results, the title will not be cut off and users will be able to quickly understand what the page is about. Also, include relevant keywords in your titles and meta descriptions.

Finally, with Panda 4.0’s emphasis on quality content, your pages should have enough copy to ensure Google does not consider your pages “thin.” It is recommended that you have at least 300 words on each of your pages. Use this recommendation as a guide. If your pages only currently have 280 words, do not panic. This best practice takes audience engagement as well as overall SEO into account.

Look at Panda 4.0 as an Opportunity, Not a Problem

Panda 4.0 did not produce any major surprises in the white-hat SEO community. Google’s algorithm will never be perfect, but as new updates continue to be rolled out, white-hat best practices continue to be rewarded and spammy tactics continue to be punished. Continue to produce quality content written for your audience and you won’t need to panic every time a new update is rolled out.

Professional services firms that have felt that getting their content ranked on first pages of search results was an impossibility should see the new Panda 4.0 changes as an opportunity for their online markeitng programs. Google will continue to rank the quality, relevant content higher in search results to ensure a better search engine user experience.

Download the SEO Guide for Professional Services: Second Edition and to learn even more tips and best practices for search engine optimization. 

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Kevin Bloom