Back in February 2011, the Google Panda update marked a significant change to Google’s search results ranking algorithm. The aim of the update was to target low quality, “spam” sites and promote better quality sites to the top of the results pages. Sites with excessive advertising, spammy text links and spun content were the hardest hit. With inbound links still the most critical ranking factor for websites; the question was raised again by search engine marketers: will links from these kinds of sites continue to pass any value?
One year on in February 2012, Google rolled out Panda 3.3 and accompanied it with the following slightly mysterious statement:
“Link evaluation. We often use characteristics of links to help us figure out the topic of a linked page. We have changed the way in which we evaluate links; in particular, we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years. We often rearchitect or turn off parts of our scoring in order to keep our system maintainable, clean and understandable.”
The statement raises all kinds of questions but, namely, how have they changed the way they evaluate links? A consensus on this matter has emerged here in the marketing team at Dhub following two potential new clients who approached us for advice following Panda 3.3. After having experienced a rankings drop, we investigated their sites and discovered an abundance of inbound links from low quality sites, often with excessive advertising on the page and often using exact match anchor text.
Our advice, as we say to all our clients, is to focus on building good quality, natural looking inbound links. As designers, as well as marketers, we can never impress enough on our clients the need, not just to build great looking websites, but to feature top quality content on those sites too. A great job on both these fronts (as we humbly believe we do for all our clients) combined with a sound promotional strategy will almost certainly result in those good quality, natural looking links that will help you to rank.