Panda is old news, but it’s never going away. As long as there’s an Internet, there will be some method of searching its vast reaches for information. As long as there is a search engine needed, Google will be there. They are virtually too big to stop at this point, try as their competitors might. It would take a dramatic paradigm shift with a newcomer out of the blue to challenge Google, and even then, the big G has a reasonable chance of just buying the newcomer and rolling their tech in with the existing algorithms.
As long as Google is in charge of Internet searching, they will place an emphasis on quality of content over quantity of keywords. That’s what Panda is all about. In the years to come, the name might change, new algorithms might come for similar purposes, but it all builds on the back of the Panda.
If you want to compete in the modern world of blogging, you need to produce content that not only satisfies the Panda, but also impresses the mighty beast. Think of it less like a karate bear, and more like a tyrannous dragon, ready to burn your village to the ground if you don’t give it the proper tithe.
Duplicate content is one of the Panda’s biggest targets, so the first thing you need to do is minimize it. I’m going to assume by now that you’ve removed any instances of outright duplication or accidental URL variance leading to it. Canonicalization is your friend.
It’s my believe that, as Google grows more entrenched with semantic content and implied links, content will start to look less and less original. A side effect of this process will be the broadening of the definition of “duplicate” content. Writing two different blog posts covering the same subject may be detrimental in the long run, as between them there won’t be anything unique. They may as well be rolled into one post, and that’s what I think Google will edge for in the future.
For now, the main thing you should avoid is anything directly copying someone else, or yourself. You can cover the same topics, but it might be better to look for tertiary topics, or to write rebuttals instead of repetitions.
Google likes informative content. Google likes content with a lot of real, actual value. If you’ve ever looked into the life of a search engine evaluator, you might have come across one of the large documents Google uses to manually rate sites. They’re an interesting read, if you’re into that kind of thing.
The biggest takeaway is that Google has human beings manually review search queries and their results. They rate them on a scale ranging from Vital to Useless. For example, for a query “wiki,” the actual Wikipedia homepage would be a vital result, while a subpage would be lower on the scale, a wikia page would be even lower, and a non-wiki site that talks about Wikipedia is probably even lower.
It all comes down to two factors; relevance and utility. How relevant is the content to the query? It needs to be closely connected to the query and answering a specific question, providing specific information. If it’s not closely related to the query, it’s less useful. If it’s related to the query but doesn’t have much of use, it’s thin content.
This is one factor in utility that few people seem to grasp consciously. A piece of content is only good if you can understand it. It’s why Facebook’s I Fucking Love Science account is insanely popular, while the NASA account isn’t nearly as popular, and actual science journals are so miniscule that few people can even name one. The more you use jargon and statistics, the narrower your audience, and thus the narrower your content’s appeal.
Now, I’m not telling you to write everything at a third grade level. We don’t need to collectively dumb down the Internet, even if the average intellect of an Internet user seems to require it. You just need to write in a way that’s easy to understand, while still getting deep concepts across. Liberal use of metaphor helps a lot, here.
Freshness in content isn’t something that’s been relevant to older Panda updates, but it came about last year, and it’s made another slow paradigm shift likely. It’s a subtle way for Google to tell people “your old content matters less than your new content.” Google wants to make sure the content it serves to people is not just the best resource, it’s the most up to date resource.
You can actually easily see the problem in action just by running a Google search for surviving Panda. You’ll find very detailed, helpful guides in the top 5 search results, all published before 2014. Guides from 2012 and 2013 are fine, but they aren’t necessarily relevant to a 2015 world. Panda has changed, the algorithm has changed, standards have changed, and while old advice may still work, it’s not the most accurate.
The problem stems from people who know about SEO working hard to get their sites in the top results. This is great for new content, but for older content, there may be better resources that haven’t had time to rack up the links and traffic necessary to rank number one. Google wants to overturn the incumbent leaders and promote the best content, even if that content is newer and on a less popular site.
To add value to any given blog post, you can go in one of two directions. You can spread out and make your piece more general, covering a wider range with the same level of detail it currently uses. Alternatively, you can go deeper, covering your topic in more detail, with case studies and statistics. Many bloggers choose to go deeper, mostly because it’s easier to do. If you go broad, you’re potentially covering topics that would be better as their own posts.