A 2014 algorithm update from Google has had a sizable impact on the search result rankings of many websites — most notably, press release sites like Business Wire, PRWeb and PRNewswire. google-490567_1280

The update, known as Panda 4.0, is intended to better identify low-quality content in an attempt to prevent it from showing up high on the list in search results. Content that is short, repetitive or stuffed with links is now ranked lower as Google continues to work to provide its users with better results. And although Panda has been updated multiple times since its initial 4.0 release, a report from Search Engine Land shows that some websites experienced a significant ranking loss in search engine optimization (SEO) visibility of between 60 and 85 percent due to the updates.

These changes have forced many press release distribution services to make changes to their strategies to help their clients maintain better search rankings and comply with Panda’s evolving algorithm.

Eliminating thin content

Prior to Panda 4.0, a key component of many brands’ content marketing strategies was to create and distribute numerous press releases online, typically packing the content with specific keywords and phrases to assist with SEO. However, in recent years Google has viewed this practice as harmful to quality search results, and Panda may actually penalize some marketers that overuse this technique.

In response, it’s imperative for content marketers to improve on thin content by including links to credible sources and avoiding the practice of simply rewriting content in different forms. Good press release writing today includes multimedia, such as photos and videos, and each release should have something truly newsworthy to announce. In short, the days of distributing mass press releases online simply for the SEO value are over.

Quality over quantity

Simply knowing how to properly integrate keywords into press releases (and other forms of written content) is no longer the answer to better search engine rankings. Conversely, Panda has shifted Google’s focus to the relevance and quality of content developed. The more informative and comprehensive the content, the more opportunity Google has to build semantics around the topic and understand the context to properly index it within the search engine results it provides users.

In terms of best practices, a piece of content should be at least 500 words and attempt to explore a subject in a way that provides useful information to readers and viewers. Consider it a give-and-take relationship with Google. The more you give the search engine to work with, the better your results will likely be when it comes to SEO, as you will help Google achieve its ultimate goal of giving users the quality search results they want and need.

Although the initial impact of Panda 4.0 update has been drastic for many press release distribution services, top executives, including Vocus CEO Peter Granat, are optimistic that these changes will lead to higher-quality content overall. To be sure, the algorithm changes have been a disruption to the direct marketing industry, but it can be overcome and will reap significant rewards for those brands rising to the challenge.