To Improve Search, 'Forget About the Search Engines'
"Similarly," Sasson says, "if you think of [social media] users as mini-publishers, if they link to you through social sharing activity [on Twitter, Facebook, etc.], that is becoming a bigger and bigger signal to search engines. ... [they] are paying more attention to those signals as if it was a page rank link coming in from another publisher's site. So that's helping to buoy SEO while getting traffic at the same time."
Sasson said publishers should begin to look at SEO as a "multiplatform challenge," with content discoverable in multiple areas that link back to and influence each other.
Panelist Sangram Kachwaha, vice president of digital service at search engine marketing agency Zeta Interactive, dove deeper into the implications of Panda, which he said affected 84 percent of the top domains in search listings. The sites seeing the biggest drop in traffic, such as eHow, HubPages and EZineArticles.com, saw a dramatic drop in traffic due to being perceived by Google as bringing up irrelevant or low-value content in search results.
Websites were penalized for featuring content copied or syndicated randomly from other sites, as well as shallow, poorly-written content placed on a page just for the sake of keyword inclusion. On the other hand, Panda helped sites featuring original content, research and in-depth reports.
"Develop your site for the users—forget about the search engines," Kachwaha said. "Try to cater to who is coming to your site, who's going to find your content relevant, and if you do that pretty much all of the 200 plus ranking factors that Google is taking into account will fall in line and help you achieve your goals."