The Panda Joke

A panda walks into a cafe, pandasits down and orders a grilled cheese. After he finishes eating the sandwich, he pulls out a gun, shoots the waiter, and then stands up to go.

“Hey, Panda!” shouts the manager. “Where do you think you’re going? You just shot my waiter! Plus, you didn’t pay for your sandwich!”

The panda pulls out a battered, poorly-punctuated dictionary and tosses it to the manager as he exits. “I’m a PANDA. Look it up!”

The manager opens it and sees this definition: “Panda: A white-and-black, bear-like mammal found in the forest areas of central China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

OK, so maybe it’s not the best joke in the world, but it serves a purpose: It illustrates how one misplaced comma can change the entire meaning of a sentence, leading to disaster.

Panda jokes are funny. But Google’s Panda 4.0 update? If you’ve been populating your website with cheap content, then the joke’s on you.

A fantastic write-up by Julia Spence-McCoy* at SEMRush outlines 7 content writing guidelines for businesses to follow now that Google’s Panda 4.0 is in place.

Spence-McCoy’s analysis seems to place a more urgent emphasis than ever before on posting unique, knowledgeable and professionally written content only.

My favorite is #6, in which she advises companies to remove low-quality writing from their websites to avoid punishment from the new Google update.

Spence-McCoy goes on to advise, if removing bad content is not possible, companies should “start publishing more quality pieces immediately.”

 The Natural Health Writer loves this.

It sounds like Google’s Panda 4.0 may now even more aggressively target and punish the following affronts to the Art of Writing:

“Frankenwriting” that cobbles together copied-and-pasted phrases from scattered sources of questionable quality.

“Spun” content that changes a few words here and there to spawn meaningless permutations of the original piece.

Flat-out badly written copy: Typos, grammatical errors, poor sentence structure and lack of cohesion or meaning.

Inaccurate, unsubstantiated copy, which, in the natural health realm, creates risks far beyond a “Google Slap.”

Plagiarized content: Ah, plagiarism. The bane of Google, gumming up the works with redundant, unoriginal drivel.

*Here’s the Real Punchline:

I first read this awesome list of 7 Post-Panda 4.0 Content Rules to Live By as a LinkedIn post, “written by” an SEO consultant.

But scrolling down to the comment section, he was exposed as having plagiarized the entire post from the original work of Julia Spence-McCoy.

This means that this “SEO Consultant” plagiarized an article that was about avoiding plagiarism for SEO purposes…. Oh, the irony!

Talk about a misplaced comma!    ::rimshot::

But seriously, folks… what kind of writers are you working with in this Panda 4.0 world?


Now that LOST is over, it looks like the Dharma Initiative is working in the natural products industry...

Before advertising any nutritional ingredient, consider your target market and their focus on cutting-edge quality. Oh, and taking note of the year, heck, even the decade, helps too.

This Q.P. Corporation brochure (offering nutritional supplement raw materials like lecithin, hyaluronic acid and chondroitin) was printed in 2010. But upon seeing it, my reaction was to call the 1970s and ask if they wanted their brochure back.

The American natural health industry sources raw materials from China and Japan. But clearly, these eastern suppliers often fall short on marketing. Q.P. (a Japanese company) cannot penetrate the American market using promotional materials that feel synthetic and outdated — especially in an industry that values natural origins and nutritional innovation.

The Lesson: Retro is fashion-cool, but it has no place in nutrition marketing… nor does the word “chemical.” Our industry seeks natural, safe, quality ingredients that help people. Q.P. ignores these factors and promotes a ’70s sci-fi nightmare of chemical toxic green. This is not how natural health looks!

Generic is Lazy

That shade of yellow brings out your... well... um...

A few years ago, a company (which shall remain nameless) hired me to create new product marketing direction for a whole-food multivitamin supplement. I did market research, evaluated the competition, brainstormed product names, taglines and angles. I picked the strongest and created a brochure and box copy that told a story about the supplement. I billed for ten hours. The client nixed my copy.

Recalling the project, I decided to look it up today and see what kind of copy they ended up using. Here it is — in its entirety —  believe it or not:

This product features a wide array of vitamins, minerals, herbs and other nutrients – including vegetable, fruit and mushroom complexes – to give you the well-rounded nutrition you crave.

Good god, where to start? The writing is bad, nobody “craves” nutrition, and there is no effort to brand or differentiate this product from the scores of similar competitors. If you want to sell your nutritional supplement, you need to do better.

The Lesson: Make sure your company has a real marketing person in place. With the right marketing direction, storytelling and design work, you can offer your nutritional supplement at a premium price… that consumers will be happy to pay. Make it sexy. Our industry is far too dynamic to settle for generic marketing.