Google is constantly working to improve the user experience of its search engine. Their 2011 Panda update is one of the many strategies they use to evaluate websites, determine their quality, and then rank them accordingly.
In order to rank at the top of Google’s pages, you want to know what Google’s crawlers are looking for and how they’re evaluating your site. The Panda algorithm update keeps bad sites out of the ranking and good sites in. And if you are practicing SEO and want to get traffic to your site, you’ll want to know exactly what Panda targets and how you can remain high in Google’s rankings. We’ll give you a rundown of Panda’s triggers, how it works, and what you need to adjust to avoid being punished.
Launch Date: February 23, 2011
How Often Is It Updated? Panda has updated 28 times since its debut back in 2011 according to Moz.com, and is now built directly into Google’s Algorithm and most likely runs based on machine learning data.
What Google Panda Impacted
When Google rolls out an update, they don’t typically give you a black-and-white guide telling you how things work. However, they do shed some light on what they consider to be a high-quality site. Knowing what they’re looking for helps you know what to include—and avoid—when crafting your site and its individual pages. The following are some of the triggers that will make your site vulnerable to Panda:
- Low-quality content – This is one of the easiest factors to control. If your content is bad, Panda will sniff if out and drag you down the rankings. Your site and your content should provide value to consumers.
- Duplicate or unoriginal content – If you’re copying content from one page of your site onto others, it won’t take long for Google to pick up on it and punish you. And if Google’s crawlers see that you’re stealing content from other sites and businesses, you destroy your own legitimacy. Google doesn’t want to give its users easy access to a site with no authority.
- High ad content – If your page has a ton of ads, it’s not serving its purpose, nor is it useful.
- Few or no links – This goes for both inbound and outbound links. You want reputable and high-ranking sites linking to you, and you also need to link to sites of the same caliber.
- Keyword stuffing – Cramming as many keywords as possible into your written content was once an effective way to rank high with Google. But now, keyword stuffing is not only annoying for your site visitors, it’s also a huge no-no with Google’s crawlers.
- Lack of trustworthiness – It’s not hard to point out a site you wouldn’t trust. Spelling and grammatical errors and even the lack of contact information make your site seem illegitimate, something you want to avoid.
How Google Panda Works
You’ll know you’ve been hit by the Panda update if you’ve lost traffic and are lower in Google’s rankings. But an algorithm isn’t necessarily the only cause of these things. You know that there are many factors that could result in lower rankings: competitors executing more effective SEO, dips in interest, or maybe even a different update. Moz put together a flowchart that’s a great tool to help you determine if you’ve been penalized because of Panda.
When a site exhibits multiple triggers listed in the above section, the Panda update sniffs it out. Once a site shows the algorithm that it’s of low quality, it’s sent down Google’s SERPs. Panda is updated from time to time. As these updates occur, a site’s rankings might go up or down depending on the newest regulations set forth by Google. As a site makes changes, it can recover from the penalties and move up in the rankings again.
How to Adjust Your SEO & Content Strategy
While Panda can certainly be a blow to websites who are punished, it’s not impossible to make a successful recovery. Because the algorithm targets low-quality sites, most of the time the solution is to scour your site for factors that might cause it to fall into that category and then make the appropriate changes.
Because the goal of Panda is to showcase high-quality sites, work to improve your affected pages or your site by doing the following:
- Get rid of duplicate content – If you’ve got word-for-word content on multiple pages on your site, either eliminate that content or rework it. That way, users still get the information they need without you having to delete an entire page on your site.
- Vet user-generated content – One huge problem for site owners vulnerable to Panda is that their writers aren’t providing original content. If you have site contributors, make sure they aren’t stealing copy from elsewhere online.
- Ensure relevance – Your pages should be a relevant match to a user’s query. Structure your data so that site visitors get what they’re looking for.
Do it Right
Dot it right: this is the best advice we can give to sites wanting to avoid being funneled out by the Panda update—or those trying to recover from being targeted. In short, Panda penalizes bad sites. To count yourself among quality sites, know what Google wants, then take the time to build your site—or make the necessary changes— to meet its standards. Making simple adjustments will help ensure that you stay where you want to be in Google’s rankings: right at the top.