What is “Google Panda”?

If you asked anyone involved with SEO and SEM what is the biggest SEO update at 2011, the Google Panda update would be no doubt on top of the list. It has raised a lot of debate and quite a few headaches along the way. Soon after the Panda rollout, many websites, including Google’s webmaster forum, became filled with complaints of scrapers/copyright infringers getting better rankings than sites with original content.

Google Panda is a change to the Google’s search results ranking algorithm that was introduced in February 2011. The change aimed to lower the rank of “low-quality sites”, and return higher-quality sites near the top of the search results. There is a surge in the rankings of news websites and social networking sites, and a drop in rankings for sites containing large amounts of advertising. This change reportedly affected the rankings of almost 12 percent of all search results.

To help affected publishers, Google published an advisory on its blog, thus giving some direction for self-evaluation of a website’s quality.

The panda process

Google Panda was built through an algorithm update that used artificial intelligence in a more complicated and scalable way than previously possible. Human quality testers rated thousands of websites based on measures of quality, including design, trustworthiness and speed.

Many new ranking factors have been introduced to the Google algorithm as a result, while older ranking factors like PageRank have been downgraded in importance. Google Panda is updated from time to time and the algorithm is run by Google on a regular basis.

Google Panda affects a whole site’s ranking or particular section rather than just the individual pages on a site.

In addition to other changes, Panda seems to focus on the date of a web page. Some experts think this has adversely impacted sites with lots of “evergreen content”. Because evergreen content usually has an older publication date, Panda seems to reduce its visibility in search results. For searchers looking for in-depth information, many of these evergreen posts are great sources of knowledge on a topic. If these evergreen web pages happen to be on a blog they also often contain a long comment thread with lots of additional, valuable information. In the future Google has not addressed how evergreen pages are listed in search results.

Google Panda v3.2 was released January 14th, 2012 and v3.3 was released in February 29th, 2012. According to the Google these updates were just a “data refresh”, meaning if site was not punished previously just by mistake it will be punished now and if a site was punished wrongly punishment will be removed.

What is Panda targeting?

It would be quite easy to paint a picture of Panda’s main targets. In summary, the Panda update is designed to:

  1. Reduce spam
  2. Combat sites such as ‘content farms’
  3. Improve scraper detection
  4. Filter low quality content
  5. Close vulnerabilities in its algorithm

The main factors that are being considered, and are clearly important are:

  1. Low quality content
  2. Excessive advertisements
  3. Branding
  4. User signals

Who has been affected by Google Panda?

Based on different stories through World Wide Web, the following sorts of websites have been the clear losers:

  • Free classified websites
  • Advertising websites designed to host ‘Ad-sense’
  • Price comparison websites with lean content
  • Travel websites with poor or duplicated reviews
  • E-commerce websites with poor product pages
  • Article websites with low quality or reproduced content
  • Websites with poor usability and branding

It is obvious that the Panda update has not affected the bigger brands, because they are rich and should be safe!

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