What is the Google Panda SEO Update?

Google Panda SEO update - brightedgeGoogle Panda update was introduced in 2011 and was designed to punish thin or poor content. The filter that came in the update was aimed at stopping poor content that had managed to rank highly for certain queries despite having little to offer readers. From 2011 through 2015, Google updated the filter periodically, which resulted in new sites being penalized. Beginning in January 2016, however, Google announced that Panda was now a core part of their algorithm. Although Google has confirmed that this does not mean the filter will be updated in real time, it is used to help measure the quality of a site when determining its rank.

How does Google Panda work?

Google Panda penalties occur when websites manage to rank highly despite thin or poor content that does not serve the end user. We have seen penalties occur for:

  • Duplicate content
  • Pages that have a poor-content-to-ad ratio
  • Pages with excessively general information
  • Content that offers little information

When we analyzed the Google Panda update 4.1 that occurred in the fall of 2014, we found that the update even impacted a number of well-known sites, such as:

  • Independent.co.uk, likely for a poor content-to-ad ratio
  • Answers.com, likely for generic content
  • CheaperThanDirt.com, likely for thin, uninformative content

On the other hand, pages like NYTimes.com and OrganicGardening.com benefited from the update because they already focused on highly informative content with a low ad ratio.

How do I recover from a Panda penalty?

If you are hit with a Google Panda update penalty, you will notice a steady decline in traffic, followed by stabilization. It is important to note that if you are hit by Panda, it will impact your entire site. So, if you notice a drop across all of your keywords, it is likely that you were hit by Panda.

Google offers this traffic report as an example of a site that has been hit by Panda.

Google panda update graph - brightedge

If you notice this drop here is how to recover.

  1. Review your site for duplicate pages or extra pages that offer little to the user. Look for duplicate Title Tags as a potential indicator of duplicate content.
  2. Eliminate or update these pages so they provide value for the reader
  3. Use robots.txt on pages that are duplicate but needed on your page
  4. Make sure your site offers a positive user experience, and does not contain excessive ads
  5. When Google refreshes the algorithm, you should start to see your site’s rank improve.

What was the main purpose of the Panda update?

As you move forward with your website, you want to make sure that you produce content that the Panda filter will like and will not threaten your site in the future. Here is how to produce Panda-friendly content:

  • Each page should have a purpose for the end-user, not just to rank for a particular keyword. You should have a particular buyer persona and a particular stage of the buyer’s journey in mind to help you produce the level of quality that your audience, and Google, want to see
  • Regularly check for duplicate content
  • Keep an eye on your ad ratio to make sure that your load time and your user experience are not hurt by excessive ads
  • Use Google Webmaster tools to make sure the website is functioning optimally and providing the best possible user experience.

Since 2011, the Google Panda update has worked to provide users with high-quality content while minimizing the presence of websites that do not provide the answers the user sought. Regularly monitor your traffic to watch for any potential hits of this penalty and always focus on quality and the user experience when producing content moving forward.