With the flooding of information on the internet, separating high quality content from rehashed, duplicate and near duplicate content has become increasingly challenging for search engines. From the user’s perspective, getting junk content in search results is a constant source of frustration. This is where Google Panda comes in.
What is Google Panda?
In an effort to filter out frivolous, low quality content from its rankings, Google introduced Google Panda, a change to its search ranking algorithm. Google Panda tries to score content on quality and pushes down low quality content in search results and pushes up higher quality sites with original and high quality content. Before Google Panda came into effect, every page was evaluated on its own merit. With Google Panda, low quality content now impacts the entire website. In other words, if a website has original high quality content on its “products”, “services” and “about us” pages, but adds plagiarized, rehashed or extremely low quality content in its “Articles” section, then not only will the articles not rank, but the rankings of the entire website can come down. In effect, marketers can no longer pass off low quality so called “SEO content”, and have to give it the same level of importance as any marketing page in the site.
History of Google Panda
- February 2011: Google Panda launched
- April 2011: Google Panda rolled out world-wide
- March 2012: Google introduces over-optimization penalty as part of the Google Panda algorithm
Impact of Google Panda
After the roll-out of Google Panda, a number of websites that aggregated and scraped content from the web saw a sudden drop in rankings and traffic. “Me too” websites that tried to ape and rehash high quality content already present on other websites suffered. Websites that had thousands of pages with extremely similar content, (in some cases with only a few words – like; city, state and country changed – disappeared from search results. Websites that had high quality original content shot up in ranks and traffic. So called “SEO Writers” who made a living out of rewriting already published content took a beating – and continue to take a beating.
Does Google Panda replace previous algorithms?
The short answer is no, it doesn’t. It’s an additional ranking factor introduced by Google in addition to the 200+ other ranking factors already in place. However, Google Panda now takes precedence and has a higher impact on ranking as compared to older algorithms like Google Page Rank.
How does Google Panda work?
Any search engine’s algorithm is a complex mathematical formula that weighs over 200 parameters before determining which URL to rank for any given query. It’s a closely guarded secret-sauce that no search engine shares. However, at the core of any algorithm is the “searcher”. Every search engine’s effort is to serve results that meet the searcher’s need. Search engine algorithms are neither meant to promote or demote a site. Their focus is on serving the searcher. Any change in algorithm is focused on filtering out bad results and delivering high quality content to the searcher.
Google’s algorithm and Google Panda are no different. Google Panda’s algorithm uses sophisticated machine learning and artificial intelligence to determine the quality of websites in terms of their content. Design, speed, trust-worthiness and a number of other factors contribute to the quality metric of a website.
Google Panda and SEO
What should you, as a marketer do to ensure your website’s SEO is seen favorably by Panda? If you have ensured that your website only has high quality original content that takes a stand, has thought leadership, is uniquely presented, has an element of creativity and novelty – in short if your content sets you apart from the rest, then you need to do nothing different. White hat SEO firms like Flying Cow Design have always stressed on the value of high quality content even before Google Panda came into effect. Google Panda has only ratified that there is no substitute to quality and cheap short cuts are not sustainable.
If your website has suffered as a result of Google Panda, you need to take some corrective measures to start building trust and authority. There’s no short-cut or formula for achieving this. Some of the things you can do to gain trust again are listed below:
- Focus on Your Audience: For starters do not focus on beating the system and rising in ranks. Focus instead on your site’s visitors and on giving them something that they would like and want to return to. Focus on your website’s unique value proposition and why your audience should prefer you over others. If you are able to delight your audience, you will rank. After all, Google wants to give searchers what they like.
- Avoid Duplicate or near Duplicate Content: Forget what others are saying. Do not try to say what everyone else is saying in your own words, and certainly do not publish duplicate content on your website. Changing a few words and rewriting sentences won’t work. Google’s smarter than that.
- Don’t be Spammy: Google Panda marks the end of the journey for pages created only for monetization through advertisements, that don’t really have any value in terms of content besides the ads. Again, monetization will (and should) follow a loyal and delighted visitor base for your website. If you focus on giving your visitors what they need instead of focusing on advertising revenue, you will do much better.
- Quality Content: Having high quality, unique content that stands apart will not only delight your visitors and earn high ranks on its own merit; it will also win you rewards when your competitors who have lower quality content get penalized. While you shouldn’t depend on other sites getting penalized for your rankings, it’s a nice side-effect that you can benefit from.
- Engagement Counts: When visitors land on your site from Google, if they return to the search results within a few seconds, it sends Google a signal that the result wasn’t deemed to be relevant. On the other hand, if the visitor returns to Google after spending 3 minutes on your site, Google is more likely to show more results from your website. If you are able to engage with your audience, make them spend time on your site, share its content, visit many pages per visit, inquire, transact, etc., you are likely to score heavily on engagement. By extension, since searchers like you, so will Google.
Future of SEO in the age of Google Panda
Most white hat SEOs would need to change very little, if at all. SEOs who had advised clients to focus on quality would most likely be saying, “I told you so” to clients who ignored the advice.
Google Panda, by eliminating low quality content from the search results, will probably also wipe out low quality SEOs and cheap SEO writers. The focus is likely to shift from “cost” to “value” of content. The winners will be those who voice an opinion through their content, those who give their own twist to a story, those who delight their visitors through their creativity and originality. Assembly-line mechanical content creation will – hopefully – be replaced by well researched, opinionated, genuine expression of thought. Isn’t that what you ultimately want when you search?
SEO and Content Services from Flying Cow Design
The fact that none of our clients had to worry about Panda speaks volumes about the emphasis we place on quality over price. If quality is what you value, we would be happy to offer you our content writing and online marketing services.
CEO, Flying Cow Design
Attended University of Auckland
Lives in San Francisco Bay Area