If you are working to make your website rank higher in search engine results pages (SERP) in order to attract more traffic, then you are using search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to do so. Most SEO is focused on Google because it is the largest and most influential search engine. Therefore, when Google makes a major change to how it works, SEO experts sit up and take notice. Google Panda is one of the biggest Google algorithm updates.
What is Google Panda?
“Google Panda” is the nickname for a specific Google algorithm update that originally launched on February 23, 2011. Since that time, Google has run the Panda update numerous times to refine the type of content that ranks highly in the SERPs.
Why Google Panda?
Google Panda was primarily developed to identify the quality of content that the search engine was actively indexing. The prime targets for the update were “content farms,” a term used for websites that were made up of hundreds to thousands of short articles that contained “thin content.”
A Little History
Before the Panda update, Google users complained that search results ranked content-farm pages higher than authoritative, original sources. Content farms were in the business of ranking as high as possible on Google to drive traffic to their on-page ads. These sites hired thousands of freelance writers to create the content, and then shared the ad revenue with them. Most of these pages were on niche topics that would rank well for longtail keywords.
The pages were full of thin content, a term for content with minimal text and images, just enough to get Google’s attention. To rank highly on SERPs, content farms used what are now “black hat” or unacceptable techniques. These included:
- Keyword stuffing – Using keywords over and over throughout the page in different configurations
- Minimal content – As little as possible, often 50 to 200 words
- Content scraping – Literally copying content from another website without permission
- Plagiarism – Using material quoted from another source without references or indication
Many of these practices had been occurring for years but they became a bigger problem after
Google’s Caffeine update rolled out on June 8, 2010. The Caffeine update was a complete overhaul of the web indexing system that gave Google the capability to crawl and store data more efficiently. In essence, Google was crawling pages every few weeks and would give fresh content a boost in SERPs. Since content farms were producing lots of content all the time, they would often appear on the first page in results. Since this diluted the quality of the SERPs, Google started getting a lot of complaints.
What Changed in the Panda Update?
On February 24, 2011, Google wrote a blog post to explain what Panda changed. In April 2011, Panda went global.
It is important to remember that Google’s highest priority is to offer searchers top-quality results. These results mean that Google is popular. In fact, we say, “Let’s Google it” to describe the search. With so many people going to Google for answers to queries, Google is a prime location for ads. Ad revenue is Google’s bread and butter, therefore crucial for Google’s business model.
The Panda update changed 11.8% of results on Google. They said,
The update is useful in ranking valuable and informational content for users while lowering the ranking of copied or low-value content. Simultaneously, the new update works best in enhancing the ranking of informational and well-researched content, in-depth reports, and analysis.
The biggest hit was “article marketing,” a guest post sites practice of writing articles on different sites just to create links back to the original page. Panda’s goal was to create an algorithm that would give the highest-ranking to pages with more useful results for real people.
How to Optimize for Panda
Panda has had numerous updates since it was originally launched. After 2015, Panda’s parameters were added to the overall algorithm, which makes the changes less noticeable. However, the reasons for Panda still remain. Google wants to provide high-quality, authoritative content to its human users.
To optimize your content, you need to ask yourself these questions according to Amit Singhal:
- Is information within the article authentic and trustful?
- Is the article written by a well-informed writer who knows about the topic or not?
- Does your site have other articles with slight keyword variation, duplicate or redundant content?
- Is your site secure enough for visitors to share their credit card details?
- Do your articles have grammar, spelling, or stylistic errors?
- Have you done enough research about topics, and is the content on your website worth a reader’s time?
- Are your articles 100% genuine with authentic and factual information to help users with their concerns?
- Does your article stand out amongst other competitor sites within a similar niche?
- Do you optimize your article quality to make it more reader-friendly?
- Is your article factual and explains the scenario well?
- Does your website have a recognized authority within its domain?
- Do you edit and proofread your articles before publishing to ensure there are no mistakes?
- Can a reader with health-related queries trust the information on your website?
- Do you consider your website or article an authoritative source with verified information?
- Does your article have detailed information related to the topic you are discussing?
- Is your article shallow, or does it have in-depth and interesting information?
- Do you think your articles have the kind of content which you would want to share with others?
- Do you put too many ads on your website, which can be distracting for a reader?
- Do you think your article is good enough to be a part of a book, magazine, or encyclopedia?
- Does your article have all the details about the topic you are discussing, or is it too short and irrelevant?
- Are your articles written meticulously, or do you give no attention to small details?
- As a user, would you complain about any articles on your site?
These questions are the basis behind the Panda update. Making changes can be overwhelming. This is a good reason to hire experts.
Is your website filled with excellent, authoritative content that would make it a real resource for your visitors? Is the content written in such a way that it is easy to understand, but answers visitors’ queries?
The key is that human visitors should be your target market, not the search engine.
Abide by Google’s E-A-T quality guidelines – Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness.
Google is looking to rank content that improves the user’s experience. That may mean rewriting some of your content to make it a better resource for visitors.
Does that Mean You Should Delete Content?
Deleting content isn’t the answer unless it’s obsolete or it’s no longer part of your brand. You can no-index older pages and link to the improved content.
Just writing more content isn’t the right answer either, unless it makes the content better quality.
Panda doesn’t require a specific word count or even a minimum word count. Instead, write enough content to answer the question or discuss the topic. Or create a video or podcast. However you deliver content, it should be high-quality content geared towards humans.