When one hears about Google Panda, its a wild and angry Panda’s picture that comes to everyone’s mind. One that kicks webmaster’s butt and is doing the damage world across, hitting websites on websites with Google Penalty.
Unfortunately, this isn’t true. And Google Panda is not really inspired from the “Panda” you know. Learn more.
What is Google Panda?
Google does several periodic and non-periodic updates to their search algorithm in order to improve the quality and relevancy of search results. Google’s search algorithm is based on several factors, like number of backlinks to a website, page loading time, on-site optimization factors etc. And there are several changes that happen to these factors with time. Google search team’s job is to keep up with all these changing factors and tweak them accordingly so that Google users find the search engine results relevant and accurate.
Google Panda is one such tweak (or rather set of tweaks) that Google has made to their search algorithm in order to make their search results relevant and devoid of spam or non relevant/less quality websites.
This update is based on an algorithm by, and hence the name. Quoting Google, they call it “low quality content sites”. Google Panda’s idea is to find the low quality content sites on the web and make them appear less on the search results while promoting “high quality content sites”.
The unknown facts about Google Panda
While there are many definitions about what Google Panda is, nobody really knows what Google means by “low quality content sites”. Google is very protective of their algorithm, so they never reveal the details, however, we have clues and hints.
What are low quality content sites?
Well, while nobody knows what really a low quality site is, speculations and suggestions tell us that these are websites with less original content. It could also mean copied content. We already know that there are many websites out there that copy content blatantly from other sites and still rank high on search engine results. These sites that steal content could be one category of low quality content websites.
Another set of low quality content websites are those that churn content on the fly through automated processes. In these websites there are usually very low amount of original content.
Is Panda the first update from Google?
Nope. There have been updates in Google Search ranking algorithm from time to time, some minor, some major. “Florida” was a famous one from 2003, the “Vince” Update hit in 2009 and the “Mayday” Update happened last year. As a matter of fact, Google keeps making several small changes to their algorithms every now and then, so much that users might not even notice them on the results pages.
How to find out if your website is affected by Google Panda?
To find out if your site has been affected by Google Panda, go to your Google Analytics dashboard.
Move the dates around to February 2011, and see if you have received any drop in traffic around February 22nd or post it. If you’re hit by Panda your organic traffic (Non Paid Search) would’ve significantly declined around this time.
Some webmasters have also noted that their traffic has increased since the Panda update around February 22nd 2011.
Should I be worried about Google Panda?
Yes. For several reasons.
- This is an early update and not an algorithm change in itself. Hence it might be inaccurate and there are updates coming further as well. So there’s no need to fret. However, if there are certain problems on your site then you may want to fix those.
- Google Panda update is not a single page penalty. It’s a site wide penalty. So, if your site has one page with duplicate content and Google detected it, your whole site might soon be getting the penalty for duplicate content.
- Google categorise websites based upon “Reading Level” into Basic, intermediate and Advanced. Basic being websites with less content, Intermediate being websites with lesser volume and Advanced being websites with deeper pages and large content data. If your site is categorised as low quality content, then you risk the chance of not being present on either of these categories.
- Google Panda is more a human centric update. Earlier, there was a lot of emphasis on readability by Google bots, but now it is moving towards human readability. That is, if your website is readable and appealing to a real human, then Google will love you.
So, how do I make sure my site is Google Panda proof?
Okay, so you’re not sure if your site is already affected but you want to make sure there are no loose strings. No problem! Let’s fix the Panda. ;)
- Ask your grandma to view your site, search for any information and give her opinion.
- Was it difficult for her to find the information?
- Did she have to sieve through your Advertisements and Affiliate links to read the real content?
- Was she satisfied with the information she found on the website or was it irrelevant?
If her answer is yes to most of the questions above, then you need to worry.
As I said, Google Panda update was more about finding out if the content on a website was meant for humans or search engines. If people love being on your website, find it easy to find the information they are looking for, then you needn’t worry.
- Reduce the number of duplicate content pages on your site.
Check how many pages of your website have content related to the same keyword. For instance, if you have a real estate website, find out how many pages are targeted or optimized for one location keyword, let’s say Miami. There might be pages such as Miami Real Estate, Miami Rentals, Miami houses etc. And there might be overlapping content in them. Delete them. Combine relevant information into one page or make each page unique with information, minus the overlapping. This way you can reduce the number of duplicate content pages on the website. Some thing that Google loves.
- Fix your template.
Sometimes, you might have great content on the site but, your template might be so weakly designed that it pushed in duplicate content from other pages and doesn’t give focus to the content on the page. Fix it. Get a UI expert and redesign the page so that the focus is on the content. Reduce all possibilities of template generated content, this is a major villain in creating duplicate content.
- Are you on a content generating mill?
Once upon a time, Google had lot of emphasis on generating new content, fresh content. And what many people did was they went for CMS’s that would churn content left and right for them. Sometimes it worked because before Google checked for authenticity and quality of that content, there were huge volumes coming in, good enough to keep the crawlers busy.
But times have changed. Google Panda update is focused n content quality than number, so if your CMS have been churning out content for you, stop it. Focus on how to improve the quality of those pages.
So, there we have it. Everything you needed to know about the Google Panda. It is a minor (or rather major) update to the core Google search algorithm which checks websites for low quality content and grades pages based on quality score. The main focus here is on quality and how humans might like/dislike your website. The human factor is very prominent.
There is nothing to be scared of though. All the websites that has been penalized were mostly based on duplicate content, automation and bad UI. You need to work on these factors and make sure your site is top quality. That is all what Google need.
One thing. If most of your organic search engine visitors click the back button within the first two seconds of visiting your website, you got a Panda to tame.