Ever since Google announced the first Panda update in 2011, Panda has been changing the Internet for the better. Using lower search rankings to punish sites that engaged in spammy behavior, so-called ‘black hat’ SEO tactics, and that generally just didn’t provide quality content or a good experience for users, Panda rewarded high-quality sites with higher rankings. Panda was rolled out in a series of updates every few months for several years until it was eventually incorporated fully into Google’s core algorithm in 2016.
What Does this Mean for Panda?
Being a part of the Google’s core algorithm means that no future updates will be released. Google now considers Panda to be pretty much perfected. There won’t be any more major changes to it, only minor tweaks that don’t justify an announcement. On the user side of things, this means that the changes made by the Panda update will be permanent and they won’t be seeing any more announcements about it.
Panda in 2018
Panda has now been a part of Google’s core algorithm for two years. In terms of SEO, this means that Google considers Panda’s functionality to be fully integrated into its algorithm. So, all of the things that Panda punished sites for with low rankings still stand:
- Thin content – not enough content on your page
- Keyword stuffing – hiding keywords within your page or forcing too many keywords in an attempt to increase rankings
- Content farms – sites that have large amounts of content solely for SEO rather than for users
- Non-optimized pages – pages that just aren’t optimized for SEO at all
- Poor grammar and spelling – spelling and grammar errors that make the content difficult for users to understand
- Irrelevant content – content that is irrelevant to your site’s focus and is different from what your keywords, titles, etc. are optimized for
- Machine-generated content – poor-quality content that is software-generated
- Duplicate content
- On-site – duplicate content within pages of your own site
- Off-site – duplicate content with pages external to your site, or plagiarism
- Broken links – links that don’t go where they’re supposed to, or go anywhere at all
- Deceptive content – content that is meant to deceive users, for example ads that look like regular content with the aim of generating more clicks
- Too-broad topics – sites that don’t have a focus and cover too many topics that aren’t necessarily related to each other
At the Heart of It All
Google incorporated Panda into its core algorithm not just because it wouldn’t have any more major updates. It also did so because Panda isn’t considered experimental anymore. It’s at the heart of how Google’s algorithm is perceived.
SEO in 2018
Optimizing for Panda, now that it’s been established as part of the core algorithm, is as important as it was in 2011. However, just as Panda itself won’t have any major updates, the SEO tactics needed to keep the Panda happy won’t be changing much, either. To keep your website Panda-happy, focus on these five things:
- Have high-quality content. Make sure that it’s not thin, duplicate, auto-generated, filled with spelling and grammar errors, or otherwise poor content.
- Pay attention to user signals. If your bounce rate is high, you have low rates of click-throughs, users are spending short amounts of time on your site, or you have few return visitors, that’s a sign that your site isn’t at the level of quality that users want.
- Don’t over-optimize your site. This means no hidden text, no keyword stuffing, no internal link stuffing. In other words, don’t go overboard on the optimization and think about what would be useful for users and what would be annoying.
- Most importantly, keep the user experience in mind. UX, or user experience, is the primary focus of Google’s updates and is why the Panda update was released in the first place. If your site has too many ads, is difficult to navigate, has 404 errors, redirects users to another domain, or otherwise provides a low-quality user experience, your site will suffer from both low user retention and in Google’s search ranking.
Panda & User Experience
Google wants to direct users to the highest-quality sites and if your site isn’t high-quality and doesn’t provide a good user experience, then Google won’t rank you highly. If you as a user wouldn’t want to visit or stay on your website, then that’s a sign that you should make some changes. High-quality content and user experience go hand-in-hand. The better your site’s content, the better experience users receive when visiting.
Focusing on UX actually helps future-proof your site as well. Google’s ultimate goal is to provide users with the best possible experience. Therefore, all of its updates so far have been aimed at improving UX by requiring higher-quality content for higher-ranked pages. Any future updates will most likely have the same purpose, so making sure your site has high-quality content and provides a good user experience is the best way to make sure that you won’t have many changes to make to your site the next time Google makes a major update to its algorithm.