The Panda Fix

The Panda Fix

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How Google Changed the Internet for the Better

In 2011, Google issued the first Google Panda update to its search algorithm. The goal was to provide users with a better online experience by ensuring the highest-quality and most relevant sites would be at the top of search rankings. Before the Panda Update, low-quality sites could manipulate the search algorithm to improve their rankings, often at the expense of higher-quality sites. While these changes to the algorithm punished low-quality sites with lower rankings, some changes could also affect higher-quality sites as well.

Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is content that appears multiple times under different URLs. Google’s goal was to ensure that the original, high-quality site would rank higher in searches than low-quality content farms that may have plagiarized content from other sites. Google will thus try to display the most relevant of the pages available with that content.

Low-quality sites that plagiarize content are usually disqualified from the top of the search rankings for a variety of reasons. But if your own page has duplicate content on it, no matter how high-quality it is, Google and other search engines must decide which page is more relevant. This can reduce page visibility for all of your duplicate pages, which would each only show up part of the time.

It’s easy to end up with duplicate content. In fact, 29% of all content on the Internet is actually duplicate content. Mobile versions and print versions of pages carry different URLs from the original and therefore are considered duplicate content. To combat this and ensure that Google knows which page is the original, the one that should be used for search rankings, you can canonicalize or use a 301 redirect on the duplicate pages to direct Google to the main page.

User-Generated Content

User-generated content can be a great thing for your site, but can also be a source of lower search rankings if your user content contains low-quality content or has grammar and spelling errors. Everything from guest blogs to comments can affect your rankings, so it’s important to carefully vet your user-generated content. Comments and guest blogs can be great resources for SEO, so removing them altogether could negatively impact your rankings. Moderating comments and editing guest blogs before publishing them can help to limit spam in your comments sections and poor-quality content on your site.

Poor-Quality Links

You’d think that having more links to your site on the Internet would be a good thing, but not all backlinks are of equal quality. Links from sites that have poor-quality content do, however, reflect poorly on your site as well. These sites include those designed exclusively for SEO and links rather than actually producing quality content for users.

There are several ways to get rid of links that could be affecting your Google search ranking. These methods include contacting the administrators of the sites in question to ask them to remove links to your page and disavowing bad links. Removing too many links could also harm your search ranking, so investigate links carefully to make sure they truly are spam before taking action on them.

Keep Your Site Panda-Proof

While the primary targets of the Google Panda update were low-quality sites using black-hat SEO tactics, some of the changes in Google’s algorithm affected higher-quality sites as well. If you’ve got high-quality content for your users, you’re already most of the way there to Panda-proofing your site. The rest is optimizing your site for SEO using white-hat tactics and making sure your site is not affected by the poor-quality of other sites.

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A Timeline of Panda

A Timeline of Panda

Reading Time: 3 minutes

[tweetshare tweet=”Sites whose rankings were lowered by Panda must focus on increasing the quality of their content if they want to improve those rankings in the new SEO landscape. “]

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The Renaissance of SEO

To combat the issues of early SEO, which included such methods as keyword stuffing and spammy backlinks, Google released the Panda Update in stages, beginning in 2011. The goal was to create a better experience for Internet users, as finding high-quality sites was difficult when poor-quality sites won out in search rankings because of black hat SEO techniques. With the addition of Panda, such techniques would be penalized, encouraging ‘white hat’ SEO tactics and allowing good-quality sites to gain the search rankings they deserved.

Panda 1.0 – Panda Begins

The first release of the Panda Update occurred on February 24, 2011. It was the first major update and had an immediately noticeable affect on up to 12% of Google’s search results. Google changed its algorithm to decrease page rankings for low-quality sites that copied content from other sites, were content farms, had too many ads, or otherwise provided low value to users so that high-quality sites could earn the page ranks they deserved.

Panda 2.0 – Panda Takes Off Internationally

Panda 1.0 was released only in the U.S. On April 11, 2011, Google applied the Panda Update for all English-speaking users worldwide. This update also saw Google begin to use data from search blockers to affect page rankings. In 1.0, the search blocker results had only been used to confirm that the algorithm was working as intended.

Panda 2.4 – Panda Translated

After a few minor updates that didn’t warrant an announcement or release notes (but were confirmed) by Google, on August 12, 2011 Panda 2.4 expanded the Panda update to work in other languages, excluding Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. This update affected between 6 and 9% of sites in other languages.

Panda #20 – Panda Comes of Age

The next major update to Panda came on September 12, 2012. Called #20 because it was the twentieth update to Panda, it was a rather major update compared to many of the minor tweaks and refreshes that had come before it. It only affected fewer than 3% of all searches, but was considered major because it was an actual update to the algorithm.

Panda 4.0 and 4.1 – Panda Evolution

The latest two major updates to Panda, 4.0 and 4.1, targeted sites with thin content, broken links, too many affiliate links, and sites that were otherwise just not providing useful information to users. Content farm sites such as Ebay and Ask were hit hard by 4.0 while sites that provided high-quality unique content were rewarded with higher search results. Google announced with Panda 4.1 that they had made some tweaks to Panda that would allow it to better identify low-quality content more accurately.

Panda Promotion – Part of Google’s Core Algorithm

In 2016, the Panda update received a promotion – it was no longer an update and was officially incorporated into Google’s algorithm. What this meant was that Google considered Panda thoroughly tested – they knew that it worked and trusted it to run by itself. Panda wouldn’t require any major updates, so there wouldn’t be any further announcements about it by Google.

Panda Is Here to Stay

What Panda’s promotion to core algorithm means for SEO is that the changes Panda brought to search rankings are a fixed part of Google now. Sites whose rankings were lowered by Panda must focus on increasing the quality of their content if they want to improve those rankings in the new SEO landscape. Search rankings can no longer be manipulated by spammy backlinks, keyword spamming, and other user-unfriendly SEO tactics. [tweetshareinline tweet=”Google has made it clear that its focus is providing a high-quality experience for users, so SEO should be focused there as well.”]

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