Zoogle: Google’s Algorithm Menagerie #2 Panda
Welcome to Zoogle, your five part guide designed to help you navigate Google’s algorithm. We’re going to be taking you through the details of a few of Google’s major algorithm updates; from their purpose and use to their impact on SEO practices.
Second in the zoo of Google’s algorithm updates is Panda. We’ll be telling you everything you need to know about the use and objective of the update.
What is Panda?
Google makes over 500 changes to its algorithm in a year. Normally these changes only have a small impact on organic search listings however, once a while Google releases an algorithm update that really shakes things up. Panda was one such algorithm when it was released. Panda was a major algorithm update and affected up to 12% of search results at the time of its launch. This is significant as other algorithms have historically affected only about 1-2% at most.
Panda’s main objective was to crack down on thin content. Later, its scope expanded to target content farms (websites that scraped content) and sites with high ad-to-content ratios.
Much like hurricanes, Google algorithm updates are known by friendly names. An interesting point about Panda is that it wasn’t named after the cuddly animal, it was in fact named after the Google engineer Navneet Panda who developed the technique to detect poor content.
As an algorithm, Panda is so significant to Google that since its inception in 2011 there have been nearly 30 updates and refreshes. Something you can see in Tamar’s history of Google infographic.
Despite the fact that the original Panda update was five years ago, it’s firmly believed in the industry that Google moved the Panda update into the core algorithm at the start of 2016, meaning announcements around refreshes or updates will now be few and far between, if any. We now know what we’re dealing with and how to optimise sites to ensure they are Panda-friendly.
The crux of the Panda update was to replace sites with thin/less detailed content with authoritative content in the search results. However, this was a very loose definition and caused quite an uproar in the industry as sites continued to witness drops in rankings and visibility.
To help the affected websites, Google rolled out a list of points to consider when assessing content;
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
- Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
- Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
- Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
- Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
- Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- How much quality control is done on content?
- Does the article describe both sides of a story?
- Is the site a recognised authority on its topic?
- Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
- Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
- For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
- Would you recognisxe this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
- Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
- Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
- Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
- Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
- Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
- Would users complain when they see pages from this site?
Quality and relevant content has always been at the core of Google’s ranking factor and not something that was triggered by the Panda update. However, until 2011 Google didn’t have means to assess this algorithmically and at scale. Panda introduced automation to detect and weed out poor content from search results which helped Google maintain its dominant search engine market share.
Now that Panda has been moved into Google’s core algorithm, websites by default are being assessed by it, writing high quality detailed and authoritative content is more vital than ever. For more guidance on how to write content effective to SEO our content guide is a great place to start.