The world of search engine optimization (SEO) used to be a pretty wild one. Most SEO professionals knew how to game Google’s algorithm, and many were happy to use slightly underhand or ‘black hat’ techniques to do so.
All this black hat activity gave Google a significant problem. Entire websites were being set up to take advantage of well-known deficiencies in its search algorithm. These websites, known as content farms, churned out relatively low-quality content with the sole aim of appearing at the top of Google’s rankings for popular terms and selling advertising on these pages.
What is Google Panda?
Google’s reaction to this problem was to make one of the biggest changes to its algorithm in years. That change was called Google Panda. Despite the cute name, it would cause massive problems for webmasters and SEO professionals who had made use of these techniques.
The change was aimed particularly at content farms – websites which churn out dozens of low-quality articles with the sole aim of dominating Google’s search results and selling banner advertising off the back of this.
Initially, Google rolled out panda rank updates on a monthly basis. This meant that once a month there was a major shakeup in Google’s search results and many sites would find their search positions had dropped significantly. Many sites immediately experienced a Google Panda penalty and took a huge hit in their rankings. The update did huge damage to companies such as Demand Media, which had built their entire business model on content farms.
Nowadays, Google Panda updates occur quietly and behind the scenes as part of a regular Google update so there aren’t the dramatic shake-ups that there once were. Nevertheless, the Panda algorithm continues to operate quietly, ensuring that low-quality content farms cannot dominate Google’s search results. The Goog continues to make quiet changes behind the scenes to make sure its algorithms are hard to manipulate.
What is the Google search algorithm?
The Google search algorithm is the means by which Google decides in which order to show you search results. Google has computer programs known as the GoogleBot which crawls the web and sends data back to the algorithm. The algorithm then decides the quality of the pages and which search terms (if any) they should rank for.
What is the difference between Panda and Penguin
Shortly after the Google Panda algorithm rolled out, the Goog introduced another update named after a cute animal. Google Penguin was specifically aimed at some black hat techniques that unscrupulous SEO professionals had used to boost the rankings of sites. In particular, it was designed to stop the use of an SEO tool which created hundreds of low-quality links to websites. This boosted the rankings of relatively low-quality sites and meant that most SEO experts became obsessed with securing links on other sites – often at the expense of the content on their website.
Like Panda, Google Penguin was originally a separate update that was refreshed roughly once a month. At the end of 2016, Google announced Google Penguin 4.0. This rolled Penguin into Google’s main search algorithm and means that updates now happen all the time in the background. Results won’t change dramatically from day to day, but the results are constantly monitored for poor quality link profiles. A Google update happens several times a day and sites are constantly moving up and down the rankings.
How to recover from Google Panda
If you’ve been hit by a Google Panda update then you might have a severe problem that requires a panda recovery strategy. The levels of traffic to your website could drop significantly and you could suffer significant losses.
The first step to recovering from a Google Panda penalty is to perform a full website analysis to work out why your rankings have dropped. Unfortunately, there’s no instant fix to help you recover from a Panda penalty. The answer is to review your website and improve the quality of the content. This means making sure that you offer in-depth and useful content that your users will want to read. Avoid thin content which uses keywords over and over again. This used to be a way of improving the ranking of your website, but it is no longer effective.
How to improve your Google rankings
For years, Google said that the best way to improve your Google ranking was to write high-quality content that visitors found useful. This was a laudable aim but it wasn’t true. There were plenty of ways to game Google’s search algorithm and Google and SEO professionals knew them.
That’s why Google introduced updates like Google Panda and Penguin. They closed down the loopholes that had been exploited and forced webmasters to focus on improving the quality of their content to improve their rankings.
The very basic SEO strategies from the early days of Google remain relevant. You want to write good quality content and make sure that you have a good selection of high-quality links from respected websites. The big change has been the end of the SEO techniques of the late 00s. Namely, extreme amounts of links and writing thin, keyword stuffed content. Google has also placed a greater emphasis on the technical quality of websites. In particular, it’s important that your website performs well on mobile devices, even if you’re only worried about your desktop performance.
Google Panda was a major change to the way Google works and the company almost certainly has more in the pipeline. Focus on high-quality content and obtaining organic links to your site and you’re in with a good chance of performing well.