Explaining the Panda: Google’s Not So Cuddly Algo

December 9, 2016

Trying to figure out how to get your business to rank on the first page of Google? You may need to get to know the Panda, and no, not the kind you can see in zoos—the Google Panda. We know how important it is to show up and show up prominently in search engine results. Few people scroll past the first page of Google results and the higher up on Page One the better. Search Engine Land reports that the top listing in Google’s organic search results receives 33% of traffic! Second place scoops up 18% of the page traffic and so on. Do that math – fully 51% of all organic traffic for a search goes to the first TWO listings on Google. Like it or not, we all have to play by Google’s rules, and because the Panda algorithm affects your search engine optimization strategy it’s important to understand how it works.
The History of Google Panda
The Panda algorithm was first released in 2011, however a number of updates have been released since then, the most recent being in July of 2015. Panda was created by Google engineer Navneet Panda, hence its name, and was designed to identify sites with low quality content and to prevent them from ranking high within the search results. Similarly, sites with high quality content are rewarded. The Panda reviews websites and then assigns a quality score to each of them. It’s important to note each page on your website is ranked separately, but if the majority of your pages have low quality ratings, the ranking of your entire site may drop.
When it was first released, Panda took the SEO world by storm. Unlike previous algorithms, the Panda did not take link building or mobile-friendliness into consideration—it was focused solely on the quality of the content you were posting.
High Quality Content vs. Low Quality Content
How can you avoid getting flagged by the Panda as a website with low quality content? Google has always been very secretive when it comes to letting marketers know how they are rating content. However, there are a few proven ways to increase the quality of your content. Here are some of the factors that may affect your content’s Panda quality rating:
Always Quality, but also Quantity.
Producing quality content is a given. If your quality isn’t creating value or is not considered a useful resource, you are toast. While it is important not to sacrifice quality for quantity, quantity is important to Google. For example, if your website has only one page of high quality content, it won’t be as useful to users as a page with dozens of valuable resources. Therefore, you will need to post high quality content on a regular basis to avoid being penalized by the panda.
Some Industries are Held to Higher Standards.
Certain industries, such as the legal, financial and medical fields, are held to higher standards than others. The Panda takes a closer look at these pages to ensure they are providing reliable, trustworthy information.
Produce Unique Content.
If your content is copied word for word from another website, the Panda will penalize you. It makes sense – even if the content is incredibly valuable, the original source of the content will be rewarded for producing it, not you. While you can link to other great content, or skim ideas from other content to create your own, simply copying and pasting content from elsewhere on the web will not only not help your website, it will hurt you. Make sure every piece of content you write is unique, otherwise you won’t be viewed as a valuable resource.
Get In-depth.
Although Google does not provide a specific word count that marketers should aim for when creating content, they do specify that the content should be thorough enough to provide valuable information to the reader. The idea behind this is simple – it is easy to write a little bit about nearly anything and gloss over the surface of a topic, but it is much more difficult to produce long form content. Creating long form content generally means that the person writing it is knowledgeable about the topic and has something unique and different to share. Ideally, the Panda would like users to find everything they need to know about a single subject on one page.
Utilize Keywords.
Keywords always play a big role in SEO, especially when it comes to the Panda. This algorithm will penalize your website if it is clear you are overusing keywords within your content. Why? The more keywords you shove into a piece of content, the more unnatural it reads to users. Unreadable content is considered poor quality to the Panda, so it will most likely impact your ranking. Instead of using as many keywords as possible, choose a few that are relevant to your business and use them sparingly. The most effective strategy would be to add a keyword to your headers and the first paragraph of your content.
Limit Ads & Site Spam.
The Panda wants users to have a good experience when they land on your website, and ads that distract from your content do not improve the user experience and can be downright irritating to users. Ads aren’t a total no-no but do make sure you don’t go overboard when using ads on your content pages, as you may be penalized for doing so. Keep in mind if you are penalized, your page ranking will drop, and you will probably end up getting compensated less for that ad space.
Regulate User-generated Content.
Do you allow visitors to submit content such as guest blogs or forum posts? If so, you need to keep a close eye on any user-generated content. Every piece of content on your website is scrutinized by the Panda, even user-generated content, so if something is posted that is irrelevant, incorrect or offensive you will be penalized. It’s best to change your settings so you can review user content before it’s actually posted. This way, you can make sure it’s high quality before you allow it to post and affect your ranking.
Other Forms of Content.
The term “content” is frequently associated with blog posts, but the Panda does not discriminate against other forms of content. If your page provides information to users in the form of videos, photos, or infographics, you won’t be penalized by the Panda—but you will be rated based on the quality of the information.
What Happens If You’re Penalized?
If your site has been penalized by the Panda, are you out of luck? Not necessarily. Every time the algorithm is updated, it essentially refreshes. This means if you were once flagged as a low quality content site, you will get another chance to impress the Panda when a new update is released. Also, Google constantly crawls the web to index and rate new content, so if you make changes to your website to improve your content and make your site more valuable, Google will eventually come back around. One trick of the trade is to re-submit your site to Google in Google Webmasters and Search Console and basically ask for Google to index your site.
To improve your site ranking, you can either remove low quality content, non-index it, or fix it. Google has recommended improving low quality content instead of non-indexing it or removing it completely from your website. Removing it will reduce the number of content pages on your website, which is not favorable. Non-indexing content will prevent Panda from seeing it, but users can still find it if they click through to your website. Read more about why to fix Panda, it’s better to improve content than remove pages.
Understanding Google’s Panda is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to search engine optimization. For assistance with your SEO strategy, contact the digital marketing professionals at Denver Website Designs. We work with businesses across a wide variety of industries and help them boost their online presence and attract more customers. Learn more about our web design and internet marketing process and how we can help your business grow exponentially!
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