Launched in February 2011, the Google Panda Update was developed to reduce the amount of low-quality content in the search results and to reward original, quality content. Panda assigns a ‘quality score’ to individual pages and the score is then used to as a major ranking factor to determine how high a page will rank on the SERP’s (Search Engine Results Page).
Initially known as ‘Farmer’, the Google Panda Update was a filter rather than a part of Google’s algorithm. However, in 2016 it was incorporated into the core algorithm resulting in both penalties and recoveries happening a lot faster.
Websites aiming to regain ranking positions and recover from the impact of the Panda Update could achieve this through re-writing pages with low-quality content and by generally improving the user experience in relation to the content.
Why did Google create the Update?
The Google Panda Update was created in response to an increasing amount of media attention regarding Google’s algorithm. ‘Content farm’ business models were becoming more and more common and past updates resulted in some low-quality content sites finding their way on to Google’s index.
The update was an algorithmic improvement to ranking and gave less weight to ‘content farm’ sites such as wisegeek.com and articlebase.com. However, eHow and wikiHow improved their ranking after the Panda Update.
Perhaps the most obvious change for those in the SEO industry was how the update affected ‘article marketing’. This meant publishing thin content on sites like ezinearticles.com for the sake of link building was no longer effective.
Sites that earnt a low ‘quality score’ and therefore suffered in terms of ranking included those that were considered unattractive, had too many adverts, an inflated word count, repetitive phrasing, poor research and were not edited to a high standard. Essentially, any site that wasn’t deemed helpful or trustworthy would now struggle to rank well.
The Panda Algorithm
It is thought that the Google Panda Update algorithm was developed by comparing ranking factors against a list of human quality ranking. Google started by sending test pages to human quality raters who were asked a range of questions regarding helpfulness and security to name a few.
Panda appears to work by using the machine learning algorithm to make accurate predictions on a web page and make an informed decision on how humans would rate the quality of the content. Websites with specific, original, well-organised content would now perform better in the SERP’s.
However, there are some misconceptions regarding the Panda Update and what the algorithm concerns. Although Panda encourages unique content it isn’t necessary to delete technical duplicates and it is also considered a better move to add more high-quality content rather than delete pages. When it comes to word count it is important to write with the user in mind rather than attempting to bulk out a page with unnecessary words. It is also important to note that user-generated content like blog comments, affiliate links and ads and technical SEO factors are not directly targeted by Panda.