What is Google Panda?

First released in 2011, Google Panda is part of the search engine algorithm that focuses on quality website content.

Now we’re in 2014, and there is still much confusion between this and other well-documented changes, such as Google Penguin, which is much more about a website’s links.


Ahh, a lovely Panda

The Google Panda update was introduced to help reduce the amount of sites with little or no unique content appearing high in the search engine results pages (SERPs). To some extent, many sites have succeeded in the past by producing large numbers of pages with very small amounts of text and / or very small differences in text from one page to the next. This is sometimes described as “thin content”.

It is in Google’s interests to show its visitors high quality content to keep them happy and returning, so Panda is part of Google’s attempt to do just that. Some sites would (and still do) contain just a line or two of text, playing second fiddle to large, prominent adverts that take up most of a web pages real estate. Everyone has see this kind of thing.

How was Panda developed?

Human testers were asked to rate thousands of websites on a variety of factors, including quality, design, speed, trustworthiness and, crucially, whether they would return to that site again. Using artificial intelligence, Google’s Panda algorithm then looked for similarities between those sites that the humans had graded as either high or low quality during their tests. This learning was then used to affect how Google would treat sites later found to contain such low quality markers.

What is the effect of Google Panda?

If your website is to fall foul of Google Panda, the effect may well be seen across the whole site or sections of the site, rather than just the relevant, individual problem pages.

How do you avoid a Google Panda penalty?

Head of webspam at Google, Matt Cutts, advocates writing high quality, original content that brings “additional value” to the web. The easy way to do this is to write for your key target visitors, not just for search engines. How can you give them the information that they need, that will engage them, and that will make them want to contact you to use your services and / or keep coming back to your website / blog for more good content.

Soon after the initial release of Panda in 2011, Google published this useful checklist on their Webmaster central blog: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/more-guidance-on-building-high-quality.html

Here are the key points summarised:

– Is your content well-informed, credible and trustworthy?
– Are there large amounts of duplicate or very similar content throughout the site?
– Are there large amounts of spelling, grammar or factual errors?
– Is the content original?
– Is the style of writing focused on the needs of human visitors as opposed to search engines?
– Does the content add new information to the web or add new information about a product or service?
– Does the content show good attention to detail and is it well-checked?
– Is the information complete and helpful?
– Do adverts consume the attention of a visitor, rather than the content?
– Do you think visitors would appreciate, recommend and share this content with friends / family?

If your answers to these questions come down on the side of quality content that helps the visitor and adds value to the internet as a whole, then you are probably doing the right things. If not, then you may want to make improvements to not only stay on the right side of Panda and future Google algorithm updates, but also to ensure a positive user experience that pleases your visitors and converts them into customers and / or builds loyalty to your site.