Google’s Panda is a search engine algorithm. Before discussing about Google Panda in detail, let us see what exactly is a search engine algorithm and why it is required. We all know Google has one of the largest search engines in Internet. The purpose of a search engine is to deliver a list of sites in response to the query raised by the user. A good search engine should be providing sites ranked according to their relevance to the query raised. Search engine algorithms do this job for Google. These are complex algorithms which ranks Google’s search results after considering a wide range of factors.
Every year Google makes changes to its search engine algorithm so as to prevent sites with low quality from appearing top in the Google search results. Most of these changes are minor, while major algorithmic changes like the Panda updates have significant impact on the search results. An interesting thing about the Panda updates is that it is developed by an Indian engineer, Navneet Panda. Panda update was aimed at improving the ranking of sites with high quality content by filtering “low quality” or “thin sites” which have more ads than content. Thus Google could provide accurate and quality content for the queries thereby enhancing user experience.
Google Panda algorithm was launched for the first time in Feb 24, 2011 as Panda 1.0 which affected 11.8% of queries. This was followed by Panda 2.0 in April 11, 2011.Thereon Panda updates happened almost every month. Next major update was Panda 3.0 in October 19; 2011which was the 8th Panda update. By 2013 Google started making its updates continuous and less noticeable. Panda 4.0 was released on May 20, 2014 which affected 7.5% of queries which was followed by Panda 4.1 on September 25, 2014 affecting 3-5% of queries. The last panda update, Panda 4.2 happened in July 18, 2015 which affected 2-3% of queries. This was the 28th Panda update by Google. This latest update was different from other updates in many ways. This update came after a gap of 10 months. Website publishers who were penalized during the last update (Panda 4.1) were able to make necessary changes during this period. Panda 4.2 is considered as the slowest Panda update. According to Google, this update would take months for complete roll out in contrast to other Panda updates which used to roll out in a matter of few days. In the late 2015, Google made Panda a part of its core ranking algorithm. Now there won’t be any Panda update roll outs. Instead Google’s core algorithm merged with Panda would be checking search results on a regular basis.
Now let’s see how the panda updates are going to affect online publishers. Panda came into existence, when bloggers and webmasters started concentrating on the commercial gains through websites/blogs rather than providing quality content. It was one of the most controversial Google update as it affected a few genuine sites too in its initial stage. Many successful bloggers lost their traffic and search engine ranking as a result of the Panda update. But on the positive side, the Panda updates helped Google to make their search experience better.
Now let’s see how an online publisher should face the “dangers” associated with Panda updates. The most important thing about Google Panda is that it’s a domain level penalty. Instead of penalizing the low quality content in your website/blog, Panda will penalize your complete domain. So what are the precautions to be taken to maintain your search engine ranking? What are the issues which could make your website/blog vulnerable to Panda updates? I am listing down a few here – too many advertisements in a website, low quality content, factual or grammatical errors in the content, duplicate contents, severe use of keywords affecting the content, aggressive SEO strategies (Black Hat SEO), too many 404 links, using content produced at content farms. If your site has any of these problems, there is a high chance that Google panda update will lower your search engine ranking. So it’s all about having quality content in your website.
Even after having quality content in site, some are still affected by the Panda updates. So to save your site from panda updates you should have a proper understanding about the panda updates. Panda updates do not mean that Google is coming up with new rules. Instead Google is just becoming stricter about its rules. These rules can be read from Google’s Webmaster guidelines. You should be careful while using links in your sites – both inbound and outbound. Regulate the number of ads in your website such that they don’t affect user experience. Google suggests an 80-20 rule regarding the use of ads – 80% of quality content and 20% commercial elements. A good knowledge about SEO techniques could protect your site from panda updates. Avoid riskier SEO techniques like Black and Grey hat SEO and use Google approved White hat SEO techniques like keywords, link building, back-linking etc. Usage of keywords should not affect the quality of the content. Seeing your traffic going down, you can make out that Panda has penalized your website. So what should be your next move? Make changes according to Google’s Webmaster guidelines and wait for the next update. But it’s always better to make the changes beforehand as “Prevention is better than cure”. 100% revival after a panda hit is not possible. Once again I am stressing on the most important precautionary measure, that is having original and quality content.
So after all, Panda updates are not something bad. They are aimed at ensuring accurate, relevant and high quality content for the users. And for the publisher, Panda updates are aimed at rewarding those who create original and attractive content adhering to the guidelines set by Google, with better rewards and exposure. Every online publisher should keep in mind that Panda updates are just some sets of algorithm to check whether you are following Google’s guidelines. So if you are acting by those, you would never be affected by Panda updates.