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The Wrath of Panda: Google’s New Algorithm Update

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Photo Credit: meneame comunicacions, sl via flickr

On May 20th at 4:11 PM PST, Google’s search guru Matt Cutts sent out a Tweet that caused many a-heart to flutter and shudder. He wrote, simply: “Google is rolling out our Panda 4.0 update starting today.” And the internet panic ensued.

Panda 4.0 is a major release. Whenever Google orchestrates key algorithm changes, a lot of hoopla follows. Because the search giant never clearly articulates exactly what changes are included, web owners are left floundering to understand if and why their rankings take a nose dive.

Whether or not you’ve noticed a big change in your search results, it’s imperative you understand all you can about Google’s latest updates. Let’s dissect what we know for sure about this newest wave of changes, and how to counteract any potential negative effects.

Panda’s Distinguished History

Panda first hit the search scene in February of 2011. The target: low quality web sites guilty of copying and/or scraping content. Google is in the business of returning accurate and desirable search results, and sites that aim to cheat and steal others’ content, or simply release unreadable or lackluster content themselves, are menaces to the system. As such, Google continues to take aim in an effort to prevent these sites from any measurable rankings.

In other words, Panda is a Kung Fu spam-fighting machine. Is it flawless? Certainly not; hence Google’s need to consistently fine-tune its beloved bot.

Panda’s particulars are updated on a monthly basis. So any announcement that a major release has just landed is clearly an indication by Google that big changes are afoot.

How to Avoid the Wrath of Panda

Looking to avoid significant dings in your rankings? Here are the key points that Panda targets; make sure you are not guilty of any of the following, and you can steer clear of any penalties.

  • Never copy, steal, or scrape content from another site and claim it as your own.
  • Resist the urge to predominantly keyword-stuff your site’s content. Keyword stuffing is no longer a boon for a site’s rankings, thanks to Panda’s prowl, so cease and desist this archaic and damaging practice.
  • Ensure all your content is readable to humans, not search engine bots.
  • Create the highest quality, original content possible.
  • Every time you publish a new piece of content, ask yourself the following: “Would I publish this in a major news outlet and feel proud to put my name as the author?” If your answer is ever a no, don’t publish it to your site.
  • Publish content on a regular basis; sites with nothing but outdated and irrelevant posts are potential penalty targets.
  • Make sure all backlinks are high-quality; never accept links from questionable sources. If you have offending sites as link partners, your site is also implicated.
  • Double check that your site is technically sound, built with SEO in mind. Sites with security risks and obvious viruses are also affected.

How to Recover From a Panda Penalty

If you’ve been pummeled by this or a past Panda update, there is hope for a complete recovery. Be aware this process can take considerable time and effort, but it’s entirely worth it to bring vitality back to your business. Word has it even sites like eBay have been hit hard by the Panda update, so you’re in good company if you have a little work to do post-update.

First, assess the actual impact of Panda’s negative results for your company’s rankings. The severity of the drop helps you to ascertain the level of content issues your site really has.

No matter how big the slip is, your job is to replace outdated, scraped or low quality content with posts that are original, readable, and relevant to your audience. Yes, this can be costly, but far less expensive than watching your site completely go down in flames.

Hire one or more reputable content creators or writers to assist in your recovery. Draft an editorial calendar that maps out all the content you need to replace, as well as a road map for the foreseeable future, complete with posts about current events and industry-related topics. Without a clear plan to increase the overall value and quality of your site’s content, you will likely continue to experience lower rankings as Panda’s breadth and impact widens.

Above all, commit yourself to quality. It may have seemed like a great idea to scrape content or produce it on the cheap, but with Panda on the prowl, this will likely cost your business far more in the long run.

The (Very Very) Good News

Panda doesn’t just bring woe and stress; Google’s quality control bot has bestowed plenty of good news across the web as well. Many sites have reported significant boosts in search rankings, thanks to a steadfast commitment to quality content. Whenever folks experience drops in rankings, others see their sites rise and thrive. If you’ve adopted a long term strategy to increase your rankings through the creation of fabulous, wow-worthy content, a major release like Panda 4.0 can mean your efforts are paying off in a big way.

How has Panda’s update impacted your business thus far? Are you seeing a decrease in your rankings, a nice uptick, or little to no change whatsoever?

About the author


Tina Courtney

Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Visit My Google+ Profile


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  • Yup, my site is decrease more than 50% from local traffic with prime keyword. This happened with my other site with same tld but recovered one year later. That’s why I never put eggs in same bowls.

  • Regarding your tip – “Make sure all backlinks are high-quality; never accept links from questionable sources. If you have offending sites as link partners, your site is also implicated.”

    You gotta be kidding me. Backlinks are not a bit related to Panda algos!!! Maybe Penguin algos?
    Pity for the sites/companies you market….

    • Hi there,

      Actually, Panda absolutely affects linkbuilding – just ask major brands like JC Penney that were massively penalized for shady practices. Don’t take my word for it – here’s a link that talks about this very topic:

      Panda goes after a multitude of black hat tactics, and links are certainly on the list. Thanks for sparking this debate!

  • Strange movements in France, once again big corporations are seeing a boost and small vendors are pushed back…

    • You are absolutely right.
      They favor people that have money.
      my shop took a dive with panda and has to close.

  • There appears to be a false assumption Google ever looks back to see if a site has improved. Running several sites these upgrades continue to surprise me when all improvements are ignored and PR sits on zero or one, never moving back up. Another false assumption is content becoming outdated, as if an article about say potty training can be outdated or needs to constantly be rewritten to be of value. And the bit about accepting back links from questionable sources, you have a choice who links to you? While I get the occasional removal request from idiots who want us to take down their YouTube video, never one from a quality company and we link to thousands. One last thing, we banner link to several selected charities free of course, I suppose Google bot thinks those are paid ads.

  • I’m happy to report that one of my major niche websites actually climbed in ranking ever since Panda 4. I guess they really are getting better at detecting quality.

  • I wish it were all about quality content,in spite of Googles algorithm there are still a lot of spammy sites with high rankings.

  • So we do have to be careful of the new algorithm of google panda. Thank you for sharing useful information of this kind

  • We saw a spike in organic traffic, and now it has steadily decreased back to previous levels – which were already low.

    We have never engaged in any black-hat or otherwise risky practices, we’ve played by the dictators rules all along, and we are still being kicked to death by Google.

    We only create natural and unique content, we don’t keyword stuff, we don’t link from spammy sites all across the net – unlike our competitors! And yet we’re still being kicked to death daily by Google, who insists on promoting their own advertisers and their crappy pages instead of ours.

    Google is an evil, destructive, corrupt corporation destroying our business and destroying the incomes of innocent people, supporting other corporations in the destruction of all smaller competition.

    If things don’t change in the coming three months we will be shutting down our business. We have no other choice. Google has done this to us.

    • I agree they are killing my business too!! Backlinks a major nightmare I never have hired any SEO work to be done and I feel a competitor or a very angry person went and posted my domain on porn sites and spammy blogs and very stupid sites i would NEVER visit let alone post my business on! Makes me so mad I am losing hundreds of dollars a day in business to my competitors and Its very annoying. I am doing all I can to work things out. I did the Disavow not sure that will matter or not. Not a happy business owner!

    • If you are not using any SEO method then how can you get above in Google’s ranking. If you think you are being generous in following Google’s guidelines then just remember my words.. Google has no Guidelines..!!
      if you need and example…. see This site.
      If you type anything on labor day.. you ll get this site ranked on first page for sure…!
      and if you look at its content…its LOL 🙂
      I have been working up on micro blogging but have no answer to this site {i know its back links for sure}. This site maker is a god or perhaps pandas forgets to crawl these sites or this site owner give lolipops to Panda..!
      Is there is any possible guy or girls perhaps who could explain the reason behind this sites ranking…??
      what i know about this site is.
      1. They have enormous backlinks.
      2. They have used a huge amount of tags.

  • Hello there,
    Nice article but why we are too much scare about this update ???

    You have copied content from other website?
    You are spamming?
    You are old Seo Trick user???

    Don’t be mute just follow Google’s Latest update Steps which describe as above and feel free.

    One more thing if ebay is affected from this Google 2014 Update then you are small then ebay

    Don’t be ebay

    Sagar Ganatra

  • In 2012 and 2013 our site visits took a big dip, because we redesigned and launched a new site. Simply by adding new content to our site everyday, and intermittently adding a few new pages, we have seen a steady rise in visits for 2014.

    It seems content is king!

  • Google is constantly updating the Panda algorithm and this is the latest algorithm of google. So good suggestions as mentioned above need to be considered and also applied to prevent exposed new algorithm of google

  • If two websites have same content how we can recognize, which one is duplicate and which one is original? Because I saw a some one post same content on an article website my blog content one day after publishing my post but it’s ranking is higher than my blog post’s.

    • Why is it wrong for two sites to have the same content? With more websites then people what are the odds anyone would see the same content twice if Google didn’t put them all in the same search results. On ebay, tradebit etc the same websites with the same content are sold over and over, at this point what’s the difference who was first?

  • Hi
    Nice article. No such change in my website ranking. Its the same

  • I did notice a slight improvement on my primary content site. On my smaller sites, I think I need more content to be noticeable.

    In regards to good content, we should nit have pop-UPS on our articles. Pop-UPS detract from user experience, specially on mobile devices.

  • Amazing article on Panda. I think I am clean on all those points you have mentioned. I do realize however that it is a long time since I ranked well on google first page for my keywords.

  • Thank you for the great content. Without a doubt, original content is king. Don’t play games with Google. My site has done well since the Google update. My site is brand new in the gout niche. There are a lot of sites with higher page rank than my site but for my site is moving upward, Just type in “how to control the gout” in Google search and you will see me there. The title: “how to control the gout with vo” is my site. I keep adding new original content. That is the best way to rank well.

    Thank you for your great blog,

  • As long as SEO companies continue to do positive SEO work, and do not scrape information or keyword stuff then you should be safe from this recent update. Continue to practice positive SEO and you should see benefits.

  • I am really confused by all this. I just accepted some comments on my blog awhile ago. So, those people got backlinks, right? But not all people who commented are in the same niche as me. So, do I have to worry?
    And here at SPN, many people are commenting and leaving a URL of their blog that’s not related to SPN-like content. So, my blog and SPN are parallel in that sense.
    Please someone throw some light on this.

  • Great Article. This is Really Nice and Helpful Post for every Blogger. Thanks for Sharing with us.

  • Google is typical of general American business narrow mindedness and also dictatorship in that their view of what a website should be or contain is very blinkered and hence their attitude very dictatorial. My primary reason for saying this is…… Say I have a website selling 20,000 generic products that are exactly the same as other people are selling on their websites and we all get them from the same source whose website we all copy with regards to product description. Is Google seriously suggesting that we should all sit down and re-write descriptions for 20,000 products simply to avoid being penalised for copying content that actually has a purpose in describing the products in detail as per the supplier or manufacturer. This is where their crappy search system falls flat on its face! not only that, they don’t seem to like small online shops anyway, as they expect you to waste time creating mind numbing drivel simply in order to satisfy their requirement for unique content! NOT EVERY SITE IS THERE FOR INFORMATION SOME OF US JUST WANT TO SELL STUFF ON WHAT USED TO BE A MORE LEVEL PLAYING FIELD, BUT NOW IT’S VERY MUCH GONE BACK TO THE BIG BOYS WITH BIG BUCKS PUSHING ALL THE SMALL INDEPENDANTS OUT OF SIGHT!! Wake up Google and smell the crap you’re shovelling, go back to what you used to be, or for Christ sake will someone set up a simple web search like the early days of the net so we can at least have an alternative to Google’s half baked search results!!!!!

    • I agree= how much “original” content can you have describing a lamp or toaster for sale?

    • Hi Matt,
      I don’t know what you sell but I have to agree with you about the fact that it has to be space on the internet for what they call “static sites”. If a site sells, say, hammers and nails how to arouse the reader’s interest and get exposure on the social media? And be permanently adding fresh content?

    • very true comments Google has become the worlds biggest advertising agency and if you want to be on top you have to pay them. You used to be able to search locally for Hotels but now all you get are the parasite big sites. We have original content but my customers forty plus do not comment about it on social media, Plus it is impossible to generate valid back links from other sources as the only good links would be competitors.

      Google is only interested in money not results

    • I AGREE with Mat Statement!! I sell for several drop shippers and i dont want to have to rewrite hundreds of product descriptions to get Google to Love me!! UGH!! No way its insane! Makes me so mad as i am a small mom business owner they are killing me!!

  • If Google is concerned with original content, why is it that they show those Pinterest boards in search results? I am a peace graphics site and have had hundreds of my original, copyrighted graphics added to those boards, with no link to my site. Google shows those graphics and attributes them to Pinterest. I’ve spent two weeks solid trying to get them off Pinterest. That whole site is based on taking other peoples content and Google continues to rank them high. I don’t understand…

  • I other words, if you are not wealthy enough to have your website as your full time job or have a full time IT department, you are never going to get anywhere with google.
    They do not like someone who is starting a business with the hope of making it full time as soon as possible. One person cannot possibly keep the products on a website up to date and write articles and keep a blog and do back links and have fresh content every week when they are working full time at another job.
    Not everyone can afford to just quit their job and hope their business makes it.

  • I am glad to report that one of our major niche sites actually climbed in ranking ever since Panda 4. I guess they really are getting better at detecting quality.

  • Everybody must follow the checklist as you mentioned in your article. Google also now hitting the search query spamming, major hit “payday loans”

  • I believe that Google has already passed its Age of Innocence. Of course some of us can believe that all this mess (Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird) has to do with good quality content but betting on that isn’t certainly a wise decision. I’d prefer to put my money on bets about other vested interests. By the way, does anyone have a good explanation for the reasons Google Analytics stopped disclosing the keywords for Google’s organic search results?

  • I do not know how can i build backlinks to my website , so please admin i will request you to give me some knowledge on how can i build backlinks to my site with good quality

    • Have a small budget for hand submitting your site with unique descriptions to quality directories with PR1 and up for back links. Most are listed here: http://www.directorycritic.com/
      Submit free to those you can’t afford, but most of those are free in name only and won’t add your link, but you never know, so try anyway.

  • All back-links must be of top of the range, a hyperlink coming from excessive PR web site provides to the rating of the web site. Also it will increase the Page Rank of the web site. However a hyperlink from low high quality web site might lead to lowering the rating of a web site.

  • Great Article. This is Really Nice and Helpful Post for every Blogger. Thanks for Sharing with us.