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June 2, 2014

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?


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