Although Google has never talked about how often they update the algorithms on their search engine, it is widely speculated that they do more than 4 or 5 updates a year. However, few are as significant as the one that took place in February 2011. Dubbed as the “Panda,” there was nothing cute about this update as it hit thousands of webmasters with severe penalties for violating content guidelines.
It is estimated that Panda affected about 12% of all searches which may not seem all that significant until you consider the fact that Google processes over 3.5 billion searches a day. Looking back, Panda was essentially Google’s way of declaring war against web spam and other black-hat SEO practices.
Fast forward to 2018, and we have not seen any Panda-specific updates from Google in a while. The last one was in 2016 and only stated that Panda had become an integral element of Google’s core search engine algorithm.
So is Panda still relevant today?
To get the answer, we need to understand what exactly was the Panda algorithm. Simply put, Panda was a Google search engine update designed to target poor quality content on web pages. It was a significant change that Google deemed necessary to start addressing many factors that were found to affect the quality of search engine results negatively. Such factors include:
- Keyword stuffing – putting too many keywords in the content to purposefully manipulate search engine rankings
- Insufficient and irrelevant content – articles that are too short to be useful or have nothing to do with the keywords on the page
- Broken links
- Duplicate and plagiarised content
- Deceptive content – any content designed to trick users into doing something – click an ad, provide sensitive information, download malware and the like
- Content farms – websites that produce enormous amounts of content to manipulate search engine rankings
- Broad content – web pages that cover too many subjects that are not relevant to one another
- Artificially generated and low-quality content
- Content with poor grammar and spelling errors that hinder comprehension
- Content that is not optimized for SEO – no strong titles, h1s, focus keywords, links to reputable sources and so on
Many believe that Panda was the single most significant update Google has done to their search engine algorithm and for a good reason. Nobody was safe, not even some of the biggest names on the web like eBay and Wikipedia. Panda was particularly a problem for many affiliate websites that target hundreds of keywords with little to no useful information using the same piece of content.
What do you need to know about Google’s Panda in 2018 and beyond?
In 2016, Google stated that they will no longer be publishing algorithm updates and that we should consider Panda as a part of their core search engine algorithm. What this means is that the latter is no longer considered a separate entity and will be used in every effort to refine the Google search engine algorithm well into the future.
Andrey Lipattsev — Google’s Search Quality Senior Strategist, has this to say about the decision:
“It is less about the functionality, which means it probably doesn’t change that much over time, and it is more about how we perceive it, in the context of the algorithm. Do we still think this is an experimental thing, it is running for a while, and we aren’t sure how long it will last? Alternatively, is it like PageRank, it is part of it, it will always be there, at least in the foreseeable future and then probably call it in certain context part of the core algorithm.”
Lipattsev’s statement suggests that while Panda will no longer have the same influence on search engine results as it did in the past, this does not mean that it is no longer critical. On the contrary, the decision to integrate Panda into the core search engine algorithm suggests that Google is pleased with how the algorithm performed in maintaining the quality of their search engine results. So unfortunately for those who were waiting for the storm to blow over, the algorithm is here to stay and will continue to be implemented in the foreseeable future.
How to make Panda your friend in 2018
One comforting thought that we can take away from Google’s decision to integrate Panda into their core search engine algorithm is that there should be no significant changes on how it works in the years ahead. If you have been operating a business website for quite some time and have not run into any Panda-related problems, then it is unlikely that you will run into any issues in the future.
Of course, we are not saying that you can relax now and forget all about the infamous Panda. Again, that algorithm is still in play, and while we do not know for sure what triggers it, we now have a relatively good picture of what we need to do to keep Panda at bay.
Consider the following:
- Make sure that you are not producing any content that might violate Google’s content guidelines. This includes thin, duplicate and irrelevant content as well as auto-generated text.
- Know that while the Panda algorithm may not be robust enough to scrutinize the quality of every piece of content that is out there, Google can take a cue from website visitors through what they call “user signals”. If Google finds that your website has a high bounce rate and that users hardly spend any time on it before clicking away, then this gives them a reason to believe that your content is not useful and might penalize you for that.
- Google can also take cues from factors on your website that are known to result in poor user experience. Such factors include slow site speed, poor navigation, 404 errors, excessive ads/ links, keyword stuffing, hidden text/cloaking and the like.
One thing that web marketers need to realize about the Panda algorithm is that it has more to do with users than the technicalities of optimizing a website for search engines. Google may not use features like integrated web chat service as a ranking factor but it helps in encouraging people to spend more time on your website which suggests good user experience – two factors that Google Panda looks favorably upon.
The best strategy for making your website “Panda-proof” is to concentrate on giving the best possible user experience regarding content. Everything you put out there should be of value to everyone, and anything that goes against that can jeopardize your search engine ranking.
Do you need help from an online marketing agency to optimize your content for SEO in 2018 and beyond? We have an incredible team of SEO experts who are eager to do just that! Get in touch with our SEO company in Sydney to learn more about what we can do for you.