The Google Panda, one of Google’s most important spam-fighting algorithms, has been around for half a decade now, and it has been the subject of more headlines than any other Google algorithm.
At the start of this year, Google surprised marketers, webmasters, site owners, and even search engine optimization companies with updates about this algorithm (which usually doesn’t happen, as Google is exceptionally secretive about changes to their algorithms). They confirmed that there will be no more Google Panda update; the algorithm is now “baked” right into the secret sauce, as it officially merges with the search giant’s core ranking algorithm:
“Panda is an algorithm that’s applied to sites overall and has become one of our core ranking signals. It measures the quality of a site, which you can read more about in our guidelines. Panda allows Google to take quality into account and adjust ranking accordingly.”
Now that Panda has made it to this stage after roughly five years of existence, let’s go through some of the important takeaways from one of the most groundbreaking algorithms in the world of search.
On What Google Panda Really Wants
Google Panda has made obvious attempts at reducing copied, scraped and syndicated content. There’s also a subtle shift to pages that are more current and provides value to readers. This means posting fresh and quality content on a regular basis is important for those who wish to compete in the Google search rankings. In addition, site owners must avoid pulling large chunks of text from other sources even if they’re in quotes, since sites that have done so have been hit by the Panda.
It’s easier said than done, confusing, and rather controversial, but quality content is something that you cannot survive without on the Web.
On Deleting Content
Many SEOs, webmasters, and site owners have been promoting the widespread removal of content on sites that were hit by Panda. The issue here is that they may be removing content that’s actually fine in Google’s eyes, or content that’s ranking and driving traffic. John Mueller and Google’s Gary Illyes even recently said that they do not recommend removing content as a way to clean up from Panda.
It may be normal for a site to have the same rankings for every page, but this is not always the case. If there are some good and relevant pieces of content on a few pages of a particular site, these will continue to rank in Google.
So instead of deleting content, fix them.
On Duplicate Content
One of the first things webmasters, marketers, and site owners do when getting a Panda penalty is panic over duplicate content. While managing duplicate content is always a good idea from a technical standpoint, it’s actually not a core part of Panda. John Mueller confirmed last month that duplicate content and Panda are “two separate and independent things.”
Of course, even if it’s not a Panda signal, cleaning up those duplicates is still best practice, as having them on a massive scale can lead to a manual penalty. John Mueller recommends focusing on the affected duplicate content first, then clean up the other technical details.
On 404s – Not Found Pages
Whether it’s from removing pages or a crawl issue, those that have many 404s on their site need not worry, as 404s don’t have an effect on Panda at all. This makes sense, since it would be easy for a competitor to point numerous links to your Not Found Pages if Google considered 404s a Panda signal.
On Advertising and Affiliate Links
Advertising and affiliate links are not necessarily bad—the problem is the content surrounding it.
Google only cares about the type and number of links on the site; if there are affiliate links, the site needs to have awesome content that’s useful for the reader. As long as the links are seamlessly presented, it won’t be a problem for Google Panda.
On User-Generated Content
What about user-generated content? Much like advertising and affiliate links, user-generated content is also getting a bad rap these days, with so-called experts advising webmasters and site owners to erase it.
Far from what we all know, many sites with primarily user-generated content actually do very well in the search engine results pages (SERPs). The key here is to make sure the content is well-written; it doesn’t matter where the content comes from as long as it is high quality, original, and relevant. You can retain specific articles on the site, but block it from Google indexing so it doesn’t hurt your overall rankings.
The Bottom-line: Simply Fixing Technical Issues Won’t Work
For site owners who feel like they’re being affected by Google Panda, it’s important not to make the wrong SEO decisions that can only make your situation worse than it already is. It’s also important to remember that Panda is about content, not technical issues. It is not about links, having an HTTPS site, or mobile-friendliness, and simply fixing these technical issues won’t work in curing a Panda penalty.
Because the Panda algorithm revolves around promoting high quality content and demoting quality content, keep creating accurate, high quality, targeted, and unique content. If you do, Panda shouldn’t be a problem, and you will likely achieve strong results from Google and other major search engines.
In addition, if you weren’t impacted by Panda despite it being part of Google’s core ranking algorithm, don’t take that as an excuse to rest on your laurels. Be in the know and stay on top of the game with the help of C1 Partners, the leading SEO agency in Denver. Call us today for a consultation.