What is Google’s Panda Update and How Do I Recover My Site From A Panda Penalty?
What’s black and white and can reduce your website traffic by 50% overnight? Google Panda.
Google has given several of its large-scale algorithm updates names based on cute little animals, one of which is Panda. However, many webmasters and website owners find these algorithms far from cute. Originally rolled out in February 2011, Google’s Panda update has become a game-changer in the realm search engine optimization (SEO), forcing webmasters and Internet marketers to rethink their strategies.
Panda follows in the footsteps of many other updates Google has made to its ranking algorithm. It is designed to improve Google’s search results by lowering the rankings of low-quality and thin sites, while increasing the rankings for informative, high-quality sites.
While I’m sure many would argue it’s effectiveness; it is most certainly in Google’s best interest to deliver high-quality results, which is why it’s constantly tweaking the algorithm it uses to rank websites.
Unlike most algorithm updates Google has made, Panda has wide-reaching ramifications. According to an article published by WIRED, it affected the rankings of nearly 12% of all Google search results, which is far more than Google’s “normal” updates.
Webmasters immediately began to report a drop in rankings for websites with large amounts of advertisements. Additionally, websites with little-to-no unique content were also affected by the update.
So, what should you do if your website has been hit by Panda?
Matt Cutts says webmasters should focus on creating high-quality content. While millions of sites were hit by Panda, the ones with minimal content were impacted the most.
“…if you think you might be affected by Panda, the overriding kind of goal is to try to make sure that you’ve got high-quality content, the sort of content that people really enjoy, that’s compelling, the sort of thing that they’ll love to read that you might see in a magazine or in a book, and that people would refer back to, or send friends to, those sorts of things,” said Matt Cutts, former Webspam team leader for Google.
Recovering from a Panda update is no easy task, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll recover all of your lost rankings.
The first step would be to identify weak pages and correct them.
Begin by doing a site:operator search to identify weak and thin content pages (see screen shot below)
As a result of such a large percentage of the pages in the index for this site being placed into Google’s supplemental index, the site is most certainly being penalized by a Google Panda penalty.
There’s no hard and fast rule as to the number of words that quantify thin content, however, general guidelines are that informative landing pages should be between 800-1500 words. Landing pages with under 300 words are typically classified as thin.
Tip: A quick way to identify thin content pages is to run the site:operator search and and get to the end of listed pages until you get the message “we have omitted some entries very similar to the 273 already displayed. If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included.”
Run the search with the omitted results, view those results and begin to noindex, follow those pages. You can use the following meta snippet to noindex/ follow specific pages:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, follow”>
Then next step would be to check and improve page load time.
You can check your website speed at https://gtmetrix.com/
Lastly, you would want to identify duplicate content and meta information.
Watch Quicksprout’s video for help identifying duplicate content, click here.
After existing issues have been addressed your goal should be to create solid content that’s written for the end user in mind. If you create content that people actually want to read, rankings will soon follow.
It’s been over four years since Google first rolled out Panda, and since that time, much has changed in the SEO world. However, Google continues to place an emphasis on quality content, ranking content-driven websites higher in the results. And don’t assume that Google’s Panda update is going away anytime soon. Google continues to release new generations of Panda, with the most recent being Panda 4.2 on July 18, 2015.