• So What Is Goole Panda

    One thing you can be certain about at Google is there will always be change and even though they are a shareholder company and need to make profits, their core beliefs and business model is all about (arguably) delivering the best search results.

    After many update, trying to deal with spammy and low quality sites, together with the rate of growth, Google identified they needed to both improve the quality of sites within it’s index as well as reduce the storage load and as an extra bonus, increase the speed the results were delivered, especially helpful to the ever more mobile and tablet owners.

    So the update they delivered to achieve these objectives was called Google Panda, after one of it’s engineers.

    It dealt with low quality sites by removing pages, that had thin content (nothing of value on), duplicate content (there already was other algo’s in place dealing with this) and measuring data in a different way to speed up the load times.

    It also however started to measure the domain or subfolder as a whole, not just individual pages. So supposing you had 1000 pages, 800 of them poor with 200 good pages. In the past, those 200 pages would have had a better chance of ranking, where with Panda there would be a good chance that the 800 poor pages, would apply a filter to all of the 1000 pages, or even have them removed.

    Low Quality Content Mixed In With a Bit Of Good

    This created a huge challenge for owners or large sites, who had some good content, but for years had bolted on very poor or thin content. For many, sorting this content out and removing years of work, was too much to bear and abandoned their work altogether. Websites that had relied on borrowed content, for example “how to fix it” type sites, who would take professional tips from around the world and put them into one place, found their rankings disappear overnight. Article websites, where huge quantities of work, that were spun and rewritten over again, were also hit hard. as these were a traditional place to achieve links for SEO companies, suddenly there was a link shortage too.

    There had always been stop words with the Google algo (where Google ignores words like “the”, “and”, “to” etc.) , but the Panda update, took how it read content to a new level. Sentences were stripped, of only the words it cared about to make sense of the page, saving storage space. This is how it identified thin content also. It doesn’t matter how many words you have on a page, what matters is, the meaning of the content, when unimportant words are removed? Are they just the same keywords (or similar) repeated over again.

    Sites with “boiler text” were also hit. “We the best at this service”, type pages, that have no real substance. Although it is also true, that smaller sites had a better chance of avoiding any Panda update.

    It went beyond just words. URL’s that were too similar, were also affected.

    Anyone Got A Solution?

    The solutions ended up being drastic in many cases. First many sites had to remove the majority of their content, or as it was later acknowledged it could be moved to a subdomain or subfolder, where it may be treated separately, therefore keeping the good content together.

    For others, the solution was to add value to all of their thin pages, many did this by adding reviews, news and other content.

    Canonical issues also came to the forefront. So sites that could rearrange the colours of their products, or list them in price order etc, now were creating duplicate content issues, as the url would change with each of these functions.  This is when rel=”canonical” became almost a compulsory addition to the header code.

    Regular Updates

    For the next 2 years, panda was manually refreshed approx. every month, as Google reviewed the results. This often meant, that website owners who had thought they had escaped the changes, were later caught out on later updates.  It is also fair to say, than occasional updates, had something of a roll back, if they felt certain changes had been too aggressive.