Google’s Panda Update describes a series of algorithm changes with which the search engine provider reorders its search results. The Panda Update first appeared in 2011 and, according to Google, is primarily intended to address the quality of content on websites.
In order to best serve users’ search queries and refine the search results it offers, Google revises its search algorithm at regular intervals. Google uses this algorithm to evaluate websites based on certain factors and to determine a ranking for the pages. Through updates, the company redefines and reweights these factors. Among the biggest and most influential of these updates is the Panda update. It was rolled out for the first time in February 2011, initially for American Google search, and later internationally. At the beginning, it affected around 12% of all search queries, but has been updated and changed a few times since then. Currently (as of October 2014), it is available in version 4.1.
Goal of the Panda Update:
With the Panda update, Google is trying to shape its algorithm to reward websites that offer high-quality content and added value for the user. Sites with low-quality or useless content, on the other hand, are penalized. In this way, users of the search engine should be shown more informative and appropriate search results.
Factors that the Panda Update penalizes:
To determine which pages are rated positively and which negatively, the search engine provider draws on various factors. Google mentions some of the reasons for a penalty, but avoids going into detail about the factors. The research of many SEO experts revealed that the following errors can lead to a penalty in large numbers:
Too little unique content:
Google does not like to see the use of duplicate, or copied, content, so-called duplicate content. Pages that contain too little unique content lose value due to the Panda update. This includes pages that take over large parts or complete content from other (own) websites – especially if they were generated only to cover different variations of a keyword.
Poor ratio of content to other elements:
Pages where the amount of actual content is too small compared to the website template (footer, navigation, etc.), to further links, to advertisements and the like, are seen by Google as inferior.
Pages that don’t have any meaningful content on them will also be penalized by the Panda update, such as websites that only have links to other pages.
Too many ads:
Pages with too many ads in relation to content lose value.
Automatically generated content:
Sites that offer auto-generated content, often in conjunction with affiliate links, are considered negative sites.
Poor readability and low quality text:
The extent to which Google can actually evaluate the readability and quality of text and factor this into the update is debatable. However, there is much to suggest that factors such as structure and formatting, as well as ease of reading and clarity, will be taken into account by Panda.
Negative User Data:
Some research suggests that Google is incorporating user signals into the Panda update. For instance, click-through rate, bounce rate, dwell time and some other values are among the factors that are evaluated in the Panda Update.
At the latest since the latest Panda update of the algorithm (Panda 4.1), there are indications that backlinks or link texts also play a role in the Panda Update.
Many updates of the update brought partly significant changes in the ranking. It is difficult to determine what the Panda Update reacted to in particular. In the past, entire domains were usually penalized if they contained too many low-quality subpages. At the same time, this improved the ranking of pages with good content. Especially after Panda 4.0, many pages that were affected by an earlier Panda update recovered and rose in ranking again. Also, some tool operators noticed that, for example, content aggregators that provide little of their own content were penalized.
With updates like Panda, Google is trying to improve the quality of its search results. The Panda update, which first appeared in February 2011 and has been updated repeatedly since then, attempts to identify pages with inferior content, which are then downgraded in the ranking. In particular, the update takes into account the content of a website and examines it according to various aspects. Pages with good content – such as well-written texts that offer readers well-prepared information – are rewarded with the help of the Panda update.
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