Google’s search results ranking algorithm is based on many factors that are tweaked on a regular basis to make search results more relevant. First released back in February 2011 and then updated on a near-monthly basis, the Panda updates are a significant change to the search results ranking algorithm and have had an enormous impact on both online publishing and the search engine optimisation (SEO) industry as a whole.
The update was developed by Google engineer Navneet Panda (hence the name for the updates), the first release affected over 11% of all US English search results and was designed to address repeated complaints of low quality websites (known in SEO circles as content farmed websites) ranking much higher than high quality websites.
The update worked well
The idea behind Panda was to use artificial intelligence in more sophisticated ways than was previously possible.
Feedback from thousands of human quality testers using the “Personal Blocklist” Google Chrome browser extension was used to compare against the websites affected by the Panda updates, and it was determined that the algorithmic change addressed 84% of the domains that users blocked.
What are low quality websites?
According to Google, people typically don’t want to see the following in search results:
- Shallow or poorly written content – typically written by freelance writers in order to satisfy Google’s search engine results algorithm for the purposes of ranking a website highly on certain keywords or phrases, their main goal is to generate advertising revenue from high volumes of visitors.
- Content copied from other websites – some content is simply copied and pasted from other websites, but a lot of the time the process is automated with text harvested using black hat SEO (unethical and sometimes illegal) methods such as screen scraping.
- Information that is not relevant – for example, websites that display information about new computer technologies that haven’t been updated since 1997, or pages that are full of adverts but are otherwise devoid of any useful page content.
Even if only one page on a website is flagged as being low quality, Google may consider all pages on the website as being low quality. Some websites, which have mostly user-generated content such as About.com and Suite101.com, have suffered as a result of the Panda updates.
How to steer clear of the Panda
If you’re worried that your website may have been affected by the Panda updates, Google have published some quality guidelines to help you keep your site in tip-top condition, including:
- Make pages primarily for users, not search engines – ask yourself, “Would this page make sense if it was printed out and read by a human?”
- Don’t deceive your users – link cloaking and automatically redirecting users to other sites via affiliate advertising links are a bad idea.
- Don’t automatically generate content – stitching or combining content from different web pages without adding sufficient value is a big no-no.
- Remove any user-generated spam – if you run a forum or blog where people can post up comments make sure your site is regularly moderated and remove all spam.
At Boost Your Website we keep up to date with any new Google updates, so our client’s don’t have to worry about them.