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2 min read How google panda algorithm works

How Google Panda works

Key Takeaways

  • Google Panda examines things like word count and copied content to identify and penalise low-quality websites.
  • It does this by crawling your website code.
  • As far as we know, Panda’s guidelines won’t be updated or changed anytime soon – so any changes you need to make are likely to be a one-time thing

Google Pan­da was launched in Feb­ru­ary 2011 with the goal to fight spam. Pan­da has become a major part of Google’s over­all algo­rithm, known as “Hum­ming­bird”. The tar­get of this update was low-qual­i­ty web­sites, with thin or stolen con­tent from oth­er web­sites. The aim was to reduce their rank­ings in organ­ic search results.

Pan­da, along with the Pen­guin, is one of the great­est updates to the Google algo­rithm. At the time of its release, it had a severe impact on organ­ic search results.

An algo­rithm update was nec­es­sary to com­bat the rise of a mul­ti­tude of web­sites whose rank­ings were undu­ly high in organ­ic search, espe­cial­ly with regard to the Google qual­i­ty guide­lines they did­n’t fol­low. The tar­get of Google Pan­da was low-qual­i­ty web­sites with low-qual­i­ty con­tent. These web­sites exist­ed in the first place mere­ly to get rev­enue from Google ads. A large num­ber were scrap­ing (steal­ing) con­tent from oth­er web­sites to present as their own. Before Pan­da hit, they were even man­ag­ing to rank high­er than the web­sites they stole the con­tent from.

Pan­da is reward­ing high-qual­i­ty web­sites with a high­er posi­tion in search rank­ings, where­as it push­es the web­sites with low-qual­i­ty or scraped con­tent down the rank­ing lad­der. There are no spe­cif­ic guide­lines to what Pan­da con­sid­ers “low-qual­i­ty con­tent”, which has caused a lot of spec­u­la­tion in the SEO world.

Word count

The assump­tion that Pan­da is dis­qual­i­fy­ing web­sites because of “thin con­tent” led to the belief that arti­cles need to be at least 300 words long. This is not accu­rate. There are cas­es where much short­er arti­cles will rank high if they have suf­fi­cient author­i­ty on oth­er levels.

How­ev­er, regard­less Pan­da influ­ence, arti­cles with more con­tent, over 1000, even 2500 words have a much bet­ter chance of rank­ing higher.

Technical SEO

The tech­ni­cal SEO part of web­site opti­miza­tion has no impact on Pan­da itself, since it looks only at the con­tent, not the form.

Spun content

Spun or copied/scraped con­tent will def­i­nite­ly get Pan­da to down-rank the web­site. The con­tent itself might be use­ful, but if there is already a ver­sion of pre­vi­ous­ly exist­ing con­tent that is in the Google index, the chances are that the more recent­ly added con­tent will fare very poorly.

How to prevent penalisation by Panda

How to avoid Google Pan­da penal­ties is a fre­quent ques­tion and here are some use­ful guidelines:

  • pro­duce high-qual­i­ty content
  • write for humans and not search bots
  • help searchers get answers to their questions

A good way to deter­mine qual­i­ty is to first look at oth­er web­sites in the top 5 results for a cer­tain query. Com­pare their con­tent with your own. It is also help­ful to read the con­tent out loud. This way, any syn­tax errors you may have made are more notice­able, as well as help­ing to decide if the entire arti­cle sounds natural.

Panda updates

The most recent, yet uncon­firmed update to Pan­da was in July 2015. It seems to be a refresh of this spe­cif­ic part of the over­all algo­rithm and not a major update. Judg­ing by its imple­men­ta­tion and effec­tive­ness to this day, it is safe to assume that there will be no major updates to this spe­cif­ic part of the algo­rithm in the near future.

If you’d like to check whether or not your site has been hit by Google Pan­da or Google Pen­guin, try the Web­site Penal­ty Indi­ca­tor Tool. The tool uses SEM­rush organ­ic traf­fic data as an indi­ca­tion of actu­al organ­ic traffic.

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