Tarun Gupta

Google Panda Update and the Way It Changed the Content Strategy

Tarun Gupta | Nov 28th, 2017 | Search Engine Optimization
Google Panda Update

Panda update was Google’s revolutionary algorithm that aimed at weeding out low-quality, thin content in the search results and to boost unique and read worthy content. The algorithm, when launched, assigned pages a quality classification and was modeled after human quality ratings. Now, the Google panda update is a significant ranking factor.

Google Panda Update Timeline

Recall 2010 when content farm reportedly hit the quality of Google’s search result. Biggies from Google were even clueless what this spam is up to. There were frequent complaints flooded about content farms that compelled Google to get into it and float a remedy to address the menace.

Why Google Panda Update was Required?

Google lately noticed that publishers cleverly tricked the Google search ecosystem by putting thousands of freelancers to work to generate pieces of low-quality content written around stuffed keywords in order to gain search prominence for varied search terms.

On February 23, 2011 Google introduced its first Panda update and made it official on the very next day i.e. February 24. They announced the rollout via an official blog post. The blog noted:

“This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value addition for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.”

Initially, Search Engine Land founder Danny Sullivan referred the update as the “Farmer” update. However, Google later confirmed the update ‘Panda’, named after the engineer who coined this primary algorithm. The update heavily hit the article marketing practices rampant in the SEO industry, where marketers used to publish low-quality articles on sites for garnering more links to their websites. It was evident that the update kicked sites off search rankings that were found to have less attractive designs, more intrusive ads, inflated word counts, low editorial standards and repetitive phrasing.

Guiding Questions behind Panda Algorithm:

When Google mulled to introduce an algorithm of such capacity, they started by sending test documents to human quality raters. Raters then created a questionnaire containing some of the crucial questions to be asked including “Would you be comfortable giving this site your credit card? Would you be comfortable giving medicine prescribed by this site to your kids?” and so on.

According to Ex Googler Matt Cutts, engineers from Google had developed the algorithm by comparing various ranking signals. Following are the 23 guiding questions (taken from Search Engine Journal), the Panda algorithm was based on.

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • How much quality control is done on content?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?

The Road to Google Panda Recovery:

Once your website is hit by Panda, you’ve to put strenuous efforts to get your website off from the penalty. Nonetheless, the road to Google panda recovery is both straightforward and difficult. Since Panda considers high quality content being the significant ranking factor for websites, marketers need to focus on the quality and uniqueness of your content to recover from the penalty. There have been multiple instances where marketers recovered a site by removing low-quality thin content and adding high quality content.

Google Panda isn’t About Duplicate Content Only:

Most marketers think that Panda is all about duplicate content, though, Google out rightly rejects the myth. As per Google, its stress on uniqueness and quality of the content is much more than just evaluating plagiarized content. The core focus of the Panda is to ensure genuine unique information that provides true value to users.

Removing Stale and Poor Content Could Help:

Since Panda gives due weightage to fresh content and hits back at low-content quality sites, you should make sure that your website must have in the possession of high quality content. Google looks at multiple signals to detect low quality sites. These signals include shallow or poorly written content, copied content and content that don’t deliver any value to the user. They impact a site’s ranking as a whole.

Therefore, if you believe that your website has been affected by the content on your site, you should scan all the content on your site. It will help you track and remove bad content / low quality pages from the site and improve the overall quality of the pages on your domain. Google doesn’t actually endorse the removal of pages from the site, rather, the search engine suggests webmasters to either no index the pages with poor content or improve the quality of the content.

Panda’s Take on User Generated Content:

Panda doesn’t hit user-generated intentionally, but doesn’t spare them either if they are low-quality content such as spammy guest posts or forums filled with spam. If you believe that your user generated content such as forums, blog comments, or article contributions aren’t violating Panda content guidelines, do not remove them.

For Panda, Word Count isn’t an Issue:

Most marketers assume that Panda considers word count a ranking signal. This is the most understood fact by SEO professionals. They often undermine content and refuse to publish one if they are under 250 words and 350 words.
According to Google, there are many pages with very little content count, yet, they are quality pages and have earned the featured snippet for the query. It’s evident now that you only need that much word count, that’s enough to answer the query.

Google’s John Mueller once said that while word count can be a convenient way to identify bad or good content, it isn’t a factor that Panda takes into consideration to evaluate rankings is specifically used by Panda.


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