search marketing

What is Google’s Panda?

Written by Kurt Steinbrueck

google-panda-update1-300You may have heard about in conversations, Google’s Panda.  Is Google trying setup a zoo?…save an endangered species?…  Nope.  Google is trying to clean up their search results and rid the world of poor quality, spammy content.  And they’ve set loose a Panda to do it.  In fact, they just released a new update a few weeks ago.

So, What Exactly is Google’s Panda?
Panda is the name Google gave an algorithm they developed in 2011 to use with their search ranking algorithm.  It was a completely separate algorithm (at least at first), so it got it’s own name.  At first, Google would run “refreshes” of Panda about once a month, reapplying the algorithm.  Now, Google has integrated it with their main algorithm so it’s more consistently applied.  The purpose of Panda is to address the vast amounts of what Google considered to be poor quality or spammy content that was showing up in their search results.

Why Was Panda Necessary?
As people began to realize that they could create a lot of pages on their websites that were optimized for certain keywords and get ranked for a lot of those keywords, more and more websites started popping up with little content or very poor quality content that was intended primarily to get traffic to the site, not actually give people something they wanted.  The traffic then benefited those sites because of ads on the sites.  Some websites, like eHow, accomplished this by allowing anyone and their grandmother to post articles on their site with little or no editorial review.  People would post on these sites either to get links or just because they liked to see their name on a website.  Soon, sites like eHow had millions of pages and their site was making millions every month off of the ads.

Of course, the above is an extraordinary example.  A lot of sites were (and still are) posting low quality content on a much smaller scale.  Some of the pages that were being put up only had a short paragraph about a topic with nothing new or of value in it and often having spelling and grammar errors all over the place.  Other sites use software called “scrapers” to grab the content on another website and put it on their own site automatically.  In either case, the content wasn’t created for people, it was created for rankings…and $$$.  So, to capitalize on the traffic these sites were getting, they started adding more and more ads at the top of their site, sometimes to the point where you couldn’t even see the real content without scrolling down the page while.

What Does Panda Do?
Panda looks for a wide variety of things about a website, including things like:

  • The number of ads on a site
  • Whether people would have to scroll down to see the page’s real content
  • Spelling and grammar errors
  • duplicate content
  • Ratings by real Google employees that review and rate the quality of websites
  • Over-optimization (using too many keywords on a page)
  • Poor user experience

When the Panda algorithm finds sites that fall below a certain quality threshold, it’s rankings are lowered.

What Should I Do?
The biggest thing you can do to avoid being hit by Google’s Panda is to create quality content on your site which is designed to benefit real people.  Don’t create pages just to have pages and don’t put up low quality stuff.  In addition to that, just make sure you don’t overdo it with the ads.  Some ads are fine, but if you have to scroll the page to get past the ads to the content, that’s a bad user experience and could catch the attention of Panda.

Also, don’t over-optimize your pages.  Optimizing your pages for the search engines is a good thing to do, but there are limits.  It’s not a matter of “the more the merrier.”  You want to make sure you have some optimization, but keep it reading naturally and not overuse your keywords.

Share Your Thoughts:

  • Do you think Google has improved the quality of their search results in the past 3 years since they launched Panda?

About the author

Kurt Steinbrueck

Kurt Steinbrueck is the Director of Marketing Services with OurChurch.Com. He also serves on the leadership of Family of Christ Lutheran Church in Tampa, FL. You can find him on Google+ as .


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