A Guide to Google Panda">no comments
Starting in February 2011, Google has released a series of updates to their search algorithm under the project name “Panda” that have had a tremendous impact on search results. In many ways, the initial Panda update and the twenty modifications to it since then have caused the most dramatic change to Google’s search engine results ever.
What Did the Panda Update Change?
In the years immediately before 2011, we saw the rise of so-called content farms. These were sites that produced lots of low-quality, heavily keyword focused content that was barely readable and provided little or no useful information to visitors. The goal of these sites was obviously to attract visitors from search engines, and then show them as many ads as possible. Sites like associatedcontent.com and livestrong.com saw up to 90% of their search rankings vanish, which led to massive decreases in traffic. Danny Sullivan over at Search Engine Watch, compiled a fairly comprehensive list the sites that were the biggest losers.
Google Panda Made Article Marketing Obsolete
After the first Panda update, I wrote a post about Google Panda and the Death of Article Marketing. Along with the content farms, article sites like ezinearticles.com, suite101.com and hubpages.com saw drastic drops in search rankings. The devaluation of these sites made them far less valuable from an SEO perspective and in the interim traditional article marketing has pretty much dropped off the radar as an effective SEO tactic. This is not a bad thing, since most of the content on article sites was very thin: poorly written, stuffed with keywords and created solely for the purpose of getting links.
The Evolution of the Panda Update
At the time of writing, there have been twenty updates to Panda. These updates have brought a certain degree of refinement to the algorithm. For example, the forum site macrumors.com, which is genuinely user-driven community, was hit hard in the initial Panda rollout, but has since recovered as the algorithm evolved. It also appears that sites with more professional and modern designs are favoured by Panda. The how to site ehow.com (where most of the content is still pretty thin) has survived and even thrived. Many people think that this is due ,at least in part, to its slick design.
What Does it Mean For Me?
If you want to avoid being penalized by Panda, there are a few very simple guidelines to follow.
- Write original, readable and useful content. Google maintains its domination of search by providing the most useful search results to users. With that in mind, remember that you are writing for real people, who will read what you write. These people are spending time on your site, make it worth their while.
- Keep your site focused. Keep the content on your site focused on your niche or business area. For example, on this site I write about SEO, web design and social media. If I put up a post about parenting, it wouldn’t rank as well, and could hurt the rankings of my other pages.
- Keep your design updated. Users (and therefore Google) like sites with modern, easy to navigate designs.
- Avoid Duplicate Content. Some content management systems and ecommerce platforms create different pages with the same content on the fly, depending on different factors. Check to see if this is happening on your site and use the rel=”canonical” meta tag to let Google know that the different URLs are pointing to the same content.