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Google Panda Update

The "Panda update" was an adjustment of the Google Search algorithm, introduced in 2011. The Panda update, alongside the Penguin update, is one of the most important Google updates, as its effect on the rankings of websites was dramatic.

The primary goal of the Panda update was the improvement of search results by filtering out substandard sites. The Panda update is now a part of the core Google search algorithm. Even if the name of the update is not a reference to the bear of the same name, but to the last name of the relevant developer, Navneet Panda, the “Google Panda” is often graphically shown as a bear in the SEO wold, in the same way as other updates such as “Penguin” or “Hummingbird”.

The goal of the Panda update

The Panda update focused by and large on site content. The algorithm adjustment works like a quality filter for websites. Websites of lesser quality are filtered out and devalued. This assessment does not take place per website, but on a URL basis.

The consequence of this devaluation was that the affected websites suffered in the SERP and in turn SEO visibility . Though the Panda update does not work site-wide, specific URLs were impacted meaning that important landing pages lost visibility.

With the introduction of the Panda update the quality of the SERP was significantly improved. The implementation of the algorithm therefore serves the optimization of the user experience of the Google search engine . This makes searching even more attractive for users. A further, surely desirable side effect: If the organic Google search gets better, then users would also trust the paid advertisements, such as Ads and PLAs.

Which factors count for the Panda update?

The quality of a website can be made up of many different factors from an SEO point of view. This included:

  • Content without added value: This can be duplicate content, texts copied from other sites or so-called “thin content”.
  • Negative user signals: High bounce rates or lower visit duration can be signals that activate the quality filter.
  • Unbalanced relationship of advertising with content: If the advertising blocks have too much of an influence on the use of a website, it can worsen the reception of the site.
  • High keyword density: If a keyword appears too often in an entry, this can be a sign of inferior content.
  • Irrelevant meta information: If elements such as the title or description do not fit the content of the site or are excessively riddled with keywords, this can be negative quality signals for Google.
  • Incoming links of inferior quality: If a website has no backlinks or they are of inferior quality, this can be proof of an interior website for Google.

When was the first Panda Update?

The first Panda update was rolled out on February 23, 2011 in the USA for Google search. The update was begun on April 11th , 2011 for all English-language search queries. The global implementation of the algorithm adjustment then took place for all languages except Korean, Chinese and Japanese on August 12th , 2011. According to official assertions of the search engine provider 12 percent of all search queries were affected by the Google Panda update.

In the first week after the introduction of the Panda update there were massive effects for SEOs worldwide. Above all, content farms and websites with inferior content were impacted, for example, web directories or sites that only accumulate content. Some sites lost more than 80 percent in visibility in 2011.

What versions of the Panda update are there?

The Panda update has received many refreshes. Google continuously optimizes its quality filters. Just a year after the global introduction there was a refresh of Panda in September 2012. In January 2013 a further refresh followed. These so-called “data refreshes” deal only with a revision of the data inventory.

A major development of the algorithm took place in 2014 with the rollout of Panda update 4.0. This version included a fundamental improvement of the entire algorithm. Further quality criteria were used. Even in the same year, the algorithm version was again improved with the rollout of Panda 4.1. In 2015, the Panda update 4.2 then followed. With the enhancements of the Panda update websites got the opportunity to get out of the filter if improvements to the site were undertaken.

Since 2016, the Panda algorithm has belonged to the core algorithm for Google. Gary Illyes confirmed this in a tweet and reasserted that the Panda update has a central influence on the ranking of a website.

With the integration into the central algorithm the effects of renewed adjustments of Panda are no longer as strong as at the start of its introduction. For SEOs this creates a continuous optimization process, which does not react selectively to Google updates, but defines quality as one of the primary goals.

What can I do if my site is affected by the Panda update?

This question has been asked in SEO forums time and time again. Ultimately, the answer is very simple: Webmasters and SEOs have to design websites that offer users added value. This includes high-quality and unique content. At the same time, site owners should be careful which sites link to your own homepage. As Panda is now a part of the general core algorithm, it is very difficult to say whether a ranking loss is down to this or if it involves other factors.

Acute measures are:

  • Check your content: Are there duplicates or thin content? Are text elements simply copied from other websites? Can the content be expanded, updated and developed so that unique, useful content is created, that can serve the user interests as perfectly as possible?
  • Check the backlink structure: Are there inferior backlinks? Can these be devalued using the Google Disavow tool?
  • Request indexation of the website: Using the Google Search Console up to 500 URLs can be submitted each month for renewed checking and indexing. This step should only be carried out after optimization of the content has taken place.

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