1. What is it? No one (including Google) says it better than Wikipedia who say: Google
Panda is a change to the Google’s search results ranking algorithm that was first released in February 2011. The change aimed to lower the rank of “low-quality sites”, and return higher-quality sites near the top of the search results.
What I say: An algorithm is a step by step procedure used for calculations. Remember that the change to Google’s algorithm is based on the *human* testing of thousands of websites for quality. The aim behind Panda is to ensure searches return you quality sites…..sites that deserve to be high in search rankings.
2. Why did Google implement it? It’s all about survival. Not only do Google need to ensure they return good results when you do a search (think of how annoyed you get when Bing returns random stuff!) but also, they need to assure their legitimate advertisers that their sites will be returned in search results before low quality sites using dodgy SEO methods.
3. Who should care?
Concern and involvement should not just be limited to us digital marketing and SEO specialists. If you own a small business with a site, you should care, and if you produce a lot of content for the web, you should definitely care.
4. What existing structures will it affect?
Does your site duplicate content across pages, or do you duplicate content across sites?
Stop! When Panda identifies the same block of content being used more than once in a site or across domains, it downgrades the sites. Why? Because dynamically built sites and “content farms” often re-use blocks of content across a site (or sites) and computer generated content is always considered less valuable than content created by real, live people.
Duplicated content and syndicated content are not the same.
You PR people may be wondering….how can we get our clients press releases covered in as many places as possible without damaging their content rating. I suggest reading this article by Alex Wall: Duplicated vs. Sydicated: Syndicated web content after Google Panda. This is an excellent article that leads you through the steps to ensure that your syndicated content does not get confused with duplicated content….apparently Google *can* tell the difference.
However, I’m still a little cynical that the mass publishing of a press release won’t hurt a site’s SEO. Why not publish a unique version of a press release on your website and then send a newly written and equally unique one to the press?
“Pay per click” ads
PPC ads on your website will damage the rating Google Panda gives your site…do you need them?
Image heavy sites or sites that take a long time to load will also get dinged.
Optimise the images on your site and try to identify anything standing in the way of quick, optimised load time. WordPress users may find this article interesting: Find Which WordPress Plugins are Slowing Your Site.
5. How can it benefit me?
The aim of Google Panda is to reward sites with great content and to ensure they are listed appropriately in Google search engine rankings. If your site has always hosted great content written according to clear keywords, is kept updated and you’ve always implemented great SEO, then you’re probably going to see your site ranking stay about the same.
If your site is old, repetitive and never updated and you’re guilty of design without SEO in mind, you might find the changes to the algorithm make it fall further down the rankings. This is an opportunity to have a re-think and get some fresh content up there to ensure your ideas, products or services are described accurately, clearly and in a way that is simple and fun to read.
6. Where should I start making changes?
If you have re-used the same blocks of content throughout your site, it’s time to stop and do a rewrite to ensure each page has fresh material. Branding concepts and messaging can remain consistent throughout. Different, fresh and meaningful content is a great way to start.
One of the other places to start is with your site’s user experience. Google Panda will actually ding sites that are not easy to use and navigate. While many of your returning visitors will have become accustomed to using your design, it is essential that new users find it easy to use as well.
7. How should I adapt my marketing activities in the future?
Beyond making changes to your content you should review whether your content is being reproduced elsewhere and whether you’re able to address and stop it from happening.
If you have a multi-author blog, whether or not any of your authors are aggregating content from their blogs into yours. I will be doing some tests and research on blog aggregators in the next few weeks so will write more about these (and my thoughts on how they may tie in to the new algorithm) at that time.
8. What if I don’t make any changes?
As previously mentioned, if you were paying close attention to SEO and your unique content, you probably won’t need to make many (or any) changes. However I would still ensure you do a site review and testing your rankings against your keywords.
However, if your site falls short in any of the areas mention in this post, you are going to start to see it fall off the top page of site rankings…or even the top three pages.
*I recommend using Google Analytics to take a look at your site traffic from before and after February 24, 2011 when the change in the algorithm took place.
9. How will it change the web?
Ultimately, the aim is to ensure better content across the web and less of those annoying, autogenerated content farms.
From Google’s POV, the web needs to be a place where their paying advertisers are assured their content is delivered in a consistent, high performing way.
10. Is this all?
Of course not! I am sure there will be new developments to the algorithm and I will report on them.
Google’s official Webmaster Central blog is a great one for reference and also gives a full list of suggestions for practices and changes you can make to ensure your site is up to scratch.