Introduction – What is the Panda algorithm
Google Panda was a significant change to Google’s search results ranking algorithm that was first introduced in February 2011. The change aimed to reduce the ranking of “low-quality sites” or “thin sites,” specifically websites that publish short content pieces that doesn’t provide any useful information colloquially referred to as “content farms,” and return higher quality sites near the top of search results.
Incorporated into Google’s core algorithm in 2015, Panda still undergoes constant updates as Google changes its search algorithms and incorporates additional ranking factors.
The algorithm was named Panda after Navneet Panda, a Google engineer who developed the technology that enabled Google to design and implement the algorithm.
Following the trend at the time of naming algorithms after animals Google has made many other search related algorithms called respectively:
- Google Penguin
- Google Hummingbird
- Google Pigeon
(And many smaller incremental updates based on the algorithms listed above)
Effect on search engine rankings for websites
A US patent specifically for the Panda algorithm was filed by Google on the 28th of September 2012 and subsequently granted on March 25th 2014.
According to the patent, Google Panda calculates a ratio based on a site’s inbound links and reference queries, which are search queries for the site’s brand.
This ratio is then used to calculate a site-wide modification factor. Following that, the sitewide modification factor is used to generate a modification factor for a page based on a search query. If a certain threshold is not met, the modification factor is applied, and the page ranks lower in the search engine results page.
The effects of Panda were generally felt across an entire website as opposed to other algorithms which target specific pages of content.
Other websites which were heavily affected by Panda were some eCommerce websites which had thousands of category pages with small snippets of content and nothing more.
Recovering a website hit by Panda
(Example screenshot of a website impacted by Panda with a loss of organic traffic, Image credit: Neilpatel.com)
If a website is affected by the Panda algorithm it’s usually due to content issues on the website and can be remedied with help of an SEO professional.
In most cases the following steps can be undertaken to help a website recover from a Panda related penalty:
Reduce the ad to content ratio
If a piece of content is filled with lots of advertising and not much more than that it is likely to be targeted. Try to maintain a balance between content and advertising and ensure advertising doesn’t make up the bulk of the page.
Improve existing content
If you have an old website or blog chances are you will have lots of content already published some of which may be a little “thin” or not very in-depth.
Content doesn’t have to be long to be useful however ensuring older content is up-to-date and relevant can be helpful. Other things to consider may include:
- Adding some more quotes and references
- Adding some new images
- Embedding a relevant video
- Embedding maps, feeds, posts or other useful information
- Adding some relevant links to external websites and other content you already published
- Adding in some more headings and subheadings to better structure the content and make it easier to read
- Removing any outdated information and replacing with newer current information
Identify and correct low quality content generated by users
This is only something to worry about if your website allows user-generated content (UGC) such as forums, contributor blogs etc.
If your website allows external authors to publish content setting some editorial standards can help improve content quality and avoid Panda issues.
Another important factor to consider is content moderation especially for communities, having good moderation in place can help detect spam and also enforce quality standards across the entire website.
Secure high quality backlinks
Concentrate on obtaining high-quality, relevant backlinks from authoritative websites in your industry with a reputable SEO Agency or Linkbuilding/backlink service provider. Remove or disavow low-quality and spammy backlinks.
For example if your business is trying to rank in local search results having quality links from other local websites and directories will be very helpful. If your website produces content around Thai food cuisine having links from other food related blogs will be helpful too.
Increase the visibility and engagement of your content by promoting it on social media networks.
Encourage user participation by using comments, social sharing, and user-generated content to further add quality content to your pages. To avoid the first point about low quality user generated content ensure proper moderation is setup for things like comments so your only accepting quality content from users.
Updates on a regular basis
Keep your content up to date by returning to it and updating it with new information on a frequent basis.
Analyze and monitor
Monitor the performance of your website using web analytics tools such as Google Analytics, HotJar, Clicky or Google Search Console. This will help monitor your search rankings and traffic trends so you can continue implementing content that works and that your visitors like.
Delete or consolidate obsolete content
You may have lots of content that is really talking about the same thing or content that no longer serves any purpose. In this case it can be a good idea to delete or consolidate the content together into a better piece that covers all the information in a concise and detailed way.
It’s also important to redirect content to it’s new destination to preserve any traffic you may have and SEO value accrued over time.
If you are certain that you have fixed the concerns, file a reconsideration request to Google via Google Search Console. This can be done with the help of an SEO consultant or manually if you have Google search console setup and verified for your website.
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Related pages from our technology glossary:
“Google Panda” Wikipedia, 2 Aug. 2011, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Panda. Accessed 31 Jan. 2022.