Google owns a Panda that isn’t near as cuddly as this little fellow above.
After all the havoc it created in 2011, it was certainly not on the Christmas-list of a lot of webmasters out there!
It killed their traffic from Google… by as much as 80%, or more in some cases!
What Is Panda?
Most people know that Google has a search algorithm that it uses to return search results to people who search Google for information. Nobody, other than a few Google engineers, know exactly what the many factors are that this algorithm looks at. It’s kinda like the Coke-formula… a well-guarded secret!
We do know that the normal “search engine optimization” factors are important because it helps the search engines figure out what the topic of a web page is. We also know that the quality of inbound links are important because each link is seen as a vote in favor of the web page. These things, among others, are part of Google main search algorithm.
Enter Panda… the codename for a new “quality” algorithm that Google applies to results returned by the main algorithm.
Panda was set upon the world of websites on Feb 24, 2011, creating huge overnight traffic losses for many websites, big and small. Since that fateful day, there have been at least ten further updates to the original Panda algorithm, with the most prominent update probably being Panda 2.5.2 on Oct 14, 2011.
What Is Panda All About?
In one word… Quality!
Like Google’s main algorithm is aimed at finding web pages that answer the search question, Panda is an attempt at further refining the search results by identifying the highest quality answers.
As I understand it, the goal is to catch all those websites that are merely regurgitations of other websites (directly copied in some cases), or websites that produce massive amounts of shallow content that offers no real additional value.
Panda does this by applying a penalty to those websites that do not meet the quality criteria that Panda uses, thereby allowing sites that do meet the criteria, to “bubble up” in the results.
What To Do If You Got Panda-Slapped
As with its main algorithm, Google says very little about how Panda works. However, this article by Amit Singhal, one of Google’s top search engineers, gives some insight into the mindset you need to acquire when thinking about your website.
You’re going to need to take a good, honest look at your website.
Does it provide real value and give your visitors the benefit of your unique insight into the topic, or is it something that was hastily slapped together and that borrows heavily from content on other sites?
You want to be able to honestly answer “yes” to the former.
Here are a few things to pay attention to:
- Give visitors a reason to stick around on your site:
- Write good headlines that entice visitors to read the page’s content.
- Provide your own, well-written, original content that includes your unique perspective. (Don’t “borrow” content from other sites, and in particular, don’t copy & paste content from other sites.)
- Structure content properly to make your pages easy to read or scan (many visitors scan over pages).
- Make sure that links to other pages on your site are well-organized and easy to find.
- Easy on the eyes:
- Make sure your site looks professional and instills confidence in the visitor. If it doesn’t, it is time for an update.
- Make sure that the font and font-size on your site makes it easy for visitors to read your content.
- Add images to your content where it makes sense. This helps to make content more interesting.
- Compare your site to your competition:
- Look at things that your competition provides to visitors that you don’t, and see if you can provide that too.
- Look for ways make your site better then theirs, i.e. provide useful things to your visitors that your competition does not provide.
I must say that, based on a test that I did recently, Panda is still a work in progress. I did a Google search for the main keyword of one of the best-performing pages on one of my websites, and compared the top 10 results to my own page. I am completely convinced that my page (at #57 in the results at the time, now at #33) was better than at least 6 of the top 10. (Yes, my own biased opinion.)
The point is, however, Panda will get better at its job as time passes and any website that does not focus on quality and value will lose out on a lot of potential traffic.