The Google panda algorithm was launched in mid April last year and it has had a dramatic effect on the way search results were served to the end user. Many saw their website drop down in rankings and some disappear altogether.
The basic premise of the update was to provide accurate and relevant search results and rank sites based on a more ‘human’ experience.
What was previously a large number cruncher now took into account the originality of content, the readability of that content, and the relevancy of that content. Keyword spamming was penalized and many of the article repositories such as ezinearticles.com was hit hard losing 10% of their search volume. The update also addressed spam sites, link farms and ‘content thin’ sites and changed the best practices of SEO forever.
What happened in reality was a slow rolling update that saw the Panda Algorithm get twelve different updates (now on version 3.3) and have mixed effects on the search results. In fairness, the link farms and ‘thin’ content websites were penalized and many sites whose older archived blogs carried considerable weight saw their traffic reduce due to a re-review of that content (much of which was paraphrased or re-hashed content from other sites). As the early versions had a fixed set of criteria websites were either hit hard or left completely alone. It was only when the October 2011 update arrived did we see a recovery in relevant and quality search results.
By penalizing the shallow or poorly written content the web changed in a matter of months and webmasters, bloggers and SEO specialists were forced to tidy up their site structure, write quality readable content and ditch the old techniques for building page rank. In the brave new world of Panda, the content creators are king.
Taming the Panda:
When preparing copy for your website there is a few guidelines to follow if you want Google Panda to rank it.
1. Make sure your copy is original work and not duplicated or paraphrased
2. Make the content readable and avoid stuffing your content with keywords
3. Try to link other relevant content on your site and ensure you use descriptive anchor text
4. Use correct formatting such as Heading tags and bold tags to clearly indicate what the focus of the content is about.
5. Always try and link to an authoritative link where possible
6. Balance the page in favour of your content and not advertising. If you must have advertising, try an add it lower down the page
7. Pay attention to grammar and proofread your content
8. Check page titles and descriptions to ensure it is tailored towards the content
9. Try to syndicate your content on social booking websites and social media channels.
One year on it seems that Google has settled down and SEO techniques have changed for the better. There are still many ‘Black Hat’ techniques still being practiced but these are now the target of the latest update: Google Penguin.
Enter the Penguin
First and foremost, Penguin does not aim to change the way search results are served but an update to see if websites are trying to manipulate search results through certain SEO techniques. An example of this might be having over 50%+ of your internal links focused on one keyword across your website.
It also looks at your Internet wide link anchor text to see if you have a natural spread of terms and are not solely focused of a handful of keywords.
Penguin also further penalizes the creation of poor content adding additional filters checking for short and manipulated content.
Preparing for Penguin
1. Check for thin content on your site and remove or build on it to make it more useful and relevant.
2. Check backlinks to ensure you have a spread of descriptive terms and variation in links
3. Five great pages of content are better than 50 pages of poor content.
4. Remove content that is not unique
5. Build authority in your pages but do not over optimize them
In conclusion, the Panda and Penguin updates have forced content creators to create quality and not quantity and taken important steps to stop people from trying to manipulate the search results. These welcome updates have taken important steps to clean up the web’s mass of information and although both updates are not without issues they have changed the way SEO is practiced for the better.