Google use a variety of algorithms in which to rank websites including Hummingbird, Penguin and RankBrain. Each look at different aspects of sites in an attempt to provide users with the most relevant content when they enter a search query. In this article we take a deeper look at one of these algorithms: Panda.
What is Google Panda?
Google Panda is a search algorithm, developed by Navneet Panda, used by the search engine to favourably rank quality websites. It considers aspects such as the quality and relevance of content, duplication and trustworthiness. It was first introduced in 2011 and at the time was said, by Google, to have affected 11.8% of search queries. Google claimed the update was to lower rankings of low-quality sites that do not provide value for users. Conversely, it improved the rankings of sites with original content that do provide value. The sites that saw the most negative ranking impact of this algorithm have poor/irrelevant content and highly intrusive adverts. Therefore, these sites were not judged as not trustworthy by Google.
Key Features of Google Panda
So how does Google decide which sites are high quality and which ones you can’t trust as far as you can throw them? It uses a number of ranking factors that websites must consider when producing content. Some of it may seem common sense, but many black hat SEO techniques were ousted as a result of Panda.
What factors Panda looks at
There are several factors that Panda focuses on. Many of these have an emphasis on content and the value it brings to users. Below is a list of the key factors Panda considers when ranking sites:
- Duplicate content – this refers to content that has been copied from elsewhere on the internet as well as throughout your own website. Google favours unique, helpful and informative content. This means you must try to differentiate the content on different pages throughout your site as much as possible.
- Thin content – pages with little or irrelevant content will be judged as thin and will drop in the rankings.
- Low authority – if the content isn’t considered to have been verified or correct this will reduce the authority score Google assigns the site.
- Content farming – these refer to sites that accumulate a vast amount of low-quality content that covers a huge range topics. These sites lack authority and are seen by Google to provide little value to users.
- User-generated content (UGC) – not all UGC has a negative impact on sites. However, content that is full of errors, unverified and is short again provides no value to users.
- Ad to content ratio – quite simply having a page that is dominated by advertisements is of no value to users.
- Content not matching the query – sites that aim to rank for certain queries and then fail to provide any relevant content relating to that search term are penalised by Panda.
23 questions Panda was based on
Shortly after the Panda update in 2011, Google released a list of questions that they claimed the Panda algorithm was based upon. These questions are ones that everyone should consider when they create content for their site. Here is the full list of questions:
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
- Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
- Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
- Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
- Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
- Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- How much quality control is done on content?
- Does the article describe both sides of a story?
- Is the site a recognised authority on its topic?
- Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
- Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
- For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
- Would you recognise this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
- Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
- Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
- Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
- Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
- Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
- Would users complain when they see pages from this site?
Opportunities of Google Panda
Panda can harm your rankings in several ways as we have explored. However, the questions above and knowing what factors this algorithm is focused on can give you a strong indication of what you need to change on your site to improve your rankings. By avoiding black hat tactics like content farms and turning your attention to providing value to your users you should see a positive impact on rankings. Longer content is favoured by Google, but that content needs to be relevant to the terms it is ranking for. It also needs to be verified and authoritative so that your users can trust the content on your site. Look at your site like a typical user and ask yourself the questions Google outlined and make changes where needed. Don’t publish content you wouldn’t be happy to view yourself.
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