Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Google Panda
To understand the Google Panda update, you need to understand the concept of Search Engine Optimization. For those who don’t know, search engines operate on complicated algorithms designed to pick out the best content on the web given the search terms you provide. Such content is found using a variety of factors—specifically the quality and relevance of pages, the architecture of the website and HTML, the number and quality of links to the site, the social reputation of the site, whether the site is a trusted authority and has a good history, and the location of the material on the website in relation to the searcher (example: someone searching in Minnesota will uncover more websites that hail from or are related to Minnesota than someone searching in Alaska). For this reason, companies that once offered web hosting decided to provide also SEO (Search Engine Optimization) that will serve as a guide in making sure your website or blog appear in search engine results have become an increasing interest for people trying to be successful on the internet. After all, for those trying to launch a successful business online, getting more hits from Google (the most popular search engine on the Web) can mean money.
It should come as no surprise then that search engines can be “gamed” to ensure that specific websites appear in the top results, regardless of content. “Content farms” and “aggregator/spam sites” that have poor quality or copied content and serve primarily advertise for 3rd parties, have become much better at SEO over the years as they’ve learned the game and are appearing more and more within the top results of the Google search engine. In many cases, landing on one of the websites can increase ad revenue at the expense of quality web-surfing for the searcher. That is exactly what Google is trying to prevent, and that is where Google Panda comes in.
What is Google Panda?
The Google Panda update is a special search engine filter that Google began running on a periodic basis after February 24th, 2011, to flag poor quality content and give websites a lower value in the Google ranking algorithm. To date, the filter has only run 4 times—Panda 1.0 on February 24th, Panda 2.0 on April 11th, Panda 2.1 on May 10th, and Panda 2.2 on June 16th—each time corresponding to changes in the filter designed to catch and weed out poor quality content that appears on the Google search engine.
Unlike previous Google updates which correspond to a change in the overall search algorithm or an addition of websites being dumped into the system, the Google Panda update works as a ranking factor that has been “added” into the equation. Essentially, Google Panda is designed to spot low-quality pages and flag websites that have too many of these low-quality pages until the next iteration of Google Panda is run. Being flagged by Google Panda will not remove websites from the Google search engine, but will instead penalize particular pages on your website to ensure that only better websites and pages will appear on Google’s top results.
What does this mean for your blog?
In an ideal world, the filter is designed only to flag “content farms” and spam sites, and the implementation of Google Panda should actually allow your blog to have improved results in a Google search. However, content farms and spam sites are not the only sites that have been flagged as poor quality. The reality is that many high quality sites have been flagged as well.
If your blog was not hit by Google Panda, then the odds are that you’ll notice your site appears higher in the Google search results. If your blog was hit, your blog may have disappeared from the virtual map. However, it is not too late to improve before the next iteration of Google Panda is run.
How to avoid getting “Pandified” and how to make improvements if you were:
A website will not be flagged by Google Panda if it is built on original and quality content, is easy to navigate, is clear and not deceptive, is not obscured by advertisement, and focuses on user need and offers authoritative and valuable information. Thus, if you want your blog to avoid being flagged, you should consistently provide your own original and valuable content, be careful with advertisement, and make your blog as user friendly as possible. These are all tips for providing a quality blog that people want to visit in the first place. Likewise, if you have been flagged, be sure to remove any copied content, remove any unnecessary ads, and focus on quality. If you are sure to make these improvements, you’ll be successful with Google Panda. And with better search results, you might even find that you like it.