What is the Panda Update

The Panda Update is one of Google’s regular extensive algorithm changes and affects the content of websites. Put simply, the search engine’s algorithm takes on the task of distinguishing “good” from “bad” content (content with added value). The name “Panda Update” has nothing to do with the animal, but goes back to the “inventor” of this Google filter: Navneet Panda.

What are the goals of the Panda update?

According to HOMETHODOLOGY, the goal of Panda or Google is to provide the user with high-quality pages in the search results and thus to make it easier for them to find really relevant content.

The basis for assessing the quality of the content of a page is formed by the data of users who should assess websites according to certain criteria, e.g. user-friendliness, text and image content or structure. These ratings were converted into measurable data and could thus be integrated into the search engine’s algorithm. In addition, the user behavior on the respective pages was observed and included in the results, so that the software could gradually recognize from the behavior of the users whether it was a “bad” or “good” page.

The Google algorithm classifies the following characteristics of a page as “bad”:

  • little own content
  • inferior content
  • Pages crowded with advertisements
  • numerous external links
  • Duplicate Content
  • short user dwell time
  • lots of the same content appearing on every page of the website

How is the panda update affecting?

Pages affected by the Panda update are moved significantly down in the ranking. Not only are individual sub-pages affected, but the entire website loses its visibility on Google. Who, for example, the visibility index of Sistrix observed shortly after the Panda update 2011, a sharp deterioration could assume that here the panda had slammed with high probability. Subsequently, a clear downward trend was often discernible.

The first panda update and its consequences

On February 23, 2011, Google rolled out the first content quality update in the United States, causing a massive change in search results. German sites were affected in the course of a worldwide distribution from August 12, 2011. A total of 12 percent of all inquiries in English showed the effects of the Google update. In all other inquiries, it affected around 6 to 9 percent.

After the first Panda update, minor updates followed almost every 1 to 2 months, but they no longer caused the major changes to the SERPs as they did when it was rolled out at the beginning of 2011.

Further information:
Details on the German losers and winners of the first Panda update: Google Panda Update in Germany

Farmer Update or Panda Update?

In connection with the Panda Update, the term “Farmer Update” appears frequently. However, this is not a separate Google update, but simply a different name. It comes from the editor-in-chief of Searchengineland, Danny Sullivan.

The background:
Before the 2011 update, Google had promised to do something against the so-called content farms – websites that constantly produced a large amount of new content, often of very poor quality, peppered with keywords. Despite this poor content, the pages ranked very well and displaced those that provided the user with much better content.

When the update finally rolled out in 2011, Google didn’t officially name it with a title. However, the effects indicated that these same content farms were affected, which is why the update was referred to as the “Farmer Update” and was quickly distributed under this title. Google published the name “Panda” a week after the update was introduced.

Panda 4.0 – the next big algorithm change

This update, which was rolled out worldwide by Google on May 20, 2014, was the first “correct” change in the algorithm on which the Panda update is based after the many small updates since 2011. About 7.5 percent of all English-language search queries are said to have been affected.

At around the same time, another Google update took effect – the Payday Loan 2.0. As a result, it was not always clear at first glance whether the site was affected by Panda or the Payday Loan. However, the latter aims to provide better search results for keywords that are very susceptible to spam, while the Panda update is a far more comprehensive algorithm change in which numerous quality features for the Google search engine play a role.

The losers from Panda 4.0 were mainly Ebay and Idealo, both of which lost around 30 percent of their visibility. Many voucher portals were also among the losers. Overall, pages were mainly affected whose content consisted primarily of information that came from other pages, often simply as pure duplicate content. The Google Update cannot be summarized in a general way, because there were also winners from the Panda Update 4.0 among these websites, such as the price comparison portal billiger.de or preissuchmaschine.de.

Further information:
Details on the losers and winners of Panda 4.0:

Google Panda Update 4.0

Panda 4.0 is released

Panda 4.1 – the slow 4.0 successor

The next significant algorithm adjustment took place just a few months after 4.0: On September 25, 2014, a Google employee announced that the slow roll-out of the Panda 4.1 update had started a few days ago. The update also lasted two weeks, during which there were sometimes very large fluctuations in the search engine rankings. According to Google, it should affect around 3 to 5 percent of search queries.

Probably the most important change in Panda 4.1 affected small and medium-sized pages with high-quality content, because they should benefit from the update. Pages that were negatively affected by Panda 4.0 and then replaced non-relevant content with user-oriented content with added value should also emerge as winners through 4.1.

Further information on Panda 4.1:

Panda 4.1 On Fire!
Panda Update 4.1 rolled out
Panda 4.1, Google’s 28th Panda Update, is rolling out

Affected by the Panda update – solutions

The first thing you should do is to get a general picture:

  • Which pages are affected?
  • What are the differences to pages that are not affected?
  • What are the differences between these pages and those from the competition that are not affected by the update?

Once the causes have been identified, it is time to eliminate them:

  • Adjust the website content in accordance with the Google quality guidelines or create new content that complies with these guidelines.
  • Improve the usability of the entire website – the user should easily find what he is looking for.

Which content offers added value or: What is good content?

Website operators who are wondering which factors are relevant for good content and how it is created should initially think less on the level of keywords and ranking, but rather focus on your target group and the user experience for this target group. Because then it is relatively easy to decide which content really delivers added value.

The following list provides you with assistance on the most important factors:

  • Provide trustworthy information, e.g. with reference to the source, clear author assignment, which can be recognized by thorough research.
  • The entire page should clearly show that there is an authority behind it.
  • The content should be created by an expert, ideally with your own experience reports, tests, your own analyzes, etc.
  • There should be no spelling errors, nor any grammatical or stylistic errors.
  • If possible / sensible, contributions should address a topic from several perspectives.
  • Topics / articles should be aligned in such a way that they meet the interests of the target group and not solely on ranking for certain keywords on Google – the SEO aspect should therefore not be in the foreground.
  • Avoid creating similar content on multiple pages with the SEO strategy just to cover keyword variations.
  • Avoid excessive advertising banners on the page / in the articles, especially if they distract or disrupt the actual content.
  • The articles should not have any repetitions, i.e. they should not be artificially elongated just to cover certain keywords or to deliver a long, apparently very informative text in which the content is only repeated in several places.

Google itself provides a guideline for the creation of high-quality content: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.de/2011/05/more-guidance-on-building-high-quality.html

There is also a hint from Google how website owners should proceed if they think they are affected by the Panda update:

What is the Panda Update