Google Panda is a series of major search engine updates that focus on site page content. Panda was actually the name given to the project by Google based on on the nickname of one of their engineers that developed the algorithm. The overall goal of Panda was to reduce the high volumes of web spam and ensure that only top quality content received top rankings.

The first Google Panda hit in early 2011 and was initially called the Farmer update because it penalized sites that “farmed” content. In other words, scraper sites that were built by copying other peoples sites use to be able to manipulate their sites enough that they still ranked well enough to earn traffic. The Panda update ensured that most if not all of these sites would get penalized enough that people would stop creating them, thereby reducing spam. Over the years, Google has gotten better at identifying these sites and keeping them out of their index.

Since 2011 there have been multiple Panda updates, some major and some minor. Google had to update Panda fairly frequently as it was initially implemented as a filter to their normal algorithmic updates. In 2013, Google announced that they had included the Panda algorithm within the normal algorithmic updates that occur on a daily basis. This enabled Google to However, they still update Panda as we saw in May of 2014 with Panda 4.0.

Google doesn’t specifically publish what Panda does, but through community discussions with Google’s spam team along with a lot of research / observation, we know that the Panda update requires you to create good pages. ┬áSo for your web site pages, what is Google Panda going to hit?

Google Panda will penalize pages with the following:

1. Duplicated content such as articles that were originally published by another site
2. Empty pages, thin content, pages with almost no text, no images or video.
3. Repetitive content such as category pages or tag pages that just list internal links.
4. Poor spelling and grammar that appear to be spun content.
5. Content irrelevant to the sites normal topics.
6. More advertising than content
7. Too many ads above the first page fold.
8. Contain keyword stuffing or invisible text.

There are some people that question if each of some these points are part of Panda. Since so many sites got hit and Google doesn’t provide transparency, then you can only go by expert consensus. As far as we’re concerned, pages that contain any of these issues are at risk of being penalized, whether its intentional or not. Even if Panda doesn’t penalize some of these points, its only a matter of time before you will get penalized for such tactics. Why risk it?

How Has Google Panda Effected Us?

As a company that publishes thousands of pages, we certainly had pages hit. Our biggest crime involved some pages with some light descriptions about resume examples. We felt it was borderline thin content, so we decided to add a lot more valuable content to pages. There were other clean up tasks we failed to monitor. For example, you need to noindex a lot of pages that are created with just a basic WordPress installation. You see, WordPress creates category pages, tag pages, author pages, feed page, etc. These pages can all produce duplicate content or thin content. So you need to be using good SEO software to manage these pages.

We had also been syndicating content for years as we felt it was a good value add to our visitors. However, we realized that once we had our own writers, it was better to just focus on publishing our own material. If you think about it, duplicate articles don’t really help the web, especially with social media sharing making it so easy to just point other people to great articles. It also creates trillions of pages for Google to try to crawl and index.

In general, the Panda update was a necessity for Google. It has helped reduce the volume of spam on the Internet and ultimately forced serious webmasters to focus on creating good quality content.