Lessons Learned From The Google Update: Panda

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Written By Sam Davis Ph.D.

Sticker Crypt is the internet's premier source of free advice for artists and small business owners! 

In February of 2011, Google released a new update to their search engine algorithm – Panda. This update was designed to penalize websites that were using low-quality content and engaging in spammy practices. If your website was hit by the Panda Update, you likely saw a significant decrease in traffic. In this blog post, we will discuss what the Panda Update was, how it affected websites, and what lessons you can learn as you build your own small business website. Let's get started!

Panda bear eating bamboo leaves in zoo

What are search engines? How do they work?

Search engines are websites that help you find information online. When you type a query into a search engine, it uses special algorithms to scour the internet and bring back the most relevant results. Search engines constantly update their algorithms, which is why it's important to use different ones when you're looking for specific information.

While search engines vary in how they rank results, they all use three main factors: relevance, popularity, and freshness. In order to get the most accurate results, it's important to use specific keywords and phrases in your query. The more precise your search, the more likely you are to find what you're looking for.

In the old days, it was easy for people to outsmart search engine algorithms and rank higher based on keyword density (how many keywords) and bad link networks.

What did the Google Panda algorithm update do to Google's core algorithm?

The Google Panda update was a major change to Google's core algorithm. The Google Panda update was designed to lower the ranking of low-quality websites and improve the ranking of high-quality websites. The update had a significant impact on the search landscape, and it led to a lot of speculation about what Google was trying to achieve.

Some believe that the primary goal of the update was to reduce the amount of low-quality content that was appearing in search results. Others believe that Google was trying to encourage website owners to create higher-quality content. Regardless of Google's intentions, the Panda algorithm update had a major impact on the way that people use the internet, and it has long-lasting implications for how small business owners appear in search engines.

Why is it called the Google Panda Update?

Google Engineer Navneet Panda was critical in the Google Panda algorithm development, so calling the Panda algorithm “panda” is a reference to them.

What were the main effects of the Panda Update?

The main effect of the Google Panda update was that it penalized low quality sites with low-quality content, and rewarded websites with higher-quality content. Sites that had a lot of thin or duplicate content saw their rankings drop significantly, while sites with long-form, well-researched answers and unique takes saw their rankings rise with Google Panda updates. Overall, this resulted in an improvement in Google's search results because they became more relevant to the average user.

What is low quality content?

We've all come across it before: that article that's barely a page long, crammed with keywords and barely makes sense. Or that website that's just a jumble of ads and affiliate links. These are low quality pages that just use slightly different keyword variations to try and score Google points.

That's low quality content. It's bulk content designed solely to game search engine algorithms or make a quick buck, with no thought given to actual human readers. The Panda update and many other updates since have tried to create a natural quality control across the web. Low quality sites are penalized on the entire domain, not on individual pages, meaning that the stakes are high.

Not only is it annoying and difficult to wade through, but low quality sites also provides zero value. So why do they exist? Unfortunately, because it can be profitable. In a click-driven world, there are always going to be people who are willing to sacrifice quality for quantity. But fortunately, there are also plenty of resources out there for those who want to produce high quality content.

How can my e-commerce site avoid low quality pages?

It can feel really hard to produce high quality content around your crafts, or in my case, stickers. How much can I really say about the vinyl material before I feel like a broken record? Google looks for a lot of different things that indicate high quality sites, which include:

  • High quality sites have many backlinks from authoritative domains
  • High quality sites may have a lot of information about the same or similar topics, but it's presented in a new and interesting way.
  • Each page includes a complete or comprehensive description in the meta about what the page is about
  • Webmasters are regularly revising or removing low quality pages

The best way that I've found to avoid low quality content is to use a keyword research tool like SurferSEO. SurferSEO is built for building websites, and I use it on all of my projects. It helps me discover and write about interesting, related, and insightful topics across my genre. It even helps me with my e-commerce sticker site, Nonbeenary Designs. Check out Surfer right here!

So if you're concerned about the Google Panda Algorithm for your website…

Here are some tips. First – don't duplicate content. Spin, rewrite, interpret differently. Include a description that is unique to each product that you have listed to improve your website quality.

Similarly, include unique images. Don't put stock images for your stickers, because Google search might flag those as questionable.

Suppress auto-generated pages if they're not useful. A great example is the author page if you're the only person writing content for your website.

Keep pages up to date and keep publishing. If you don't update your website regularly, Google might think that your website is old, out of date, or full of thin content.

Finally, keep reading and learning. The SEO community is vibrant and we're all working towards a common goal: higher quality sites. So use insightful analysis from SEO professionals to your benefit. Got questions? Leave them in the comments below!

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