With businesses vying more intensely than ever for top positioning on Google, it’s no surprise that any announcement on behalf of the search engine giant relating to how they calculate those results be greeted with intense interest by the SEO community. Until now, the latest versions of its most powerful anti-spam algorithm, Google Panda, has been rolled out at regular intervals. As of this week, however, Google’s PR team has confirmed that the mighty Panda will now be incorporated into its core algorithm. Not only does this mean Google will likely never again confirm an update in the future, it means near continual micro-updates could be happening in the background from now on. As ever, Google is keeping digital marketers on their toes.
A Brief History of the Panda Update
First released in February 2011, the original Panda update created a seismic change on the search engine results, reputedly altering the positioning of 12% of the entire web. Named after Google engineer Navneet Panda, the key functionality of the algorithm was to filter out low quality results from the listings, via comparing the ratio of a site’s inbound links and reference queries, against search queries for the site’s brand. Essentially the invention sounded a death-knell to spammers and ushered in the content-marketing era that’s been in existence ever since. Webmasters now had to expend legitimate efforts to earn their traffic, earning rather than ‘building’ their inbound links. For the first several years, Panda updates rolled out monthly, though since 2015, these have become more sporadic.
Debunking the Myths
Since the working of the algorithm is one of the most coveted secrets in Google’s vault, little was really known about Panda’s exact functionality for quite some time, resulting in a huge amount of industry Chinese whispers. On September 28th, 2012, however – well after Panda was running at full steam – Google filed for a patent, thereby exposing something of their creation into the public sphere. Nevertheless, five years later and despite the valiant efforts of Search Engine Land to engage Google in open discussion about this, we’re still largely reliant on intelligent guesswork to assess how Panda will affect websites from this point on. At least Gary Illse from Google has confirmed, via Twitter, that Penguin does not yet operate in real time!
What does this mean for Websites?
In terms of what this latest update means for webmasters, little could be accurately said other than to follow the Google guidelines as closely as possible, avoiding any kind of black-hat tactics and focussing on building a solid website which enriches the web. For those affected by penalties, or merely seeking to understand how to fix a site that has incurred the Panda’s wrath, you could scarcely do better than read Jennifer Slegg’s comprehensive piece on the subject. Ensure your sites have no thin or duplicate pages of content via the no index tag or merely rewriting poor copy. Advertising should be unobtrusive, and page comments free of spam or low quality content. Ultimately, Gary Illyes’ Pubcon remark that webmasters shouldn’t be asking how many visitors they had on a site, but rather how many visitors they helped, sums up the whole matter. Google’s company philosophy advocates a democratic web, aiming to offer the best user experience possible at the fastest speed. If you take these principles as your own, the chances are Google will reward you for it.