Panda Effect – How Google Panda Update Changed Life On the Internet


Last Year in February, Google released a major update to its search algorithm to weed out low-quality websites from its SERP and give prominent position to high-quality websites. The change was initially geared towards content farms and sites which had poor-quality content.

Within days of rolling out of Panda, websites like HubPages, eHow, Ezinearticles were experiencing a significant change in the ranking of their pages. Hundreds and thousands of pages on these websites, also known as content farms, for the lack of better word, were delisted causing a huge loss in the companies owning them.

This hit the headline, but those were not the only sites that lost customers. Panda Update became famous more because of the impact it had on online giants like Overstock, and J.C. Penny. These biggies had been violating Google’s content guidelines for many, many years, and were getting away with their grey hat tactics in Pre-Panda world, but things didn’t remain same when Panda Update came along. They have reportedly experienced loss of more than a million dollar in sales revenue.

What does Panda update means for your business?

One year since Panda 1.0 was introduced, a lot has changed on the Internet, and if you are not following along then you must be wondering how does it matter to you and your business? You are not a content farm nor you run an ecommerce website, which by large does not have much content, then why should you care about Panda update?

For one thing, Panda update was not a one-time update which was decommissioned once its job was done in February 2011. The better analogy to help you think of Panda update will be to think of it in terms of a filter which Google applied to its search ranking. And every time someone searches Google for something Panda filter kicks in filtering the results on the basis of quality. So even if your website was not hit in 2011, there is no guarantee that the pages on that website will not be delisted today or tomorrow.

When I used the word Panda 1.0, I didn’t use it just because it looked fancy, which it surely did. I used this term to demonstrate the fluid nature of this search algorithm update. Have a look at this infographic from SearchEngineLand:

Panda Timeline

  • Panda Update 1.0: Feb. 24, 2011
  • Panda Update 2.0: April 11, 2011 (about 7 week gap)
  • Panda Update 2.1: May 10, 2011 (about 4 week gap)
  • Panda Update 2.2: June 16, 2011 (about 5 week gap)
  • Panda Update 2.3: July 23, 2011 (about 5 week gap)
  • Panda Update 2.4: August 12, 2011 (about 3 week gap)
  • Panda Update 2.5: September 28, 2011 (about 7 week gap)
  • Panda Update 3.0 : October 19, 2011 (about 3 week gap)
  • Panda Update 3.1 : November 18, 2011 (about 3 week gap)
  • Panda Update 3.2 : January 18, 2012 (about 8 week gap)

Courtesy: Search Engine Land

As you can see in the above box, the last major Panda update happened in January and since February 2011 Panda has been updated 8 times.

How you can survive the Panda Attack

Google’s Panda update primarily targets website with poor-quality content and thin content. When I say thin content, I mean website which has only a few pages, let’s say 5 or so.

The goal of Panda update was aligned with Google’s goal, which is to give a better search experience to web surfers. Often times, it has been seen that a website with less pages tend to waste users time.

Steps that you can take to survive or recover from the Panda attack should include:

  1. Removal of duplicate content from the website.
  2. Write high-quality content and focus on enriching users’ experience and not on providing fodder to search bots.
  3. Reduce bounce rate. High bounce rate is seen as an indicator of bad-quality content.
  4. Reduce the number of ad unit in the “above the fold” area.
  5. Rewrite the sections which have duplicate or low-quality content.

I’d like to tell you for one more time:

Panda update was not a one-time event. It is akin to a filter that Google has put on top of its search algorithm. The goal of this filter is to stop bad-quality website from appearing in its search result. If your website has not been affected by Panda till date then it does not mean that you are immune to that. The only way to be sure of it is to do a content audit of your website to check the quality of content on your website. If the audit report suggests that your website does not have enough quality content then starts the above-given steps. That is the only way to make your website Panda proof.

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