Panda Is Now a Part of Google’s Core Algorithm


News recently broke that Google has merged its Panda filter into its core ranking algorithm.

The update, first introduced in February 2011, aimed to stop websites with poor quality content from  meant to stop sites with poor quality content from tanking highly on search engine results pages.

The integration is yet another way for Google’s to ensure that sites project the proper quality SEO signals if they are to rank. In other words,

How Does The Panda Update Work?

Although the inner workings of the Panda algorithm still remain something of a mystery, Google has dropped heavy hints about what constitutes a quality site in their eyes with the release of their 160 page quality guidelines document.

While this document is mainly intended as a guide for the people selected to sense check the quality of rankings, it is also likely to be very similar to the more secret guidelines issued to Google’s human site quality testers – and in these times of algorithms being driven by machine learning, it’s a fair bet that these guidelines also form the basis of the Panda algorithm’s assessment of a site’s worth.

As such, an understanding of these criteria are essential for effective Google SEO. Here’s a summary of some of the main points which are covered.

1. You Guessed It! Content

This is something of a catch-all term, but any website that wishes to rank highly should make their content their first priority. While high quality is perhaps difficult to define, poor quality is easier to spot algorithmically.

A site which only skims the surface of a topic is not providing high value for a visitor, and this is fairly easy for the Panda algorithm to spot by comparing a page’s content with whitelisted authoritative sources. If you suspect your site has a problem in this area, see which sites are ranking will in your niche, and try and match their depth and authority of content.

If your website uses spun, automated or duplicated content then you may also face a penalty under Google’s Panda, as do some websites with simply irrelevant or aggregated content.

It is also useful to note that user generated content could also be a possible problem, largely down to poor writing and lack of value, so keeping a close eye on any community areas of your site is also essential.

2. Great User Experience (Double Check Advertising…)

Another quality signal that Panda can measure quite easily is how prominent and visible the content is. If the page is filled with ads that get in the way, this is unsatisfying for the user, and so will tend to be downgraded.

Special mention is made of the type of advertising that underlines words within the text and pops up text ads when the mouse hovers over, so if you plan to use this type of advertising then it’ll pay to weigh up the revenue benefits against possible SEO detriment. Avoid sneaky advertising that is difficult to distinguish from true site content to stay on Panda’s good side.

3. Compatibility with Mobile Devices

The emphasis on user experience is continued with websites ability to display properly on mobile devices. It’s a given nowadays that a site’s content should render well across a wide range of platforms – something that responsive web design makes, if not easy, then at least eminently possible – and it’s a sign of poor quality to Google if the content is difficult to view on a smartphone or tablet, regardless of its actual intrinsic value.

Some user signals may be used within Panda, such as the website’s bounce rate and click through rate to determine whether the website is of quality or not.

Extra attention should be given to forms and data entry. Filling out online forms is much more challenging on a small touch screen than it is using a physical keyboard, and sites that ignore this mobile usability factor can expect to receive negative points in the overall Panda algorithm.

Is Your Website Meeting the Panda Guidelines?

While the whole concept of site quality is subjective and hard to define, it’s been clear for a long time that Google’s aim is to present only high quality sites to the user. Whether or not you agree with the Google idea of quality, if you want your website to rank highly, then understanding the Panda guidelines will help you play the game to the rules that Google have set.

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