Over the last couple of days Google have more or less confirmed that some big changes have taken place to their core algorithm and that this mainly involves “baking” Panda into the core.
Yes, we know that baked Panda sounds pretty unappetising, but don’t worry, baking is simply a term that SEOs are using to mean “integrate”. Nevertheless, it’s pretty tasty news if you’re in any way interested in Search Engine Optimisation and Online Marketing.
What is Panda?
Panda was initially launched back in 2011 as a kind of add-on to Google’s main algorithm and its main purpose has always been to determine the quality of a website’s content. Basically it amends search results so that sites with unique content (content that is higher in quality and most relevant to the user’s search term) are favoured, over sites with content of a lesser quality.
Since its launch, it has changed the way SEO is carried out globally, with less of a focus on keywords (though those are still important) and more of a focus on creating content that is of value to users, i.e. customers. The mantra ‘content is king’ has long been in circulations within Search Engine Marketing land, but it was the Panda update that really etched it into the minds of SEO marketers.
Now that it has been confirmed that Panda is no longer simply a secondary filter but an integral part of Google’s core algorithm, this is further confirmation of just how highly Google regards content that is of high quality and value to the user.
Should You Be Worried?
It depends on the quality of the content on your site. As long as it in some way provides valuable information or functionality that your target audience will benefit from, then you should be OK. After all, Panda has been slowly rolled out over the past few years so if it was going to affect your site, it probably would have by now.
If you have noticed a drop in your search rankings recently, then it might have something to do with Panda deeming your content to be of a lower quality to your competitors.
According to Jennifer Slegg of The SEM Post, to whom Google initially confirmed the updates, there are two possible fixes for this. Either go back through your old, lower quality content and update it so that it provides more value to your users, or simply NOINDEX those pages so that Google doesn’t count them when ranking your site.
In the long run, however, it seems one sure-fire way to ensure that your site is performing well in search rankings and generating traffic is to ensure that the content you are creating is of a high standard and provides your readers with value.
What About Penguin?
If you’re familiar with Google, you’ll be aware that they like to name things after cute and often black and white members of the animal kingdom. Another major update in recent years was Penguin. Whereas Panda concentrated on favouring good quality content, Penguin’s job has always been to penalise websites that engage in so called ‘black-hat SEO’ techniques, such as keyword stuffing, gaining high numbers of backlinks from less-than-authoritative sources and other “spammy” techniques.
When last week it appeared that something big was happening at Google, it was initially rumoured that it would be another update to Penguin, bringing us to Penguin 4.0. For now, however, it seems that Penguin is staying as it is, but given what’s happened to Panda, it’s probably only a matter of time before Google don their oven mitts yet again and bake Penguin into their core algorithm too.