Last updated: 15 February 2017
The Google Panda algorithm aims to reward sites with quality content over those with poor or thin content. It was first introduced on 23 February 2011 and the initial algorithm impacted 11% of websites. Between 2011 and 17 July 2015 there were a series of Panda updates as Google refined the algorithm and increased its importance. Since then, the updates have been implemented more gradually as part of a continuous change, therefore websites won't have seen dramatic shifts in rankings overnight due to new Panda updates (though they may for other reasons).
If you're struggling to achieve a good ranking with Google, then the Panda algorithm may be the reason why if:
- You have a lot of pages on your site with little content on them (there's no fixed rule here, but the best ranking pages tend to have over 1,500 words of original content!)
- Your website has a lot of content that's duplicated on other websites.
- You have a lot of pages on your site that exist only for search engines, rather than readers (e.g. pages with similar information but a different city name to target 20 different cities).
Ebay and Google Panda 4
Estimate of eBay's organic traffic from the USA
On 21 May 2014 Google Panda 4 was launched, impacting 7.5% of English language sites (other Panda updates also impacted other languages). eBay was one of the sites hardest hit by it and lost an estimated 52% of its organic traffic as a result of this algorithm update, as shown in the above graph. It's possible that this was a penalty for paid, spammy links that coincidentally happened on the same day, but neither Google nor eBay confirmed this.
Scroll down for a brief analysis of how Google Panda 4 has affected SEO in different countries (the UK, USA, France, Germany and Spain) and unsurprisingly the sites that gained the most traffic uniformly had large volumes of high quality content.
In 2017 you can only tell if you're impacted by Panda by reviewing the content on your website and asking yourself whether you have plenty of in-depth, valuable and original content. If you have access to historical data, you can find out whether you were penalised by Google Panda by seeing if you had significant drops in traffic after any of the dates below (there were many other Panda updates, but these are the dates where a significant percentage of websites were effected):
- 17 July 2015
- 23 September 2014
- 19 May 2014
- 13 March 2013
- 22 January 2013
- 21 December 2012
- 23 February 2011
How to benefit from Panda?
Panda is all about CONTENT, CONTENT and CONTENT (but without the duplication)! For good SEO, forget about trying to manipulate search engines and concentrate on really great content for your website pages, articles and blogs and you may be surprised by the positive effect it has.
For great content to work, it has to be just that – great. This means that it is well-written, unique and informative. Learn how Google defines 'quality content'.
Nobody is likely to spend more than a couple of seconds reading something that obviously has keywords shoe-horned in on every other line, or is a badly written advertisement for your company with no real information. Content that has been well-researched, on the other hand, is more likely to grab the attention, especially if it has a slightly different slant to the normal run-of-the-mill material that abounds.
One way Google can tell whether your site has good content is the length of time people spend on it and adding interesting graphics or an amusing video clip can also cause the reader to have a chuckle to themselves and spend more time reading the rest of the page.
Another factor to consider when producing great content is that it has to have flawless grammar and language. It is all too obvious when website pages or articles have been written by either a non-native speaker of that language, or have made heavy use of Google’s translation service, without actually having sufficient knowledge of the language to notice glaring errors.
The style or tone of content will also change according to the targeted audience. Trendy, colloquial text is probably fine for sites aimed at young fashion or music seekers, but would not be well-received by readers seeking information on serious scientific, political or economic topics, for example. Just dashing out a few hundred words of fairly mindless garbage is just not good enough.
The internet is littered with examples of badly written and duplicated content and Google Panda aims to address this and ensure that searches are less likely to stumble on them. Stand out from the crowd with a really well-thought out content management strategy that embraces first class written content, material that is interesting, informative and well-researched, together with attractive, imaginative graphics which might include videos, banners or interactive applications like quizzes as appropriate. You may well discover that this is the winning formula you’ve been looking for and Panda 4 will become a blessing, rather than a curse.
A Multilingual Perspective
Having looked through the major winners and losers in Europe and internationally after Panda 4, there was a clear trend in the winners, in all languages, that many of them were educational, information rich sites that have large volumes of content. Interestingly there are clear differences in how large an impact Panda 4 had across different countries.
In the UK, France and USA the biggest winners saw around a 500% gain. Panda 4 had the largest impact in Spain, with some major sites gaining 1000% or even more. It had the smallest impact in Germany, with very few sites gaining more than a few percent.
Some of the biggest winners in different countries are shown below (percentages are an estimated gain in SEO traffic from Google based on their position for a range of keywords).
English (US / UK)
Sample SEO Chart
The chart below shows an example of how Google's Panda 4 algorithm rewards sites with great content. This is one of the sites that we manage the content for and our other client sites either saw a similar increase or maintained the same level after this update.