Google Panda explained – a walk through the updates

Google Panda UpdateWhen the Google Panda update hit, many internet marketers began panicking at possible ranking drops and the impact it would have on the industry.

Simply put, if the content is low quality, Google will devalue your site…which essentially is a good thing, right?

There were several websites affected by the update, particularly article sites and other content farms, markedly improving Google’s search results and allowing users to find information they actually searched for, as opposed to keyword-stuffed nonsense.

A brief overview of the updates

The first Panda update hit February 24th last year, affecting approximately 12% of all searches via the Google.com page, immediately punishing large-scale, free article sites such as ezinearticles.com and suite101.com.

The following was in April when Panda 2.0 was released, targeting all global sites written in English, also incorporating user feedback signals, such as devaluing sites that had been blocked by web surfers.

Following this in June, the Panda 2.2 update was released, tackling the issues of sites that used ‘screen scraper’ tools – the sites that illegitimately copied high quality content from genuine sources in order to reverse the affects of  the initial Panda update.

The subsequent month, Google announced the Panda 2.3 update, incorporating “some new signals that help differentiate between higher- and lower-quality sites. As a result, some sites are ranking higher after this most recent update.” (searchengineland.com – 26th July 2011)

Less than a month later, Panda 2.4 hit, affecting all languages other than Chinese, Korean or Japanese. At the end of September, Panda 2.5 was pushed out, further improving rankings for sites full of rich quality content – controversially Google-owned YouTube.com and Android.com were the strongest of the winners.

In November, Google announced a ‘Freshness Update’ that greatly rewarded recent/fresh content in 1/3 of all searches – which ultimately meant a huge advantage for blogs and news sites.

Google continued to periodically release smaller updates in order to refine search results even more effectively, known as ‘Panda Flux’ – which essentially gave higher rankings to sites that were optimised contextually.

So what does it all mean?

Google Panda represented a huge shift in the way that links are created and sites operate – no longer can companies rely on a massive influx of keyword-targeted low-quality links to boost their rankings.

Google have ultimately improved the quality of their search results.

Whilst Google cannot ‘read’ sites, it knows what makes a good site now; no longer can SEO be a robotic process – now, more so than ever, a personalised approach and strategy is the absolute key to good performance.

Quality content became the rich bamboo to the ever-hungry Panda and for the time being, we can’t see it getting sick of it any time soon.