During the past few weeks, most SEO experts and internet marketers have been paying attention to the Penguin 3.0 update. The rollout for the algorithm change began last week, so it’s too soon to know what has been affected. However, the most recent update of Google’s Panda algorithm has been running for several weeks now and enough data has come in for marketers to make assumptions about what has changed and how it affects the sites of business owners.
As a quick review, the Panda algorithm is one of the main tools Google uses to determine the rankings of websites for search engine results. Whereas Penguin analyzes the backlink structure of a site for data that will be used in rankings and punishes violators, Panda does the same for content.
The most recent Panda update was released about a month ago at the end of September. The initial reactions to the update weren’t entirely positive. According to a preliminary study from BrightEdge, some brands saw upward of a 90 percent loss in their organic search footprint.
Google remains tight lipped about the specifics of their algorithm changes. This doesn’t mean that marketers have no way of knowing what Panda is targeting. While Google doesn’t publish a list of new practices they’ll be targeting, comments from Google employees indicate three areas where website owners should on guard.
“Based on user (and webmaster!) feedback, we’ve been able to discover a few more signals to help Panda identify low-quality content more precisely,” stated Pierre Far in a Google+ post. “This results in a greater diversity of high-quality small- and medium-sized sites ranking higher, which is nice.”
When trying to eliminate poor quality content from search results Panda targets “thin” content on sites. This can be related to the size of pages and content on the site. “Thin” content penalties often equates to a general lack of content on a site.
Panda also targets sites that duplicate content as a way to flood the site with their target keyword. Using duplicate content on a site happens naturally every so often. Usually, penalties come into play when a site has a large volume of duplicated content.
Google employees have also noted that Panda targets machine-generated content. Spun content is produced by computer programs that are designed to automatically create content (extremely low-quality content) that features keywords prominently. Google’s Panda algorithm can detect this type of content and penalizes sites using this tactic.
Like the Penguin and anti-piracy algorithm refreshes mentioned earlier this week, the Panda update gives sites who were previously penalized, a chance to recover some of their traffic. If a site has noticed their reach decline in recent weeks, it’s may be related to the most recent Panda update.
The most recent updates to Penguin and Panda illustrate a point that we’ve made several times on this site. The best way for a site to reliably improve their SEO without running afoul of google in the future, is to focus on creating quality content. A sound content marketing strategy will always be a part of good SEO.