Google Panda is an update to Google’s search algorithm that fundamentally changed the way search engine optimization works on Google. Introduced in February 2011, Google Panda (named after Google engineer Navneet Panda) increases the quality of search results provided from a Google search. Before Panda, PageRank (named after Larry Page) was the main methodology that Google used to determine who showed up in what position on Google searches.
PageRank ranks pages by a number of attributes, but the biggest is the number of inbound links a website has, and the quality of those links. So for instance, say you own a men’s fitness website. The more links you have that lead to your website, the higher up on Google you will rank with search terms like “men’s fitness.” The more links the better, but the links have to relate to your website. So a link from a fitness blog or an exercise machine company is way better than a link from some random website that has nothing to do with men’s fitness. Moreover, the higher the PageRank the site that links to you has, the better. So even better than a fitness blog linking to you would be MensHealth.com linking to you, because it has a nice PageRank of 7 (out of 10).
With Panda, Google makes its algorithm even more complicated, because sites were beginning to focus only on generating the most inbound links, without regard to the actual content of their site. Now sites can get penalized for having content deemed “too thin” or low quality. In addition to looking at a site’s PageRank, quality of content, and a number of other attributes, Panda now looks at a site’s “usage metrics” to determine what actual visitors think of the site. Panda looks at the average time users spend on a site, the site’s bounce rate, page views per visit, how the site is being shared socially through social networks and +1’s, and how people are navigating through the site.
With Panda, Google is trying to find unique, popular, and high quality content that matches your search terms. Even though the first version of Panda was released in February 2011, new versions of Panda are released periodically. The newest update, Panda 3.3, was released last month. It was only a minor update with no major changes (read the official blog post about the update here). The thing about Google, though, is that they won’t tell you specifically how Panda works. No one but Google knows exactly what a perfect, Panda-friendly website should have and not have. If they did, everyone’s site would be the first result on a Google search.
Even though Panda is only 1 of 200 factors Google uses to rank pages, SEO experts have to keep up with the latest Panda updates if they want to keep up with the industry. There are many studies, theories, books, etc. on how exactly to beat Google at its own game and get the top search result without paying for it as an advertisement. Those who have a really good idea of how Panda and its algorithm work have become multimillionaires just because their site pops up as the first search result for a given search term. Anyone with a website that is concerned with SEO should be aware of Google Panda and keep up with its frequent updates. Take a look at this infographic to learn even more about Panda.
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