Wildweb Facts: Google’s Panda Bear- Preferred Diet
In this article I will describe methods to employ that will help you determine whether your website has been affected by the newest Google Search quality control algorithm; Panda. In February 2011 Google rolled out its finest quality control filters to date. It began with targeting low quality sites that had little useful content or ripped off (stolen) content.
This was the first of two (maybe 3+) major updates that are well known in the webmaster community as the Farmer/ Panda update. If your website has been tanking for the last 6-7 months you’ll want to read up to determine if you have been hit by The Panda Bear. If you’re not sure, I will show you a couple ways to determine the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
This update has two names that were coined by Danny Sullivan and Google engineers. Sullivan called it Farmer because it obviously targeted content farms. Google called it Panda, named after one of the Google Engineers (Navneet Panda) that spearheaded this update which included a machine learning algorithm. Whichever name you prefer, Panda and Farmer are 2 in the same.
Randfish Explains Panda Nicely
Panda Farmer Update- Death to Content Bandits (January/ February, 2011)
Matt Cutts (Google’s principle engineer) announced there was a new Google algorithm aimed at spammy websites in Google’s index
Posted 1/21/2011 09:00:00 AM
“Reading through some of these recent articles, you might ask whether our search quality has gotten worse. The short answer is that according to the evaluation metrics that we’ve refined over more than a decade, Google’s search quality is better than it has ever been in terms of relevance, freshness and comprehensiveness” Source
Websites that scrape content or publish excessive duplicate copy were the targets. In the later part of January, Matt had news to share with concerned website owners that may have seen negative impact on their website’s ranking.
Webmasters that had become accustomed to ripping of other website’s content to appear on their websites had to seriously re-think their strategy. Writer’s of quality content will finally get what they deserve; credit for writing good, original content.
How to Determine if the Farmer Update Affected You
Let’s be safe and assume that the Farmer update rolled out in February 2011. The easiest way to determine if your site was affected is by doing a simple timeline comparison.
Step1- Google Analytics, Comparing January to February
There’s no rocket science here, just simply compare the two timelines; January vs. February 2011. You can spread the timelines out even more if you wish. If you see a dramatic decline in traffic, you have likely been consumed by Google’s Panda upate. If your website has strong brand recognition you could apply a filter to Google Analytics that would exclude your branded terms. Your branded keywords will likely remain unaffected so do not let them cloud the data.
Exclude Brand Terms
Above: The only metric that has seen a negative effect is Average Time on Site. The visits to this website are improving slightly. We can conclude from this quick analysis this website has not been affected in a negative way.
Step 2- Google Analytics, Analysis over Time
Generate another report from January of 2011 to now (currently August 2011). Take a quick look at the trend line. It should be obvious to you. If the trend line is trending up, it’s pretty safe to say Google’s Panda/Farmer update likes you.
Above: At a quick glance we can see this website is safe. From January to the present time (August 2011) the traffic to this website is on the up. We have never been involved in content farms so when Google announced this new update we were tickled pink.
Obviously the opposite would apply if the trend line is trending down.
Every website we have designed for clients or own have all seen an upwards trend. Why… because we ALWAYS write original and insightful content. Frankly, we were getting frustrated with other websites streaming our RSS feeds on their higher authority websites. Before the Farmer update Google would sometimes award the content thieves as the original author. This would deem our content to be the duplicate (stolen) content. If you don’t understand how Google treats duplicate content you should do a bit of reading. It is directly violating their webmaster TOS.
However, in some cases, content is deliberately duplicated across domains in an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings or win more traffic. Deceptive practices like this can result in a poor user experience, when a visitor sees substantially the same content repeated within a set of search results. Source
Step3- Compete Rank
You may not have Google Analytics installed and even if you do a second opinion is always helpful. Remember that analytic data has no emotion or ego, be prepared for the truth.
In this example I am using 3 websites that were considered in the most extreme cases of lost rankings according to Sistrix. You can definitely see a common trend line to all three websites.
10 Things to do if Google’s Panda/Farmer Update Ate You
Once upon a time Google used to keep there updates somewhat secretive. Today, Google publicly announces major updates that may affect a website’s ability to rank. If you do not follow these announcements you may find yourself behind the eight-ball today. If you are seeing a steady decline in traffic starting from around January/ February 2011 here are some tips to help you get back in the game.
- Remove Duplication- If you own a website that is a content farm (little to no original content) remove it. That means if it’s total duplication take it offline until you can publish unique content.
- Off topic content- If your website is about “used car sales” avoid publishing content pages that have nothing to do with the theme of your website. E.g. “Oranges from Florida”.
- Excessive SEO (Organic Optimization)- Avoid old school SEO tactics like keyword stuffing, excessive anchor text links or repeated on-page keyword usage.
- High Bounce Rate- Review your content pages in Google Analytics. If some of your pages have a high bounce rate, take corrective action to lower the bounce rate.
- Low Quality or no Inbound Links- Relevant links from reputable websites are citations to a website that always count. If you do not have any, make an effort to acquire them naturally. If you do have inbound links that are low quality or not relevant it may be harming your ability to rank. Stop acquiring links unnaturally from irrelevant websites.
- Social Media- Linking from social networks like Twitter or Facebook pages to your website is a positive factor in Google’s eyes. If you have no mentions in the social space make an attempt to acquire them naturally.
- Boilerplate- Be careful with identical content appearing on all pages. Usually applies to common footers, sidebars and navigation.
- Returning Visits- People that visit your website should return if they enjoyed their initial visit. A website that has a low percentage of returning visitors is a sign of poor engagement.
- Keyword Rankings- Websites that are ranking well for certain keywords should also make sure pages are set up to jive with those keywords. Body content and HTML title tags should be areas of focus.
- No Content- Get rid of those blank pages with no content showing accept links to your sales pages. Use permanent 301 redirects.
The Panda algorithm does not run on a regular basis. Instead it is manually implemented by Google engineers periodically. You never know when Panda is coming to town. One day soon it will arrive at your website and if you have expertly written, well engaged content you’ll see this.
On the other hand, not everyone is that lucky. The primary target of Panda is content farms. It does not stop there! Low grade content, over optimization and poor linking, as outlined above, can also trigger Panda flags.
As the web continues to get littered with spam it’s nice to see companies like Google step up. Now they have an anti-spam process of programming combined with manual review.
You may get caught up in the Farmers field. When that happens, clean up your act if you want your business visible in Google Search. This is a major Google update to their ranking algorithm. You really only have two choices
- Garbage websites are ending up where they belong.
- Quality websites are seeing increased rankings, which is parcel and package with more inquiries.
Panda Update January 26, 2012
Yup. Google is now updating data in this new Panda Update. I also found a video from Matt Cutts that helps explain this update in layman’s terms. He also helps you understand what you should do if your website has been affected negatively. -Thanks Matt!
Helpful Farmer/ Panda Links
- Google’s Panda Announcement (a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries)- Feb. 24, 11
- Webmaster Forum- Google Updates and SERP Changes – May 31, 2011
- Average 2000 to 3000 visitors per day to 100 per day. June 3,11
- Version 2.2 of the Panda/ Farmer algorithm- June 9, 2011
- Farmer/Panda is More of a Ranking Factor Than Update- Jun 21, 2011
- Our website traffic dropped by 90%- July 5,11
- Is Google assigning too much weight to title tags?- Webmaster World July Summary Jul 6, 11
- Helps differentiate between higher – and lower-quality sites- Update July 27, 11