Designed to punish sites that spam Google with keyword stuffing and cloaking, Google’s Penguin algorithm was released back in 2012. Two years later, at the end of 2014, Penguin 3.0 came into effect with the aim of cutting down on spam and improving search results by penalising websites with thin, low-quality content. With almost a year and a half having passed without a single refresh or update to the algorithm, we’ve been awaiting the imminent Penguin update and just last week, Google Guru Gary Illyes announced it is set to roll out ‘within weeks’.
Although Penguin was first introduced to penalise sites involved in ‘black-hat’ techniques i.e. link-buying and keyword stuffing, it’s also in place to ensure sites that follow the rules and provide great quality content are recognised and feature well in the search engine results pages (SERPs). If you were penalised by the refresh back in 2014 and have since cleaned up your act (identified what you were penalised for and rectified), this upcoming update could benefit you.
Gary Illyes announcement didn’t give too much away - all we know is the update is expected to arrive before the end of this quarter - keep your eyes peeled for our updates following it’s launch.
Previously an algorithm in itself, Panda was first launched in February 2011 with the aim of rewarding websites with high-quality, unique content and since the latest refresh in September 2015, we haven’t heard a peep from Panda. With movement in SERPs at the beginning of this year, everyone was quick to react and thought it was the long-awaited update to Penguin however Google were quick to react stating it was an update to it’s core algorithm and not the effects of Penguin as we all thought.
As confirmed by SEM’s Jennifer Slegg and Google’s PR team, Panda no longer exists in a silo. Panda will now be merged with Google’s core algorithm which search results will be subjected to on an ongoing basis.
“Panda is an algorithm that’s applied to sites overall and has become one of our core ranking signals.”
Google PR Team
So along with 199 other ranking factors, what was previously known as Panda will be integrated into Google’s core algorithm but does this mean it’s even more important to SEO? The simple answer is no. Although Panda is part of the main algorithm, it will still impact websites in the same way.
Stay on the right side of the algo
You might be wondering how to ensure you stay on the right side of Google’s algorithm and we have some top tips:
Don’t remove content without reviewing - in the past, after being affected by Panda, many webmasters acted fast and removed lots of content they considered to be ‘low-quality’ however you could be shooting yourself in the foot by doing this. It’s important to look at whether Google is sending any traffic to the pages you consider ‘low-quality’ - if it is, then Google considers it to be good enough quality to rank. In essence, although it may be old and might not meet this magic word-count threshold, Google may still value it - an oldie but a goodie.
Should you fix or remove? - if you have been subject to a Panda penalty in the past, you might be wondering whether it’s best to fix this content or remove it completely. In short, site content should be improved in order for Google to trust your site and if you have thin content, you can always noindex it for a short period of time until you get round to upgrading it. Google says, “instead of deleting pages, your goal should be to create pages that don’t fall into that category: create pages that provide unique values for your users who would trust your site in the future when they see it in the results”.
If you are set on removing content, Gary Illyes has shared his tips for removing low quality thin content - read more here.
Duplicate content - of course duplicate content can affect your SEO but if you are trying to ensure your site ranks well after a Panda hit, this should be last on your priority list.
Magic word count threshold - Don’t do what everyone does and become fixated on word count - there is no set amount of words that will ensure you rank well. Your site could contain pages with thousands of words yet low quality however one succinct article covering the main points could rank higher. When published it’s worth keeping an eye on it using Google Analytics to see if Google is sending traffic, if it is, then word count isn’t an issue.
Now that Panda has been added to the core algorithm, you might be looking for more information on this and the ranking factors which determine where your site ranks within SERPs. With more than 200 factors, we’ve come across this fantastic article to help get you up to speed.
As always, if you’ve got any questions, drop us a line to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep your eyes peeled for Penguin updates coming to the blog soon!