The SEO landscape has changed dramatically over the last two years, thanks to major updates of Google’s algorithm called Panda and Penguin. Don’t be fooled by the adorable pseudonyms, these updates practically wiped out a large number of sites overnight. The aim of these updates, which has always been Google’s aim, was to clean up its search engine and remove as many low-quality, spam sites as possible. Some may argue how successful the updates have been but I am going to highlight what these updates are and how they may affect you specifically.
The Panda update was officially released on February 23rd 2011. Originally it was referred to as the ‘Farmer’ update and it affected up to 12% of search results. This update targeted low quality websites with either thin or scraped content. SEOMoz reported on several of the winners and losers from the Panda update. Some of the big-name losers from this original update included sites such as mahalo.com and ezinearticles.com. Some of the big winners included brands such as Ikea and Sears.
On April 11th 2011, Google rolled out the Panda update to all English speaking countries including the UK and Ireland. It was also estimated that around a further 2% of US search queries were affected by this update. This rollout also included several tweaks to the original Panda update, incorporating sites that users block and the long-tail traffic of low-quality websites.
Over a year later on April 24th 2012, Google released its Penguin update. This was an attempt by Google to target websites and webmasters who had engaged in less ethical link building strategies. This update also targeted websites adopting on-page spam tactics such as keyword stuffing. The update reportedly affected an estimated 3.1% of English language searches.
Since Panda and Penguin were released there have been several minor updates and ‘data refreshes’ that have further enhanced these updates.
How do I avoid being hit by these animals?
As long as you engage in white-hat SEO techniques and follow Google’s webmaster guidelines, then you should be fine. These updates are meant to clean up search results and remove many of the poor quality sites that have ‘spammed’ their way to the top. In terms of avoiding any Panda issues, just make sure your site has quality, well written content that is unique and don’t scrape content from other sites.For Penguin, ensure that your link building strategy looks as natural as possible. This means, have a healthy mix of brand, commercial and noise anchors with a bias towards more brand term anchors than commercial terms. You should also try and avoid obtaining site-wide links and poor quality directory links.
First, don’t panic. There could be a number of reasons for any issues you may be experiencing. If you have experienced a serious drop in rankings or traffic then it might be worth hiring a professional SEO company to investigate and diagnose the problem. It may be a simple matter of cleaning up your on-page content or it could entail a more complex backlink profile strategy.
Obviously the best form of cure is prevention, so hopefully after reading this article you will be armed with the knowledge to prevent any issues arising from the Panda or Penguin updates.