What We Can Learn From the Google Panda Update

Google Panda is a search filter designed to lower ‘thin sites’ or ‘low-quality sites’ from appearing near the top of search results and place ‘higher-quality’ sites near the top of search results instead.

Here’s how Google determines ‘higher-quality’ sites: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.ca/2011/05/more-guidance-on-building-high-quality.html

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Data Refresh (Summer 2015)

According to Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, Gary Illyes, the next Panda update will happen this summer. It will not be an algorithmic change as such but a data refresh. Sites that had been hit by the algorithmic change in April may see a recovery but not all sites will. Additionally, new websites may be affected by the data refresh.

What We Can Learn From the Panda 4.1 Update (Spring 2015)

The latest Panda 4.1 update brings good news for high-quality small and medium-sized websites. With the latest iteration of the algorithm update, the focus on quality content is even greater. Websites with poor-quality, ‘thin’, and duplicate content have been penalized further. High-quality content and a sound content marketing strategy is even more vital now. Without it site rankings will plummet. Value must be created for the user in order to receive the leads and sales brands desire. Relevant and engaging content is not a ‘nice-to-have’ but a ‘must-have’.

High Rankers

So which sites fared the best with the latest Panda update? According to Searchmetrics, News, Content Sites, and Download Portals did because they had relevant topic content. Google’s algorithm distinguishes higher-quality sites from lower-quality ones. Brands like ivillage.com, realsimple.com, and glamour.com reaped the reward from this update. These brands also updated their sites with new, relevant, engaging content regularly and thus benefited from Google’s ranking signals.

Low Rankers

Searchmetrics concluded that Games, Lyrics, and some Medical Portals did not fare well with the latest algorithm update. They were deemed to have ‘thin’ content. Sites that aggregate information from other sites often face this problem. Brands like eHow, hallmark.com, and medterms.com suffered as a result of this update and did not benefit from Google’s ranking signals.


Produce high-quality content, steer clear of ‘thin’ content, and eliminate duplicate content.

According to Google Fellow, Amit Singhal, here are a few questions you should ask:

  • ‘Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?’
  • ‘Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?’
  • ‘Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?’

It’s better to keep questions like these in mind when creating content instead of trying to optimize for algorithms. Google is constantly trying to distinguish higher-quality content sites from lower-quality ones. This trend is going to continue. The need for high-quality content will become even more important if brands want to get better traffic from search.

Sources: Google & Searchmetrics.