What is Google Panda?
Google Panda is a Google algorithm that represents a significant addition to how websites rank on Google. Named after a Google engineer called Navneet Panda, who devised the technology making it possible for the company to create the algorithm, it was launched in February 2011 and has been updated around 30 times since its launch.
What is its purpose?
The aim of Google Panda is to improve the quality of search results for those using the Google platform. There was a growing concern that many unscrupulous operators – including content farms and content scrapers, who generated low quality, duplicated content which added little value to a subject – were ranking too highly. This contributed to both the sheer volume of material they generated, and the inability of the search engine algorithm to determine content quality.
How does it work?
The Panda algorithm is what is known as a heuristic algorithm. It scans through large quantities of data and looks for specific indicators that will help it to separate content, and thereby websites, into high quality and low quality.
The initial algorithm was developed by running it with a select group of websites, but each new update indicates that it has been exposed to a larger ‘learning set’ and has developed a more subtle ability to differentiate between high and low quality.
The precise way that the algorithm works is not fully understood, but it is possible that it scores pages on a website for quality, and that the cumulative effect determines the ranking of an individual site. Relevance, length, and originality of content all play a part in determining the quality of any page and of a website.
What has been the impact of Google Panda?
Immediately following the initial release of Google Panda in 2011, there was a dramatic rise in the search rankings for news and social networking sites, and an equally significant fall in the rankings for sites dominated by advertising. The effect of the changes was so dramatic that it was estimated that the ranking of nearly 12 percent of all search results were changed.
This upheaval led to an outcry from website owners and SEO specialists, so to offer guidance, Google provided advice on its official blog to help people whose site had been affected to evaluate their web content.
In the five years since the release, website owners and designers have attempted to adapt to the quirks of Google Panda by making sure that their content is relevant to search results, original and not overloaded with promotional or advertising content. It is arguable that, as a result of Google Panda, the quality of search results has improved.
How often is Google Panda updated?
Panda 1.0, which launched in February 2011, affected only the United States, but April 2011 saw the release of Panda 2.0 which effectively extended the algorithm worldwide, although it didn’t have such a dramatic effect on search rankings as Panda 1.0.
Google has since incorporated Panda as part of its core algorithm, and changes associated with an update are rolled out slowly over several months, making it hard to identify where and how the algorithm has changed.
Nevertheless, it has been estimated that since April 2011, there have been up to 28 further updates, with the latest being Panda 4.2, which rolled out in July 2015. The most significant update was Panda 4.0, which came out in May 2014, and affected around 7.5% of English search queries, leading many experts to believe that it represented a significant change in the basic algorithm.