We Expected a Penguin Update But...In the closing weeks of 2015, marketers anticipated a significant change to Google’s search engine ranking algorithm following speculation from SEO specialists that the long-awaited Penguin 4.0 update would be released across the web. Expectations changed after Google announced that the Penguin update would be delayed until 2016.
Marketers continue to await the latest news about Penguin but many webmasters did notice a substantial fluctuation in their analytics and organic traffic over the first few weeks of January. Google later confirmed that the traffic fluctuations were a result of an update to the Google Panda algorithm, a sister update to Penguin. Panda is now officially part of Google’s core ranking algorithm, marking the official end of the traditional Panda refresh.The video below summarizes the history of Panda and how the algorithm is used by Google to improve the quality of content that appears in search engine result pages (SERPs).
Beware The Panda
We recently spoke with SEO specialist Aimee Beck about Penguin and also discussed what marketers can expect from updates to Google’s other ranking algorithms, particularly Panda. She singled out Panda as a review of “the quality of website content” that positively or negatively impacts a website’s search visibility. Panda’s emphasis on website content is distinct from the Penguin update, which ranks websites based on the quality and authority of links included within content. Benefits or penalties from Panda also impact websites on a broader scale than changes associated with Penguin. Ranking signals affiliated with Panda impact the visibility of all subpages housed under a root website, while Penguin typically affects individual webpages on a site. Essentially the search visibility of any new content published to your site, in regards to impressions or pageviews earned by that piece of content will be significantly lower if your site is penalized by Panda.
How Does The New Panda Impact Your Content Planning?
Many marketers are currently assembling their content plans for 2016 and the Panda announcement will undoubtedly impact those plans. Now that Panda ranking signals are included within Google’s core ranking algorithm, your strategy to optimize content and increase inbound organic traffic to your website will need to be amended. One way to prepare your site for a Panda refresh (or to recover from a penalty) is to go back and improve previously published content. Most websites have hundreds, sometimes thousands of pages that are indexed by Google and other search engines, but the content on those pages is not always as high-quality as it could be. Panda penalizes what it considers to be “thin content” that provides little, if any value for end users. To ensure your website is indexed as a high-quality and credible destination, include time in your marketing plan to review content published on older pages. You can use domain analysis tools like Google PageRank, WOT (Web of Trust), or Moz Bar to measure the authority of your site and the quality of pages published on your site to determine what content needs a refresh. You can also use your own judgment to measure the quality of your content. If the material lacks a clear purpose or fails to provide any substantial value to readers then it likely needs to be updated. Grammatical errors and the structure of the content (i.e. is it an easy read?) are also easy to decipher upon a quick review.
Don’t Panic - Persevere Through The PandaA common mistake made by marketers is to automatically panic if Panda impacts their site’s traffic or visibility. Restrain yourself from making this mistake because a knee-jerk reaction to a Panda refresh without analytical evidence to justify significant changes could actually make things worse.
Panda is a complicated algorithm with many moving parts. Take the time to review your own analytics and the impact Panda had on your site’s visibility before deciding to make any significant changes to your site. Like the old saying goes, slow and steady wins the race. An in-depth guide to Panda was created by TheSEMPost’s Jennifer Slegg who collaborated with Google’s own Gary Illyes and John Mueller to verify details about Panda. Follow the steps outlined in the guide to measure the impact of a Panda penalty on your site, and the best practices to recover from those penalties as you execute marketing strategies throughout 2016.
Read the latest release from Gary Parkinson, Content Marketing Manager at ScribbleLive. Gary is a firm believer in the co-dependent relationship between content and SEO in the digital marketing industry. These two disciplines work hand in hand, and are critical parts of a long tail strategy to increase brand awareness.