Google’s Panda Update Explained and Recovery Strategies

Google is constantly working to improve the user experience of its search engine. Their 2011 Panda update is one of the many strategies they use to evaluate websites, determine their quality, and rank them accordingly.

To rank at the top of Google’s pages, you want to know what Google crawlers are looking for and how they evaluate your site. The Panda algorithm update keeps terrible spots from ranking and suitable places. If you practice SEO and want to get traffic to your site, you’ll want to know precisely what Panda targets and how you can remain high in Google’s rankings. We’ll give you a rundown of Panda’s triggers, how it works, and what you need to adjust to avoid being punished.

Launch Date: February 23, 2011

How Often Is It Updated? According to, Panda has been updated 28 times since its debut in 2011 and is now built directly into Google’s Algorithm and most likely runs based on machine learning data.

What Google Panda Impacted

When Google rolls out an update, they don’t typically give you a black-and-white guide telling you how things work. However, they shed some light on what they consider a high-quality site. Knowing what they’re looking for helps you know what to include—and avoid—when crafting your site and its pages. The following are some of the triggers that will make your site vulnerable to Panda:

Low-quality content

This is one of the most straightforward factors to control. If your content is terrible, Panda will sniff it out and drag you down the rankings. Your site and your content should provide value to consumers.

Duplicate or unoriginal content

If you’re copying content from one page of your site onto others, it won’t take long for Google to pick up on it and punish you. And if Google’s crawlers see that you’re stealing content from other sites and businesses, you destroy your legitimacy. Google doesn’t want to give its users easy access to an area without authorization.

High ad content

If your page has a ton of ads, it’s not serving its purpose, nor is it helpful.

Few or no links

This goes for both inbound and outbound links. You want reputable and high-ranking sites linking to you and need to connect to areas of the same caliber.

Keyword stuffing

Cramming as many keywords as possible into your written content was once an effective way to rank high with Google. But now, keyword stuffing is not only annoying for your site visitors, but it’s also a massive no-no with Google’s crawlers.

Lack of trustworthiness

It’s not hard to point out a site you wouldn’t trust. Spelling and grammatical errors and even the lack of contact information make your site seem illegitimate, something you want to avoid.

How Google Panda Works

You’ll know the Panda update has hit you if you lose traffic and are lower in Google’s rankings. But an algorithm isn’t necessarily the only cause of these things. Many factors could result in lower orders: competitors executing more effective SEO dips in interest, or maybe even a different update. Moz put together a flowchart that’s a great tool to help you determine if you’ve been penalized because of Panda.

When a site exhibits multiple triggers listed in the above section, the Panda update sniffs it out. Once a site shows the algorithm that it’s of low quality, it’s sent down Google’s SERPs. Panda is updated from time to time. As these updates occur, a site’s rankings might go up or down depending on the newest regulations set forth by Google. As a place changes, it can recover from the penalties and move up in the rankings again.

Penalty-flowchart Source:

How to Adjust Your SEO & Content Strategy

While Panda is a blow to punished websites, it’s not impossible to cover successfully. Because the algorithm targets low-quality sites, most of the time, the solution is to scour your site for factors that might cause it to fall into that category and then make the appropriate changes.

Because the goal of Panda is to showcase high-quality sites, work to improve your affected pages or your site by doing the following:

First, get rid of duplicate content.

If you’ve word-for-word content on multiple pages on your site, eliminate it or rework it. That way, users still get the information they need without you deleting an entire page on your site.

Vet user-generated content

One huge problem for site owners vulnerable to Panda is that their writers aren’t providing original content. So if you have site contributors, ensure they aren’t stealing a copy from elsewhere online.

Ensure relevance

Your pages should be a relevant match to a user’s query. Structure your data so that site visitors get what they’re looking for.

Do it Right

Dot it right: this is the best advice we can give to sites wanting to avoid being funneled out by the Panda update—or those trying to recover from being targeted. In short, Panda penalizes terrible sites. To count yourself among quality sites, know what Google wants, then take the time to build your area—or make the necessary changes— to meet its standards. Making simple adjustments will help ensure you stay where you want to be in Google’s rankings: right at the top.

Additional Google Update Resources