Google has been keeping webmasters jumping through hoops these last couple of years. The search giant has rolled out two major updates to its algorithm, known as Google Panda and Google Penguin. The Panda update focused on improving the quality of sites, and it penalized sites that used duplicate or spun content and it pushed sites up in the search rankings that had unique and fresh content. The Penguin update attempted to cut back on shady SEO strategies by penalizing sites with poor backlink profiles, including links to low-quality, spammy sites, such as article directories and link farms.
Google Panda was first introduced in February 2011, and since then, there have been 24 updates to the algorithm change. Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s web spam team, just announced that there will be another.
New Panda Update
Cutts spoke during a question-and-answer session at SMX, the Search Marketing Expo Conference. Cutts confirmed that there will be another Panda update on either Friday, March 15, or Monday, March 18, at the latest. Many search industry analysts predict that the update will come on Friday, in keeping with past Google practices.
Cutts did not reveal many details about the Panda update. He did say that Google will be targeting 1 or 2 very large link networks in the coming weeks and that there will be a very large Penguin update before the end of the year.
The last Panda update was on January 22, and Cutts said at the time that it would affect 1.2 percent of English queries, which was in line with previous updates. The last Penguin update was in October 2012.
Cutts did not indicate what percentage of queries or sites may be affected by either the upcoming Panda or Penguin update.
What You Can Do
Without knowing the specifics of the new Panda refresh, it’s hard for web owners to know what action needs to be taken. However, looking at the history of the Panda update, you can learn some best practices for your site.
The Panda update was designed to reward “high-quality sites.” In a blog post on Webmaster Central, Google offered guidance on what it means to build a high-quality site (http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2011/05/more-guidance-on-building-high-quality.html), including 23 questions that you can ask yourself to evaluate your site.
Some other basic tips include:
- Remove any and all duplicate content from your site. Even a couple of pages of duplicate content can bring down your site.
- Create high-quality content that provides additional value for readers. Spurn content that is generic or does not advance the conversation.
- Create a regular supply of fresh content.
In addition to these tips, Cutts recommended that you use the “Fetch as Google” tool (http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=158587) to better understand how your site is being seen and indexed by the search engine. You can use the tool to learn about problems with load times or with content. Specifically, the tool can show you if you have hidden spam on your site, likely inserted by hackers.
Overall, the advice from Google and from SEO experts remains the same: Focus on creating a high-quality site that has original content and you’ll be just fine. Spurn black-hat or other questionable SEO practices — keyword stuffing, link buying, spamming — and you’ll naturally rank your site over time to get the targeted traffic that you need. Indulge in shady SEO and you’ll see your site sink very quickly.
Did your site take a hit from any of the Panda updates? Let us know how you recovered your ranking in the comments!
Chloe Trogden is seasoned financial aid writer who covers specific opportunities such as federal grant programs. Her leisure activities include camping, swimming and playing her guitar.