If you’ve done any type of work to get your website listed on the search engines, or paid a company to do it for you, you may have heard about Google Panda and more recently, Google Penguin.
So what’s up with the animals and what do they have to do with your website?
Basically, over the last couple years, Google has had some major changes in the rules they use to rank websites on the SERP (search engine results page).
Lots of websites were getting better results than they deserved, because they were gaming the system. Google is constantly updating their rules, so if you’re trying to figure out what the “formula” is, it’s like trying to reverse engineer a cake after it’s been baked.
This article is a bit of an over-simplification of what Panda and Penguin are, but I think it covers the basics of why we should all play by the rules that Google has set forth in their Webmaster Tools Guidelines.
Lots of websites have low-value content or filler articles just for the sake of having content. It’s really never meant to be consumed by anyone who is seriously searching for something. It’s just intended to fill the void and create volumes of information for the sake of artificially building search engine rankings.
The Google Panda rule update put in some mathematical formula to discount the value of these low-value sites. The update is called “Panda” because it was named after an employee at Google who is apparently a mathematical whiz whose last name is Panda.
You’ve probably heard that links are good for your website. Why? In my SEO training classes, we talk a lot about links and what are good links and not-so-good links (don’t worry, I’m not going to get geeky here).
One of the ways that Google decides who “wins” and gets higher on the SERP is to count the number of quality links coming into the website they have. So if my website links to your website, that counts as a link. The more links you have, the more “votes” you have. Just like the upcoming election, the more votes you have, the more likely you are to “win” with higher ranking.
Unfortunately, lots of people have been going crazy creating links from articles and other websites to game the system in their favor. Most of these types of links come from low value articles or poor websites that are just meant to create links.
Furthermore, some people have felt that a little “search engine optimization” is good, more must be better. So they went crazy stuffing their keywords into every nook and corner of the website hoping for higher rankings. This is called “over-optimization”.
The Penguin update has reduced the influence on both of these factors, among others, so websites don’t get unnaturally high results on the SERP.
I attached the Google Penguin and Panda infographic from Reload Media to this article because I think it does a good job of depicting what Panda and Penguin are, and why you should care.
What Can You Do?
The bottom line? Make sure that the content you have on your website is good quality content that people would want to read. This website is a great example because there are hundreds of useful articles on various business topics.
Make sure that links coming into your website are from valuable sites, not just links for the sake of links. Bing’s Webmaster Tools has some great tools in it to discover who is linking to your website, and you can even now disavow links in their system. Google hasn’t come up with a disavow tool (yet), but may be working on one.