The Google Panda Update
This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites, sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.
Basically, the Google Panda updates are designed to target pages that aren’t necessarily spam but aren’t great quality. This was the first ever penalty that went after “thin content,” and the sites that were hit hardest by the first Panda update were content farms (hence why it was originally called the Farmer update), where users could publish dozens of low-quality, keyword stuffed articles that offered little to no real value for the reader. Many publishers would submit the same article to a bunch of these content farms just to get extra links.
Google Panda is a site wide penalty, which means that if “enough” (no specific number) pages of your site were flagged for having thin content, your entire site could be penalized. Panda was also intended to stop scrappers (sites that would republish other company’s content) from outranking the original author’s content.
Many site owners complained that even after they made changes to their sites in order to be more “Google Panda friendly,” their sites didn’t automatically recover. Google Panda updates do not happen at regular intervals, and Google doesn’t re-index every site each time, so some site owners were forced to deal with low traffic for several months until Google got around to re-crawling their website and taking note of any positive changes.
The Google Penguin Update
The Google Penguin Update launched on April 24 in 2012. Google Penguin is an “important algorithm change targeted at webspam. The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines.” Google mentions that typical black hat SEO tactics like keyword stuffing (long considered webspam) would get a site in trouble, but less obvious tactics (link incorporating irrelevant outgoing links into a page of content) would also cause Penguin to flag your site. Says Google,
Sites affected by this change might not be easily recognizable as spamming without deep analysis or expertise, but the common thread is that these sites are doing much more than white hat SEO; we believe they are engaging in webspam tactics to manipulate search engine rankings.
Site owners should be sure to check their Google Webmaster accounts for any messages from Google warning about your past spam activity and a potential penalty. Google says that Penguin has impacted about 3.1% of queries (compared to Panda 1.0’s 12%). If you saw major traffic losses between April 24th and April 25th, chances are Penguin is the culprit, even though Panda 3.5 came out around the same time.
Unfortunately, Google has yet to outline exactly what signals Penguin is picking up on, so many site owners that were negatively impacted are in the dark as to where they want wrong with their onsite SEO. Many in the SEO community have speculated that some contributing factors to Penguin might be things like:
1. Aggressive exact-match anchor text
2. Overuse of exact-match domains
3. Low-quality article marketing & blog spam
4. Keyword stuffing in internal/outbound links
It’s important to remember that Google Panda is an algorithm update, not a manual penalty. A reconsideration request to Google won’t make much a difference–you’ll have to repair your site and wait for a refresh before your site will recover. As always do not panic if you are seeing a down turn in traffic, in the past when there is a major Google update like this things often rebound. If you do think you have some sort of SEO penalty as a result of either the Google Panda or Google Penguin updates, please contact your SEO service provider to help or start trouble shooting.