Google’s Panda Releases
Google Panda is a huge change to the Google’s search results ranking algorithm that was first released in February 2011. The change aimed to lower the rank of “low-quality sites” or “thin sites”, and return higher-quality sites near the top of the search results. CNET reported a surge in the rankings of news websites and social networking sites, and a drop in rankings for sites containing large amounts of advertising. The change reportedly affected the rankings of almost 12 percent of all search results. Just after the Panda rollout, many websites, including Google’s webmaster forum, became filled with complaints of scrapers and copyright infringers getting better rankings than sites with original content.
Google has requested for data points to help detect “scrapers”. Google’s Panda received a number of updates since the original rollout in February 2011, and the effect went global in April 2011. To help those affected publishers, Google published an advisory on its blog, thus giving some direction for self-evaluation of a website’s quality. Google has provided a list of bullet points on it’s blog answering the question of “What counts as a high-quality site?” that is supposed to help webmasters “step into Google’s mindset”
The Panda Algorithm
Panda was built on an algorithm update that uses artificial intelligence in a more sophisticated and scalable way than previously possible. Human quality testers rated thousands of websites based on measures of quality, including design, trustworthiness, speed and whether or not they would return to the website.
The Panda release is a machine-learning algorithm and was made possible by an engineer Navneet Panda, who used it to look for similarities between websites people found to be high quality and low quality.
The new ranking factors that have been introduced into the Panda algorithm and as a result, while older ranking factors like PageRank have been downgraded in importance. Panda is updated from time to time and the algorithm is run by Google on a regular basis. In April 2012 the ‘Penguin’ update was released, which affected a further 3.1% of all English language search queries, highlighting the ongoing volatility of search rankings.
Differences in the Panda Release
Panda can impact an entire site’s ranking or specific section rather than just the individual pages on a site.
Furthermore, Panda seems to focus on the date of a web page. Some experts think this has adversely impacted sites with lots of “evergreen content”. Because evergreen content usually has an older publication date, Panda seems to reduce its visibility in search results. For searchers looking for in-depth information, many of these evergreen posts are often great sources of knowledge on a specific topic.
If these evergreen web pages happen to be on a blog site that also contains a long comment thread with additional and valuable information. In the future Google may have to address how evergreen pages are listed in search results when recent results are more superficial in nature.
Panda Release Dates
Google Panda v3.2 was released January 14th, 2012, v3.3 was released in February 29th, 2012, v3.4 was released on March 23rd, 2012, v3.5 on April 19, 2012, v3.6 on April 27, 2012, v3.7 on June 8, 2012 and v3.8 on June 25, 2012. According to Google these updates were just a “data refresh”, meaning if site was not punished previously just by mistake it will be punished now and if a site was punished wrongly punishment will be removed.
In the months of February/March 2012, Google again updated Panda and stated that they are deploying an “over-optimization penalty,” in order to level the playing field. Numerous websites have been hit, and penalized, and many have received messages through Google webmaster tools, declaring their tactics are outside of Google’s guidelines, and that they have an unnatural link velocity. The reference to query optimized, organic SEO still remains a debate to most of the webmasters.
Currently, it is very noticeable that the Alexa Ranking’s tend to bounce around quite a lot now with this latest update and it has become much more difficult to lower Alexa rankings of sites with out posting consistently high quality and relevant content. It is my belief that Google needs to go back and change their algorithms to better reflect the bloggers who provide great content! This is like the Google “Slap” again!