How do Google Panda and Penguin affect your website?

The way Google decides what content to return when you type in a search is determined by a Google algorithm. This formula tells Google how well your website’s content matches the search query – the closer the match, the higher Google ranks your content.

If you’ve heard colleagues talking about Google Panda or Google Penguin, don’t think Google have launched a cuddly toy range. These animals are all updates to parts of the Google algorithm, and fall foul of them, Penguin and Panda can become real beasts!

Google Panda is the part of the algorithm that assesses the quality of the content on your website. It’s designed to filter out badly written, poorly researched, spammy content, but it won’t affect any user-generated content on your website such as blog comments and article contributions.

Google Penguin looks at the quality of the links in your content. Google ranks your page higher when you have links to other reputable websites and if these high quality sites link back to you, but if those links go to low quality content or you’ve paid for a link, Google will penalise you. More on this below.

Panda and polar bear watching a penguin

What happens if you fall foul of them?

Google Panda

If the Panda algorithm doesn’t think your website’s content is up to scratch, it seems Google simply won’t display your content, no matter how much time, effort and expense you put in to creating it.

So it pays to have a robust content strategy centred round quality content and spend time seeing if you can turn mediocre content into great content with these quick fixes:

  • Match your content to the search query – Log in to Google Analytics and check that the most frequent search queries (even if they’re a bit odd) have a relevant page that answers the query. If there is a page, check that the answer to the query is expert, detailed and engaging so you retain the searcher for longer.
  • Change your article title to match the content. Avoid ‘clickbait’ titles just to get a click. You want interesting titles that engage your audience and provide the answers they want in the article.
  • If your site features user-generated content like forums, ‘noindex’ pages that are low quality chats amongst users and make sure the valuable pages such as Q&A sessions and expert guides are indexed by Google.

Google Penguin

Most sites don’t need to worry about the Penguin algorithm, but if you had guest bloggers or an SEO who link built via paid links you could find your website stops ranking for certain terms.

Penguin only affects incoming links to your website, so do a link audit and assess the quality of each of those individual incoming links (some good advice on doing this here). Then contact the sites to remove their links. If this doesn’t work, you can ‘disavow’ backlinks by submitting a file to Google, but do this with caution.

In short, it’s hugely important to stay on the ball with Google algorithm updates such as Penguin and Panda, because they could be the difference between ranking and not ranking on Google for your search terms.

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