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What's a Google Panda and How Does It Affect My SERP Ranking?

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Google Panda sounds like it ought to be something cute and friendly, but in fact, it can bite you right in the SERP ranking if you don't know how to work with it correctly. Panda is one of Google's search algorithms, and it is designed to reward websites that have fresh, high-quality content with better SERP results while penalizing websites that don't keep their content fresh or that publish content that Google doesn't believe will be useful to its users. Although Panda has been around in some form since 2011, Google has recently revealed that it's one of their core ranking signals, which makes it essential for webmasters to understand how to work with Google Panda.

A Panda With A Mission 

When search engines like Google first came into widespread use, it didn't take marketers long to figure out that they could affect their SERP results by including keywords for the search engines to find. SEO strategies split pretty quickly into White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO. The difference between the two is simple: While White Hat SEO seeks to build traffic and SERP rankings through writing useful content for human users and including keyword optimization that accurately represents that content, Black Hat SEO is aimed at gaming the search engines, with little regard to human users of the website or search engine.

You've undoubtedly run across some websites that are using Black Hat SEO tactics such as these:

  • Using a misleading title or keywords to get users to visit a website that has nothing to do with what they were looking for
  • Including laundry lists of hundreds of keywords on the page
  • Keyword stuffing, which includes the keywords in the page's body text, but makes the text a garbled mess for a human reader

Consider this mess of a sentence: "If you've been the accident victim in San Francisco of a San Francisco traffic accident, you should call a San Francisco personal injury attorney." That's the kind of Black Hat SEO practices that Google Panda was designed to root out.

How To Get Along With Google Panda

Because Google Panda brought such major changes to the ways in which websites are ranked, they've offered more explanation than usual about working with Panda. Overall, the algorithm's aim is to direct Google users to trustworthy sites with fresh, original and authoritative content with a reasonable level of quality assurance. There are some specific things you can do to develop SEO content that will help your SERP rankings on Google and other search engines.

  • Use Analytics – If you want to know where you stand with Google Panda, start with Google Analytics for your website. You'll be able to see how many people are finding your site through Google. If that percentage is low, it's a safe bet that Panda isn't your biggest fan, and you need to make some adjustments to your content and SEO strategies. For help with understanding Google Analytics, you may want to consult a professional marketing firm for an assessment.
  • Publish New Content Continually – Publishing new content like blog posts is an excellent way to keep your content fresh and your SERP rankings high – as long as it's the right kind of content. Using a widget to update your website with social media posts can also contribute toward your fresh content quotient, as long as those posts are not links to the blog posts that are already on your site.
  • Ensure Originality – Originality is an important criterion with Google Panda. Not only must your content be different from other site's, but also from other content on your own site. Repeating topics or keywords too often will send your site to the Panda penalty box. If you want to submit an article from your site to be printed in a journal, make sure it's been completely re-written.
  • Research Keywords And Don't Stuff – Don't try to guess at which keywords will be relevant to your site content. If you guess wrong, not only will search engine users not find you, but if your guess is far enough off base, Google Panda will penalize you for misleading users even if that wasn't your intent. Look up keyword statistics, see which are most used for the content you have, and then include them in your content – but lightly. If your keyword density is higher than about 4 percent, you should cut down.
  • Fix Older Content – You can check Analytics for specific posts, not just for the entire site. If you find a piece that has had good traffic in the past, but you want to update your site for better Panda compliance, don't remove that piece from your site – simply rewrite it. When you remove content, you risk removing something that may have contributed to an improvement in your SERP ranking.

Take the time To Develop Effective Content and SEO Strategy

Search Engine Optimized websites and high-quality SEO copy is at the foundation of every business with a successful online presence. Take the time to make sure your online presence is built on a solid foundation, and you'll enjoy better traffic and sales.
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Nicole Gosz

Article by Nicole Gosz