Google’s Panda update: The story continues...

The recent ‘site-quality’ Panda update from Google has raised an unprecedented degree of interest in both the SEO community and the wider sphere of webmasters and site owners in general. This apparently rather ambiguous and complex update - which Google has claimed will affect around 12% of search queries – has prompted countless articles and blog posts, all containing varying levels of analysis into what Panda algorithm might actually mean for websites.

The recent 'site-quality' Panda update from Google has raised an unprecedented degree of interest in both the SEO community and the wider sphere of webmasters and site owners in general.

This apparently rather ambiguous and complex update - which Google has claimed will affect around 12% of search queries - has prompted countless articles and blog posts, all containing varying levels of analysis into what Panda algorithm might actually mean for websites.

To help clarify the situation, Google's Amit Singhal published an article on the search giant's Webmaster Central blog: More guidance on building high-quality sites. The post consists of a list of questions for those running a website to ask themselves in light of Panda, in order to minimise the chance of being adversely affected by it. Many of the most respected voices in the SEO field have written detailed responses to Singhal's post, including:

Aaron Wall - "I am not convinced that any clarity was actually added, and I think a lot of the questions they ask are to a degree even a bit wrong-headed."

Jim Boykin - "My first thoughts are that Big Brands win again."

Richard Baxter - "In my opinion, Panda is no one specific "thing" - it's a combination of new and interesting factors."

Our SEO team have spotted many more Panda responses across the search community, and extracted what we believe are some of the most important things to consider post-Panda.

What does Panda mean for your website?

So, what does this mean for websites from now onwards? In surveying opinion of the leading SEO thinkers who have analysed the update - across numerous sites and verticals - we extracted some of the key learnings on what Panda could mean going forward. Here's what we found:

  • Quality of content - Instead of focusing purely on "uniqueness" of content, more concentration should be placed on "quality" of content. This includes ensuring correct spelling and grammar, as well as varying the length of posts and pages. A feature of most 'content farms' which were hit by Panda was that, in the main, their pages were approximately 300 words. Making sure there's variance in the length of articles , pages and posts - as well as difference in the actual types of post (for instance: images, video etc.) is highly recommended.
  • Website design - again, with website quality in mind this is now being seen as a factor in assessing a website. Amongst the main considerations could be - does your site have an excessive use of whitespace?, narrow column widths? or a lack of (optimised) images and page headings (H1, H2, H3s tags etc).
  • Over-prominence of adverts - it might seem counter-intuitive that Google would signal one of its own properties (AdSense) as being potentially detrimental to your website. But, as pointed out by Matt Cutts - adverts are not themselves an indicator or a poor quality website. However, having a page that consists purely of ads or too many ads, and only a small amount of actual content, is of no value to users. A good comparison point for this is from two sites that were hit by Panda, and the one which was favoured. Looking at the pages of Articlebase.com and Ezinearticles.com, they have