What the September Google Panda update means for your business

On the 26th of September, Pierre Far from Google announced the rollout of Google’s new Panda algorithm:


This would be a very good time to check on your website analytics. If you see a noticeable drop in traffic starting at the end of September then this update is likely to blame.

What is Panda?

Panda is part of a drive by Google to place high quality sites higher in search results and subsequently place low quality sites lower in search results. To place Panda in context this easy to view infographic from HubSpot illustrates the efforts Google is making to provide more relevant and more meaningful search results.

What is low quality content?

The official Google definition is a series of questions they recommend be used to asses the value of a website. The full blog post is on their Google Webmaster Blog. Since that post in 2011 there has been a leak or two, providing more insight into what constitutes quality (and hence low quality).

“Google is now putting a high emphasis on sites that are considered to have a high level of expertise, authoritativeness or trustworthiness” The SEM Post

“The importance of expertise to evaluate the authoritativeness and trustworthiness of a site” Search Engine Watch

Plain language examples of low quality content are:

  • Duplicate content in multiple places on your site or copied from another
  • Overly wordy or repetitive writing
  • Too many valueless images, ads or other elements that distract from the writing
  • Content that lacks in expertise, authority or trust.

Identify your trouble spots

If you have been hit by Panda, your next step is to identify the parts of your website that are the cause. Google Analytics can be of great use here.

Log in to Google Analytics and head to Acquisition > All Traffic and then click on google / organic to define your search traffic. Next change the primary dimension to landing page to generate page specific results. Finally use the date range compare tool. Select the 26th of September to the present and then select compare to previous range. Scan down the results and look for % change results that are greater than -30%. This is where your attention is required to improve the low quality signals your content is giving to Google.

Don’t despair this comprehensive overview by Glenn Gabe walks you through a very similar process and explains wonderfully well. Just remember that the key date is 26 September. The goal is to compare traffic after the 26th of September to the period immediately leading up to the 26th of September.

Your options to start recovery

Merge Content. Are you able to put a range of low quality pages together if they would fit naturally?
Add content. If for example you have a service profile page, can you include testimonials or performance data?
Start over. Erase it and start from scratch with a fresh approach. Consider new images, copy and an uncluttered design.
Delete it. If the content is not required and not adding value to your site or helping customers, you can remove it.

This great Do and Don’t list for Panda by Josh Bachynski has actionable ideas you can start with right now!

This might feel like a great deal of work to overcome a Panda penalty. But it’s also important to remember that Panda will be around for some time to come.