Panda is one of the most important ranking algorithms that Google uses to make sure low quality sites especially due to low quality (thin content) or -spammy content can’t continue to manipulate the SERPS. When a panda penalty hits, the offending site gets its rankings adjusted downwards (to put it lightly). That’s because such sites with their low quality content don’t help Google in achieving their goal of providing users with the most helpful search results or the great experience they expect.
When the first panda update was introduced into Google’s ranking algorithm, there was a lot of chaos because rankings of many sites took a dive over quality issues while others containing scraped content were unfairly rewarded. Sites hit by the update had to work on improving the quality of their pages, but they also had to wait for the next panda update to recover their rankings. The updates in 2011 were almost monthly, but the last update of panda 4.2 in mid-July 2015 came after a long wait from the previous one of panda 4.1 in September 2014. Having to wait even for a month after being hit with a panda penalty is a long time in the world of SEO. Panda demands today still challenge many SEOs and their clients, especially if they can’t clearly tell most of the myths from facts about this important spam-fighting ranking signal. But the good news is that now after any panda penalty hits a site, quality issues can be resolved and rankings recovered much faster.
No more panda update announcements
Panda is now part of Google’s core algorithm, along with Rank Brain meaning it is affecting sites constantly. Previously Google had to announce every panda update and its affect would begin to take place almost immediately. Any sites deemed to be of low quality would have their rankings drop after every update. But now what is happening is a more gradual process through which the panda algorithm assesses the quality of each page on a site, and then adjusts the overall site ranking accordingly. So the earlier you start to figure out which pages on your site need to improve in terms of quality, then go ahead to address the issues, the earlier you can expect to go up the SERPs. You will have to monitor the data on your analytics more closely to identify where most your efforts should be going to address all possible site quality problems.
Panda penalty demotes rather than devaluing
Google fights spam using panda and also penguin, both which are now part of its main algorithm and therefore more updates would be expected in future for these ranking signals. But each of these signals still has its own specific way of affecting sites. When Panda detects any spam on your site pages, the site is demoted and drops rankings until the problem is resolved. Penguin on the other hand devalues spam, especially spammy links, and reportedly deals with it on a page by page, not site wide basis, so that it doesn’t count or unfairly improve or penalize the domain in the case of negative SEO tactics.
Google still insists the guidelines they gave when announcing the first panda update still remains relevant. Taking a more holistic approach towards improving the quality of a site would be the best thing to do going forward in order to gain rankings that can last over the long-term. The means continuous efforts in evaluating and analyzing content quality beyond the obvious issues like spelling errors, duplicate content and keyword stuffing. A useful analytics tool should help you understand the true meaning of bounce rates, low traffic and similar data tracked for each page. That should give you the best idea on how to improve quality and keep your website panda-friendly.