The Difference Between Panda and Penguin Google Updates

And Yes, You Can Recover from Website Traffic Hits!

Unless you've had your head buried deeply in the sand for the last year or so, you'd probably be aware that Panda and Penguin updates have been underway at Google.

So what's the difference between Panda and Penguin?

As someone who is not a webmaster, you might be trying to understand the difference between the two sets of Google updates and what they mean to the search engine ranking and traffic to your site.

Google Panda Updates

The Panda algorithm update started it roll out in February 2011 and has had various release dates since then. Each update targeting different problems that Google has identified as impacting on the quality of search results.

The pages that Panda targets are those that are deemed to be low quality for various reasons. Lets take a look at some of them in more detail..

  • Cookie cutter content - when you have multiple pages on your website that have very similar content, but different keywords.
  • Thin content - this refers to low quality articles that are keyword optimized but do not really provide any value to the reader. You know the type of article that read from start to finish but don't really learn anything.
  • Scraped content - content that has been blatantly lifted from other websites, or only slightly massaged and then republished is referred to as 'scraped'. Whole websites have been built in this way and are known as 'scraper sites' and have been hard hit by Panda, for good reason.
  • High volume of Google Adsense compared to content - If you use Adsense on your website, you'll know that balancing the amount of quality web copy/text with your ads is important for how your pages display. It is also now being measured and you will be penalized if the ad copy (particularly above the fold) outweighs the text on your pages.
  • If you have enough pages that are affected by the Panda update your whole site can be penalized. If you think this is the case it may take a few months for your traffic to recover, as you wait for it to be re-indexed.
  • To check on your website, you can login into your Google Webmaster account and scroll to the 'optimization' section to see if you have reported pages in regards to page (meta) descriptions or titles.
  • Otherwise, clean up the pages that you think may be offending, and keep adding new content, always keeping in mind that quality and originality are key.

Google Penguin Updates

The Penguin Update is completely separate beast to Panda, and the two are in no way interrelated. The first Penguin update rolled out in the last week of April 2012.

Panda was related to website content, Penguin on the other hand is related to the SEO tactics used by webmasters and how much they were pushing the boundaries of Google's quality guidelines.

First lets explain the difference between two distinct corners in the online world.

  • White Hat SEO (the good corner)- white hat SEO tactics generally include following Google's guidelines providing quality content, and using correct titles and descriptions for pages matched to selected keywords.
  • Black Hat SEO (the naughty corner)- on the other hand are trying to beat the search engines with keyword stuffing with descriptions and keywords, hidden content.

Google have been not been precise in their explanation of what issues Penguin is penalizing sites for, but those in the mix of over-optimisation include some what we would consider white hat SEO techniques which has us all re-examining how and why we create links between websites.

Potential things to avoid, or repair include;

  • Keyword stuffing in linking between sites
  • Exact Match Domains
  • Article Marketing and Blog and Forum Spam

In essence what Google are looking for is business owners to build 'real' links to their website by participating in their niche, whether through social media, niche based forums or other genuine online conversations that relate to their business.

If you have links that fall into the above categories, you can delete them. Check your Google Webmaster account for notifications about un-natural linking to your site. If you have issues, fix then, and then apply to Google for reconsideration.

Apply for Reconsideration

For the long term, move away from quick and easy linking, and stick with less links but of a higher quality, and improved relevance to your website especially in the use of your social media accounts.

I hope that helped you to understand the difference between the Panda and Penguin Google updates, and how you can recover from both of them.

Nicole O'Reilly

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