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All About the Google Panda Algorithm

William Rock

Most people think they are dead in the water after a hit to their overall traffic from the big bad Panda. However, what most companies don’t realize is, they can recover if they add a few steps to their daily activities.

These additional steps will improve the experience of their site's visitors as well as their traffic and rank.

What is the Google Panda Algorithm?

According to Wikipedia:

Google Panda is a change to Google's search results ranking algorithm that was first released in February 2011. The change aimed to lower the rank of 'low-quality sites' or 'thin sites' and return higher-quality sites near the top of the search results.

Panda is a collection of signals used for scoring/ranking a content page within your website looking for low-quality signals or thin content.


When a visitor is looking for information, especially if it has many layers within the topic, the visitor may want to dig deeper. Without this, the visitor will leave the page and repeat the search query to go somewhere else. You will then see high bounce rates within Google Analytics. Bounce rates tell you they visited the page but then left without going further.

There are many ways you can track your website using Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. Both of these tools will give you nuggets of data you can use in fine-tuning important areas within your site.

Note: We'll go into more details about this in the upcoming SEMrush webinar.

At Search Engine Land, they have archived a library of articles focused around this particular update. This algorithm really gained steam in February 2011 with an extremely strange name: the Farmer Update. It focused on content farms. The update is known best as the Google Panda Algorithm Update.

Here is a short video tutorial of what Panda is looking for and how to look for it on your own websites using SEMrush.

What Have We Learned From This Algorithm Update?

Looking back to the beginning of Google in 1998 (when they first registered www.google.com), they have focused on delivering the best search results to the end user.

Google had their fair share of challenges with webmasters trying to take advantages of flaws in its algorithm; however, this all changed big time in 2011 into what we see today in news reports from all over the world.

Before 2011, it was fairly easy to rank for a keyword in any industry. However, in the new era of machine learning along with the Google Knowledge Graph and other developments in mobile and social media, times have changed. The playground is changing yet again and will continue to change and evolve along with technology.

Panda Updates: What are They, and Why are They Important for Your Company?

Updates are just as they sound; Google is constantly fine-tuning how they deliver results to the searcher.

Test These Tasks on Your Site

I like to put myself in the shoes of the visitor looking for a product or service that I am marketing. As such, I follow these steps:

  • First impression is key. When reviewing a website, can I understand their product or service as described on the website? Is it easy for the visitor to get what they need to move to the next stage in the sales cycle?
  • Next, I will call the main phone number and talk with the front desk person trying to better understand the product or service
  • Then, I ask to speak to a sales person and continue the learning cycle

Why is This Important?

Let’s say a visitor lands on your website: Would they find what they needed to make that next step in the sales cycle?

How Can I Fix my Website?

In the webinar I will cover this topic in more detail. Until then, I have a tutorial video still relevant on how to recover from Panda 4.0 back in June 2014.

Finding Pages Affected by the Google Panda Algorithm

First, we'll start by typing the domain into the SEMrush search bar. Then, we'll hit Search and let the magic happen as it starts to collect within seconds to review.


Next, we will look to the Position Changes Report. This way we can look at our new and lost keywords broken down by month. This is a total rock star report and one of my favorites within SEMrush.


You will find the New and Lost Rank for your website from the timeline. You can hover over each of the red bars to get more details. In this case, we will use ebay.com since I first reported on it back in June 2014 right after the Google Release of Panda 4.0.

The graph above shows us they are continuing to lose rank, even into April 2015. The more we look at the results for eBay above, it seems they have lost 1,475,446 keyword positions for April 2015.

This does not mean every keyword dropped off the charts or that eBay is dead. Many of these are just little drops, like a few keyword positions dropped a few spots in the SERPs. We will be looking for the larger drops in rankings to better isolate a few pages we can fine-tune.

How to Identify Keyword Loss to a Page

We will now be sorting the Lost Keywords Report tab to only focus on the negative rankings.


Once you have clicked on the Lost tab, scroll down below the graphs to the table format view.


Look for the column called Position. Click the top to sort the ordering of the rank number as we are looking for the worst rank drops, and we want to focus on the negative 20 positions for now. We can quickly identify the keywords we want to rank as well as lost rank to the page needed to recover.

We can dig deeper into the site by clicking the arrow next to the URL. It will open in a separate window so we can preview without leaving the report.

Another thing I look for in this report is the keyword value, by using the metric from the CPC tab (Cost Per Click) we can see a few keywords that could be improved upon, such as Twilight Books as it shows a cost per click at 27 cents, as well other keywords that are more than two dollars per click telling us we may want to explore these keywords in more depth later.

Next, dive into the Google Webmaster Tools (now named Google Search Console).

We are looking for pages similar to what we found in our report above, since I don’t have access to eBay’s Backend Dashboards, I am going to show a few reports of a friend of mine.

Thank You Anton Krutz from Kansas City Strings for allowing me to talk about your site: www.kcstrings.com

Let's jump back into the data.


On this page, we can see a small issue for some of our keywords going to the Repair Restore section of the website.

Let’s dig a little deeper and see what we can find.


As we look for keywords within the old search queries within Google Search Console, and use the report tab called Change, we can see a decrease for the keyword violin repair. Next, we will jump into Google Analytics to see what else we can find.

Google Analytics: Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages


Once inside Google Analytics, we can start to identify things such as high bounce rates and time on site. We have an 82.55% bounce rate and one-minute time on page, indicating the visitor experience might be poor and could be improved upon.

Next, we will look at another report called Site Speed to help us find pages that are large in file size and can be optimized down to meet the needs of the user no matter the device they are visiting the site with.

Google Analytics: Behavior > Site Speed > Page Timing


We can see the Repair Restoration Page is loading slowly. The next step would be to open the page and take a look at where we could make improvements.

In this case, we just moved the site over from a complete HTML site to a CMS (Content Management System) and are still going through the learning curve. We have been focused on going through each page in the website and fine-tuning one at a time.

Site Findings/Fixes:

We found out that we had a graphic file that ran down the page instead of using tables. A file that large increased the load time of the page.

Google Analytics: Behavior > Site Speed > Page Timing (Refreshed Report after the we made the changes)


We have since updated the page and it is now showing improvements in the Page Timing Report. However, we still have a lot more work to do, including other elements on the page.

Why is Panda Still Relevant/Talked About?

This part of the algorithm is focused more on content and visitor experience, thus it will be a constantly evolving topic. Of course, we don’t have the exact secret sauce on exactly how it works; however, we can identify areas of why this algorithm exists.

How Will We Know If or When Google Panda Updates?

Most of the time marketers from all over the world will start to report what is known as Google Flux. Then they work to identify across other community boards to share their findings until we get word from Google that it is official. You can view a history of Google's algorithm changes.

The term "Google Flux" is not an official word by Google and was developed by marketers that continue to watch the algorithms. When a marketer comes across an increase or decrease, they post their findings online to get feedback from other marketers to brainstorm and make sure they are on the right path.

However, if we are always waiting for the next update in fear, we are working on the wrong things within our website. We need to ensure visitors find the information they are looking for and move to the next step in the sales cycle.

Focus on building quality content and experience, and you will sleep better at night. Got any questions? Please leave them below or stick around for the Q&A after my SEMrush webinar on May 28. Register now!

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William Rock is known to many as the #GeekAholic or #MasterGeek. He's a true geek in every way possible. William enjoys technology and feels it is his destiny to keep companies not only safe online, but to help them grow their Internet traffic into qualified leads.
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Michael Ehline
Just really an amazing piece Rock! Your stuff just keeps getting better. The analytics page speed example is just what I was looking for.