I’m sure that if you’re even the slightest bit interested in SEO for the sake of your online business, you’ve heard of Google Panda. And surely you know that it’s one of the various algorithms that Google has launched to determine the quality of the pages and decide whether or not they’re the best search result for the user.
In this article, we’re going to explain very briefly what Google algorithms are, so that we have clear the basics, and then we’ll go into detail what the famous Panda means and why it’s important for your online store.
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What is a Google algorithm and its impact on SEO
We can define an algorithm as “An ordered set of systematic operations that allows us to make a calculation and find the solution to a type of problem“.
So how does Google’s algorithm work?
In the case of SEO, Google’s algorithms take into account hundreds of factors, based on which they make several calculations to “filter” the websites found on the Internet. This ensures that when you search for “What is Google Panda”, the articles that best respond to your “problem” appear at the top of the search results.
SEO is a living thing. Algorithms are revised and updated to adapt to the new ways users search (such as voice search). And each algorithm has a “specific function”.
To mention just a few, Google Penguin penalizes the misuse of links to climb positions in Google rankings, Fred has been associated with sites that abuse advertising, Hummingbird is more oriented to semantic searches… And Google Panda?
What is Google Panda?
The main objective of Google Panda is to reward the quality of the content of a page: unique content that contributes to the user. And that is not duplicate content.
That is, if you copy content from others, even if you rewrite it, you’re contravening Google’s quality rules. These guidelines had to be written because there were many “junk” websites, with poor quality texts, copied/pasted, with traps to position better… and obviously, Google wants to prevent the user from wasting time with them.
Therefore, Google Panda penalizes pages that don’t contribute anything, because they have short content, without value, automatically generated, or with such disparate themes that do it isn’t clear what the website is about.
By penalizing them, the algorithm prevents these contents from appearing in the first Google search results. Or what is the same: Google Panda will always place above and give visibility and preference to content that meets the quality guidelines.
This is something you should keep in mind if you decide to add a blog to your business (something that is highly recommended). Don’t copy what others say! Take advantage of your knowledge and experience in your industry to create that unique and useful content we mentioned.
In many cases, quality is better than quantity. You don’t have to publish an article every week if you don’t have time. Even if it’s once a month, or whenever you think it’s convenient, just make sure it’s good.
Here are some tips for writing quality content that Google Panda likes:
- Content of at least 300 words.
- Correct writing, without spelling mistakes.
- Review and update your content whenever necessary.
- Proper use of keywords: don’t abuse the number of times you use them and remember to use synonyms.
- And we repeat: write your own content, which provides value to the user. Solve their doubts, help them, provide information that they probably don’t know…
- We also recommend that you don’t fill your website with advertising, especially invasive ads, because it hinders and distracts the user from seeing or reading the information he or she is looking for.
Google Panda and duplicate content of your e-commerce
if you have an online store, it’s advisable to have your own product descriptions, not the copy/paste provided by the distributor. We’re not saying that you shouldn’t use it, but that you should at least expand it or enrich it in some way, so that duplicate content is not the only thing that Google Panda detects.
Not only by detecting it as internal duplicate content, but also because if they’re products that are sold in more online stores and you’re all using the same text:
- It’s duplicate content.
- You aren’t differentiating yourself at all with the potential customer: you’re saying exactly the same as everyone else.
On the other hand, there are internal duplications that can’t be avoided. In the case of products, if you have the same product in several colors, sizes or models, and its description is the same, you can include the rel=canonical in the code of all the pages that have duplicate content.
In this way, in principle, Google Panda will know that you’re not duplicating content because you contravene the rules, but because there’s a main URL (the version of the best-selling product, for example) and the others “drink” from it. Or directly, include a noindex tag in the duplicate product variations.
We know it’s not easy. Products are what they are, and there isn’t always room for imagination and trying to do something “unique” with them. That’s why, in e-commerce, except in very specific cases, what is recommended is to work on positioning the categories.
E-commerce categories can be better used to generate unique content, since they’re more general (they talk about shoes, trips to a country or continent, desktop computers…) and you can talk about what you know.
Let’s take an example: you have a guitars e-commerce. And you know the world of guitars very well. So when you make the categories of electric guitars, acoustic guitars, guitar accessories… Why not take advantage of it and write something original and only yours, that is useful to the customer? Tips, how to choose the best guitar, etc.
Obviously, it depends on the sector, and it depends on the value you can bring to the user, or that the content is related to the categories and keywords. But if you can do it, don’t miss the opportunity.
How to detect and get out of Google Panda penalties
If you’ve never copied (or rewritten) anything, you shouldn’t have any problems with Google Panda. But what if you haven’t but you’ve been copied?
The easiest way to know if you have been copied, is searching for several random phrases or fragments of the content of your website, in quotation marks, in Google. If nothing comes up, perfect. If it comes up somewhere else, voila! you’ve been copied and Google Panda may consider it duplicate content.
If your original content was indexed before the other, there should be no problem, because Google Panda knows it’s yours and the duplicate content is from the other website. But if it’s a webpage or e-commerce with more authority than yours and so its content has been indexed before yours… then, you’ll be penalized.
You can also use Copyscape, a tool where you paste the URL you want to check, and it shows you the pages where that same content exists, even underlining it within the text. Its free version allows you to perform 10 checks per day. It’s not perfect, but it saves a lot of time.
The tool that you shouldn’t fail to check to see if you’ve been affected by one of Google’s penalties, is Search Console. If you’ve been manually penalized for non-compliance with Google, you will receive a direct message in Google Search Console, in which you’ll be informed of what has happened.
Once you’ve corrected everything you consider necessary, send Google a short text indicating what you have modified, corrected or improved, so that they can, if everything is OK, lift your “punishment”.
Of course, I’m sorry to tell you that you’re not going to recover the positions you had before. You’re going to have to work, probably a lot, to return to the (good) previous positions. So make sure that Google Panda (or any other algorithm) doesn’t penalize you. (I know, I know, but I had to say it)
The other Google tool that will help you to know if everything is ok is Google Analytics. Your business depends on the keywords that position you (that is, how people find you) and above all, it depends on people finding you.
Therefore, we advise you to periodically check Google Analytics and make sure that the words that bring traffic to your online store haven’t suddenly disappear, causing a significant drop in traffic. If it happens, that smells pretty bad.
And when this happens, there’s another tool you can use to find out if you’ve been penalized by Google Panda: Barracuda Digital, better known as Panguin Tool. By entering the home URL of your website, it will take you to a graph like this one:
In it you can see the traffic peaks of your e-commerce and if the drops (or rises; maybe you haven’t been penalized, but rewarded) correspond to the update of any of Google’s algorithms. Like Google Panda.
If you already know that you’ve been penalized by Google Panda, what you need to know is the extent of the penalty and what part(s) of the website or ecommerce has been affected, to act accordingly.
Once you know this, look for the differences in quality, in terms of content, of the affected pages compared to those that haven’t been affected. For example:
- Were they rewritten based on another article?
- Did they have parts literally copied, even if they were “few”?
- Spelling mistakes?
- Is the information well structured?
- Have you included internal links that help navigation and provide information?
- Do they really provide quality content?
- Do they have a higher bounce rate?
- Is the visit time shorter?
In 2011, Google already gave us a very extensive list of questions regarding what can be penalized by Google Panda, and therefore, how to solve it. We suggest you take a look at it.
Finally, if you see that the penalized content really can’t be fixed and doesn’t contribute anything, don’t hesitate to delete it.
Google’s algorithms are often a mystery, and how they affect or not depends on many factors.
In the case of Google Panda, you have to focus on quality content. But I also tell you, if all else fails in terms of SEO, it’s likely that having a super content is worthless. Or not. It depends.
And on the contrary, contents that are really nothing remarkable, or are more of the same, sometimes come out on top in searches. Which is not to say that over time, they won’t pay the price for poor quality.
SEO is like that! It’s an art. So if you need help with SEO for your business, don’t hesitate to contact us, or leave any questions in the comments!