What it is and how the algorithm works

What is Google Panda? When was it released and why? It is an algorithm related to search result ranking, introduced in 2011, to minimize the ranking of low-quality sites and bring high-quality content sites to the top positions of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). The question arises: how do you create valid content? It is necessary to understand Google Panda, delve into SEO with a course, know what precautions to take, and avoid penalties.

What is Google Panda?

Google Panda is an algorithm launched in 2011, designed for those who search online. Originally, among marketers, the update was known as the Google Farmer Update, as it aimed to exclude content farms from searches, sites that produce thousands of mostly low-quality content to generate traffic and monetize through ad clicks.

The intent, therefore, was clear from the beginning: reduce the ranking of low-quality sites, clean up the SERPs, and make them appropriate and consistent with user searches. Google itself, on February 24, 2011, expressed it on its official blog in these terms:

Our goal is simple: to provide people with the most relevant answers to their questions as quickly as possible. This requires constant fine-tuning of our algorithms, as new content, both good and bad, is always online. This update […] will provide better rankings for high-quality sites.

This result, which now seems obvious, was achieved thanks to the update designed by engineer Navneet Panda, from whom the algorithm takes its name, at the Mountain View company. The mysterious “Google Panda update 2011”, has been officially active since August 2012: let’s try to understand in more detail how it works.

How does Google Panda work?

To understand how the Panda update operates, it is necessary to know how Google Search works.

Furthermore, it may not be clear what a Google Algorithm is and how it works, but here we will limit ourselves to defining it as “a sequence of instructions coded in a language, aimed at achieving a specific result.”

For Google Panda, as mentioned earlier, the specific result to be achieved is the classification of websites based on the quality of their content to clean up the SERPs from low-level, deceptive, unoptimized, and difficult-to-use search results.

Google’s Panda algorithm, in collaboration with other algorithms, including PageRank, analyses search results, calculates their coherence with user requests, establishes a qualitative ranking, and arranges them in the SERPs, trying to exclude sites with penalizing factors. Among these factors are:

  • use of black hat, link-building techniques, labelled by Google as spam because they attempt to manipulate search results with artificial links;
  • use of clickbait, deceptive web content aimed at attracting as many users as possible to generate online advertising revenue;
  • lack of quality backlinks;
  • duplicate or copied content from other sites;
  • superficial, poorly written, sparse, and non-original texts;
  • excessive presence of ads and banners on pages;
  • high levels of bounce rate, i.e., bounce frequency;
  • limited user stay times;
  • pages not optimized with SEO techniques;
  • non-authoritative and unreliable sources.

Google, on its official blog, states, “We cannot make significant improvements without affecting the rankings of many sites. It will happen that some sites will rise and others will fall. Google relies on high-quality content, and we have the responsibility to encourage a healthy web ecosystem.

Therefore, the best sites must be rewarded […] to help people find ever higher quality in our results.” To uphold these intentions, the Google Panda Update is regularly updated and improved.

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The effects of Google Panda on the SERPs

Google Panda is a ranking algorithm, and its effects are observed in the SERPs, sometimes with positive outcomes and sometimes with negative ones. The consequences of this update depend on the factors mentioned earlier and on the ability of content creators to adapt to the rules of the update. According to Google, the algorithm’s launch affected approximately 12% of English language searches and between 6 and 9% of searches in other languages.

ranking algorithm google

Regarding the observable changes in the SERPs, the analyses conducted by Marcus Tober, founder of Search Metrics, on the ‘winners and losers’ are particularly interesting. These analyses highlight a list of sites most affected or benefited by the Google Panda 4.0 update.

One of the most striking cases involves, which experienced a 33% reduction in traffic due to Google penalties for excessive ads and deceptive optimization of content-poor pages, confirming what was mentioned in the previous paragraph.

How does the Google Panda algorithm evaluate quality?

At this point, it becomes interesting to discover how an algorithm capable of evaluating the quality of websites was born and the criteria it operates on. In 2011, former Google Vice President Amit Singhal and computer engineer Matt Cutts released an interview in which they explained how this was possible. Singhal recounts that it all started with an initial investigation phase, where external testers were asked to make a qualitative assessment of a series of sites. To do this, they were asked a series of questions like:

  • would you trust leaving your credit card with this site?
  • would you feel comfortable giving the medicine prescribed by this site to your children?
  • do you consider this site authoritative?
  • does this site have excessive ads?

The questions administered concerned emotional and human aspects, not purely technical ones, and the innovation brought by Google Panda lies in transforming these subjective and personal indications into mathematical laws.

Google’s blog offers an article presenting guidelines for creating high-quality sites and a selection of questions that give an idea of the evaluation criteria adopted. The undeniable efficiency of the Panda algorithm has elicited very positive reactions from users.


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Google Panda and SEO

What can happen, therefore, is that a site is advantaged or penalized by Google Panda. Practically, what can be done to benefit from the dynamics of this update? Learn and adopt the most effective SEO strategies for search engines. The determining factors in the negative have already been presented, but, trying not to be repetitive, here is a general guide to follow:

google panda seo

  • limit the presence of ads and banners, especially in the upper and more visible part of the page;
  • be cautious of duplicate content, so those blocks of content under the same domain that are identical or very similar;
  • commit to offering interesting and original content, an excellent weapon against the bounce rate. Users rarely leave stimulating content quickly;
  • write optimized pages that respond to the intentions of user queries, not solely focused on intercepting traffic;
  • use white hat link-building strategies, earning backlinks over time and by merit, without forcing dynamics, thanks to valid, well-structured content and shares on websites and social networks;
  • offer reliable content to gain author
  • improve the quality of backlinks over time;
  • enhance the usability of websites as much as possible, with clear structures, well-defined hierarchies, clean layouts, and optimal speed.

Panda update from 2011 to today

Since its launch to date, Google Panda has received several updates: there are even 31 of them. From the release of the algorithm in 2011, Panda 1.0, Panda 2.0, and Panda 3.0 were developed in the first year to refine and globally extend the impact of the update. Other important milestones include Panda 25 in 2013 when Matt Cutts anticipated the future incorporation of the algorithm into Hummingbird, Panda 4.0 in 2014 for a data update, and finally, the definitive incorporation into Hummingbird in 2016.

In general, Google has been the promoter of many updates, from Google Penguin to Google Pirate, through the mentioned Hummingbird or Medic Update, to continuously improve the user experience.


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