SEO Basics: Why Google's Panda Update Works Like Football
If you’re confused about Google’s Panda Update, you’re not alone. Many webmasters were shocked when their websites experienced a sudden drop in visitors in late February of 2011, when the Panda update took effect. Even more confusingly, some websites recovered, while others did not. Panda remains an influential ranking factor and dramatically affects the rank of many websites.
Why Panda Is Like Football
Happily, it’s not hard to understand Panda using an analogy. To understand Panda, think of the sport of football. Football players are divided into different leagues. At the bottom are the Pop Warner players, and at the top are professional players. Between the two are graduations of leagues, including junior high teams, high school teams, community college teams, and college teams.
In essence, Google’s Panda update assigned each website to a league. The higher the league, the higher your website’s Google ranking. Each web page within a website might be compared to a player in the league—some are better than others, but all are in the league assigned to the overall website.
That means that it’s difficult for a page from a website with a low Panda score to compete against a page from a site that performed better under Panda, just as it’s difficult for a high school player to compete against a professional player. Each website’s Panda score influences the rankings of its individual pages.
Moving Up a League
How does Google assign your website to a league? Google sets your website’s league by looking at both incoming and outgoing links. If your website’s links are to content farms and other low tier sites, Google decides that you’re playing in a lower league, and that all content associated with your site should be assigned to that lower league. Google also looks at the trustworthiness of your content using other indicators.
To improve your ranking, improve the quality of the links associated with your site. Eliminate any and all material that might cause Google’s Panda algorithm to assign you to a lower league. In the Panda era, spammy content hurts all pages on a website.
Google often resets the leagues when it releases a new Panda update, like the 2.2 Panda update that rolled out in late June 2011. Note that it is nearly impossible to move from one league to another before an update. But don’t worry—updates are frequent.
Of course, this is a simplification of a complex topic. But it’s true that Google’s Panda update made a qualitative assessment of each website, and that Google uses that assessment when ranking each page. Google’s Panda update can make or break a site, and every webmaster must adapt accordingly.