The SEO Zoo: Panda vs. Penguin

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The Web is a wild place, and the principles of survival of the fittest are very prominent in the realm of search engine marketing and SEO. So it makes sense that Google would name its algorithm updates after some of the world’s exotic wildlife.

Google’s biggest changes to its search algorithm over the last two years are a pair of updates known as Panda and Penguin. Both of them had the same basic goal of lowering the rank of low-quality or “thin” websites, and thus increasing the rank of higher-quality sites. However, despite their common allegiance toward improving the quality of Google’s search rankings, Panda and Penguin are very different beasts.

Panda

What really sets the Panda update apart from other algorithm changes is that the content of an entire site (or a specific section of a site) has an impact on search rankings, as opposed to just individual pages. In other words, if a significant number of pages on a site are flagged as having terrible content, the whole site can be penalized.

Panda primarily favors unique, original content – especially content that comes backed with a lot of clout and authority, like in-depth research reports or thoughtful analysis – over auto-generated content. For websites looking to improve their rankings, they should separate out and get rid of all of that content, mostly because having content with little-to-no value can get an entire site shut down, even if most of its content is unique and worthwhile.

At the end of the day, Panda is trying to weed out duplicate, overlapping or redundant content that isn’t beneficial to the searcher. Mostly, it aims to take down so-called “content farms," which publish a lot of low-quality articles stuffed with popular keywords to drive traffic and to get links. It also works to stop content scrapers from outranking the original author and content.

Penguin

Penguin, on the other hand, specifically has it out for webspam. With this update, any sites that are found to be violating Google’s webmaster quality guidelines can have their site rankings dropped.

There are a few major offenses that Penguin was designed to combat, including stuffing sites with keywords (particularly low-quality keywords), cloaking, spamming anchor text, purchasing links and more. But even some less obvious techniques could wind up on Penguin’s radar, such as incorporating irrelevant outgoing links into a page of content.

However, Google hasn’t been totally upfront about exactly what Penguin is looking for, saying only that the sites it targets are “doing much more than white hat SEO” and that the company believes them to be “engaging in webspam tactics to manipulate search engine rankings.”

If you’re having a Penguin problem, the best way to start recovering your rankings is by getting rid of your low-quality links and removing any keywords you may have stuffed away on your site. Basically, anything on your site that may toe the line and appear to Google as a black hat SEO tactic should be immediately removed. Fortunately, most of the time, Google will notify you on your Webmaster Tools account if it finds questionable links or other issues with your site, so checking that regularly and immediately fixing those problems should help to prevent your site from dropping in the search rankings.

Time to Adapt

Since Panda and Penguin are algorithm updates, and the penalties that they enforce are not manual. Therefore, it will do you little good to make a reconsideration request to Google to get your site back up in the search rankings. Instead, you’re going to have to make changes and fix your site on your own, and then wait for Google to come back and re-crawl your content before you’ll see a recovery. So you know, it’s probably a good idea to make sure you’re not on the bad side of either Panda or Penguin. After all, it’s a zoo out there, and you don’t want to get left behind.

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11 comments

ShahMenz 08-21-2012 3:27 PM

Hmmm...as a link removal software vendor we hear every day from site owners who have discovered that they are actually under a manual penalty which arrived at the same time as the release of Penguin. The unfortunate thing is that the only mechanism Google provides for confirming a manual penalty is to lodge a reconsideration request and wait for advice.

While I agree that those people who have confirmed that they do not have a manual penalty situation must do the work and wait for an algorithmic adjustment, for those whose sites have been "slammed", sitting and waiting is not the answer.

UriL 08-21-2012 3:50 PM

Shah??  really removal service...   just another way to screw people...   do not remove links.. what a huge waste of time & MONEY..  Panda was all about content.. Penguin was all about over-optimization..   stop listening to all the crap out there..  Google is NOT that smart..  they ONLY thing they can see is anchor text from an OFF page perspective..  to get out of penguin. just look at the ration of anchors used..   Brand, Naked & Unique anchors needs to suffice Google's VIEW of natural linking..  and it is all based on your competition and niche...

DavidC 08-21-2012 4:27 PM

I don't believe that "low quality" links will hurt you, because you don't have any control over who links to you. Google knows that. If that were true, I could just buy the crappiest link campaigns in the world for each of my competitors and just sit back and wait for their precipitous fall. Google says these things to warn people away from doing things that mess with their algorithm. However, the algorithm is still based on link power, so therein lies the rub. All Google can do is discount those links as contributors to your rankings, i.e. net zero effect. So, bad links won't hurt you, they're just most likely a waste of time, cause they'll just have no effect at all. You really have to do something blatant and get caught for it in order to get an actual penalty.

Sound White Hat link building that's actually effective nowadays pays particular attention to Link Velocity. I.e. if you add 100 links a day for 30 days, you may find that you're spinning your wheels and don't get anywhere. Stick to one to five links a day, and make them come from satellite sites that have actual meritorious content. Then, get those satellite sites good links from other places. Keep everything on the up and up and you shouldn't suffer any penalty. Nice and slow. Drip, Drip, Drip. It's the only way to fly nowadays.

The other bit about Paid Links being penalized is also very suspect, because if you're a member of a Chamber of Commerce and that gets you a nice dofollow link from a dedicated page on their site, is that not a "paid link"? Google is mainly trying to crack down on people who do things that will undermine the intent of their algorithm, which is to provide high quality answers to people's queries. If someone is a member of a Chamber, that helps and doesn't hurt Google's algorithmic intent, so the "paid" link is counted as full money.

Anyway, don't believe everything you read, some things are said for reasons that are sound, but are not actually true.

Website Design Company 08-23-2012 2:39 PM

Michael thank you for the concise overview of Panda and Penguin and the impact the updates can have.

JasonO 08-23-2012 2:49 PM

Has anyone else noticed how many Youtube video's are appearing across the Internet for very competitive keyword phrases?

Guess who owns Youtube everyone lol if you do not know Google kind of fishy. I have been noticing this more and more lately.

I just wanted to hear everyone thoughts on this?

ShahMenz 08-26-2012 4:30 PM

UriL... thanks so much for passing judgement on our business with absolutely no knowledge of the product. As I made very clear, my comments were specifically to do with people who are dealing with a manual penalty. If you had ever been involved in the process of getting a manual penalty lifted you would know that the Webspam Team's expectation of the level of documentation required to prove efforts and results in removing problem links is complex. Our software allows webmasters to create, manage and document their link removal campaigns so that they have the documentation they need to lodge a reconsideration request. In a manual penalty situation, if the work is not done, the penalty stays and by extension, the more quickly the work is done, the more quickly sites can recover.

Minneapolis SEO 03-18-2013 2:21 AM

In my point of view, Panda concentrate to back links...and penguin concentrate to quality of site (includes content, internal links, structure..). Thanks for informative share about Panda vs. Penguin. I got some more view about them.

WeezLabs 06-11-2013 5:37 AM

Nice and Brief introduction to Panda And Penguin updates by Google. Thanks!

Aboriginal Paintings 07-31-2013 3:23 AM

Panda is all about Content and Penguin trap low quality links. Thanks for making me clear about these algo updates.

rental mobil jakarta 11-11-2013 9:29 AM

Both have a target to stop Web Spam and over optimization.

replique montre 11-26-2013 10:29 PM

I really enjoyed the informative, well-illustrated article about welcoming people to a business using e-mail (part one).  I can't wait for part two.  I found it especially good because of all the actual examples pulled together for me to consider.  Thanks!

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