Panda and Penguin are the two main Google Algorithm updates which have been affecting rankings over the course of the last year or so.
If your website has been hit by a penalty it’s important to work out what the penalty might be so that you can determine what has caused it and what can be done to resolve the issue.
What is Google Panda?
Panda was the first of the two big algorithm updates launched by Google in February 2011. Originally called the Farmer update by people in the SEO industry, the Panda update focuses on “low quality” sites. This includes sites which contain duplicate content, scraped content, or thin content.
Generally this algorithm update is about on-page factors so if the timing of your ranking and traffic drops coincides with a Panda release then it’s the content and structure of your website which you need to be reviewing.
As Panda is an on-page problem, you need to review the content of your website:
Do you have pages which offer little or no content?
Do you have pages which have content that is posted on other websites?
Make sure you have a clear content strategy for your website and are creating new and useful information for users of your website moving forwards. Look at creating helpful content such as user guides, FAQs, whitepapers and topical news and blog content to help with the recovery of your website.
Panda is generally rolled out about once a month now, so once you have started to correct some of the issues there won’t be too much of a wait until there’s a new Panda. It might take a couple of months for all your changes to be picked up, depending on how badly your website has been hit.
What is Google Penguin?
Penguin, which was launched in April 2012, is more about the Google Webmaster Tools (GWMT) Guidelines and is focused on the removal of “spam” from the search results.
The Penguin update is most frequently connected to link building techniques such as link schemes or purchased links. A review of the messages for your website in Google Webmaster Tools will help to identify if there have been unnatural link warnings and – combined with the link report in GWMT – can be used to see if there is a problem. This, together with reviews of your links using tools such as AHrefs and Majestic SEO, can help to identify which links might be causing this issue.
When reviewing your backlinks with regard to a potential Penguin update there are some things to consider which could be helpful:
Does your website have a high number of links all from the same domain name or IP address? Having a million links from three websites looks like you’ve bought a site-wide link.
Does your website have a high percentage of links with exact match anchor texts? For example, if your core keyword is “blue widget” and 30 per cent of the anchor texts linking to your website match this term, chances are you’ve seen a dip in rankings post Penguin, as this term has been overdone.
Are your internal and external links just your keywords? Every website has a mix of links pointing to it and this natural mix should include the domain name, company name, ‘click here’ links and the like as well as “blue widget”.
The Disavow tool can be useful in helping to clean up your backlinks. When using the Disavow tool it’s important to ensure that you have requested removal for the links on the site before running a disavow on them, as Google likes to see that you have tried to resolve the issues of your backlinks and are not just using the Disavow tool as a workaround for the links which are causing an issue.
Penguin and Panda are quite different algorithm updates but recovering from them can take time and patience as well as a long, hard and honest look at your website.