As we all know, the Internet is rife with poor-quality or “garbage” websites. In an ad hoc attempt to separate the chaff from the wheat and optimize high-quality search results, Google released Panda, an algorithm change in April 2011. In the interim, Panda has released more than two dozen updates.
Although Google has released only limited information on Panda, this algorithm change has been scrutinized by major publishers, web designers, advertisers and spammers alike. After all, the Internet is big business for lots of people, and everyone wants their pages to rise to the top of search-engine results.
Google has been explicit in its effort to reward “white hat” SEO optimizers or the “good guys.” According to Google’s Webmaster Central Blog:
“White hat” search engine optimizers often improve the usability of a site, help create great content, or make sites faster, which is good for both users and search engines. Good search engine optimization can also mean good marketing: thinking about creative ways to make a site more compelling, which can help with search engines as well as social media. The net result of making a great site is often greater awareness of that site on the web, which can translate into more people linking to or visiting a site.
The opposite of “white hat” SEO is something called “black hat webspam” (we say “webspam” to distinguish it from email spam). In the pursuit of higher rankings or traffic, a few sites use techniques that don’t benefit users, where the intent is to look for shortcuts or loopholes that would rank pages higher than they deserve to be ranked. We see all sorts of webspam techniques every day, from keyword stuffing to link schemes that attempt to propel sites higher in rankings.
The goal of many of our ranking changes is to help searchers find sites that provide a great user experience and fulfill their information needs. We also want the “good guys” making great sites for users, not just algorithms, to see their effort rewarded. To that end we’ve launched Panda changes that successfully returned higher-quality sites in search results. And earlier this year we launched a page layout algorithm that reduces rankings for sites that don’t make much content available ‘above the fold.’
Initially, it was estimated that Panda would affect about 12 percent of search engine queries to a noticeable extent. The sites that were most affected were those which tried to game the system using black hat practices to spam unwitting Internet users.
As an individual creating high-quality blogging content, however, Panda should represent an opportunity to garner better search results. In a follow-up post, I’ll detail how, you, a producer of high-quality content, can optimize your postings in a post-Panda world.