Understanding what a Panda Penalty is and what it does to your website.

Ron Dodby Ron Dod

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There is a lot of misconceptions when it comes to what a Google penalty is and what it is not. There are a lot of conflicting reports/ideas/myths of what it looks like so we put together a blog showing you how it works. Let’s dive into what is the Panda Penalty, what triggers it, and how do I avoid it.

What is a Panda Penalty?

First off it is not a “penalty” we just call it a penalty because websites who have it look like they got hit with a penalty. You can see after May 2014 (around the time of Panda 2.0) a lot of website’s organic traffic tanked due to it. Panda is an algorithm change that Google made to stop websites from abusing their on page content. If my homepage has these on page elements below a searcher would probably not trust the business or want it in their search results:

Meta Title – “Atlanta Plumber – The Best Plumbers in Atlanta”

Meta Description – “Do you need an Atlanta Plumber for your next plumbing needs? Our Atlanta plumbers can plumber any home and make sure it up to Atlanta Plumbing standards”.

So to combat people stuffing keywords on their website, using the same content, copy & pasting content, etc… They invented the Panda algorithm update which crushed websites who took the shortcuts on their website content. Though it is very easy to reverse the penalty (because it isn’t one) and generally when websites fix their errors with regards to the Penguin 2.0 update their traffic spikes in the next index.

How do I know if I have one?

It is really easy to know if you have it or not. Just look up the important Panda Update refreshes and updates dates in the moz: http://moz.com/google-algorithm-change. Look at your traffic and if you see a dip around that specific date you got hit.

You can see below this is a real graph from a client who was hit during Panda 2.0 (red circle). They came to us and we were able to identify what went wrong, fix it, and now their traffic is more than double than what it used to be.


What Triggers it?

It is very simple to trigger the penalty. If you have lots of duplicate content, thin content (less than 500 words on each page), have duplicate Meta title tags, have the same URL keywords as the Meta title tag, and in general have less than 80% unique content you can trigger the penalty. Also if you use shady black hat techniques like making white text on a white background you will definitely take a hit.

Now having a little duplicate content is not a bad thing. You can see lots of popular websites having the same articles as others. And that is because A) they have lots of awesome original content and B) they have lots of backlinks which means their website is very popular and makes up for deficiencies.

Well how do I fix it?

The first thing is to identify why it happened. Be honest with yourself and ask, “Is this content good?” If you are a searcher would you like it? Once you figure out the problem as it is usually is either keyword stuffing or duplicate content (97% of the time) then you need to clean out your content. Hire a reputable firm, freelancer, or copywriter and have them go through and either under optimize the website or rewrite the content yourself to make it unique and good. The people who do not get hit with updates are the people who write great content for users not search enginesJ.

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