Everything you need to know about the Google Panda algorithm

Google Panda is one of the most famous technical SEO updates to be rolled out in the search engine’s history.

Released in February 2011, it aimed to improve search results by demoting low-quality websites and content, often created by large-scale content farms.

This meant sites with useless, copied or duplicate content – plus those with excessive advertising – were likely to see their rankings tank. Of course, there were also bonuses. High-quality sites offering their users original, relevant and valuable value were rewarded with higher rankings, improving user experience throughout.

In this blog, our team of experts will touch on the who, what and why’s around Google Panda – giving you everything you need to know on this foundational update.

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How does Panda work?

amy leech headshot

Amy Leach, Organic Content Lead at Embryo said: “The roll out of the Panda Update was one of the most significant SEO changes to land in the SERP.

“It was designed and rolled out to eliminate thin and poor content ranking well within the search results. Its impact has been huge, and there have been countless iterations since the initial panda roll out – all to ensure content on the web is as informative and of the highest quality to users.”

To determine said website’s quality, Panda considered aspects such as:

  • The usefulness of the content.
  • The overall quality of the user experience. 
  • The authority and trustworthiness of the website and its authors.

Using these findings and guidelines as a yardstick, Google will then apply a particular set of rules, factors and calculations to give each website a quality score. Although Google has never disclosed the exact ranking signals used – likely to stop sneakier SEOs from gaming the system – it helps to decide how well the websites will rank.

Ultimately, users will be served informative, useful content that isn’t plagiarised or duplicated.

So, why was it created?

As we touched on early, Google launched Panda to directly tackle the content mills that once dominated the SERPS. This was back when Google had little defence against those favouring quantity over quality content, using top rankings to generate more advertising revenue by bulk-uploading low-quality content.

This often meant that unhelpful and often inaccurate content would hit the top results on Google.

The search engine retaliated with Panda. This new update actively assessed webpage quality, rewarding the content they wanted to see with higher rankings and demoting content farm articles.

It’s important to note that Google Panda is no longer a separate entity from Google’s ranking principles – but that doesn’t mean its essence isn’t a crucial part of the algorithm we still use.

What can we learn from Panda moving forward?

Although Panda doesn’t penalise, it does mean that your SEO content strategy should always be focusing on creating high-quality pages that are suited for your audience.

In this next section, we’ll give you some useful tips to keep in mind when planning and producing Panda-friendly content!


It sounds like a given, but your webpage must provide the user with the following things, if promised:

  • Information
  • Solution
  • Service

If you fail to deliver, you’ll quickly lose your visitors. This can be down to a number of factors, such as content itself, design or even load speeds – but you’re sure to end up with reduced visibility, poor UX, and a low engagement rate.

Accurate external links and backlinks

Any domain worth its salt should have strong external links as references. This indicates to Google that you’ve researched reliable information – or have cited a high-quality informational resource – that is going to give your users a top experience.

Google rewards conscientious creators with boosted visibility, helping search engines see your site as a topical, relevant source – which can be further boosted with successful backlinks.

When a reputable website links ‘back’ to our own site,  Panda often picks pages with a high number of external sources linking to it. These positive, relevant backlinks prove that you are a resource and serve as a huge trust marker – something we’ll touch on next.

Trust is key

negative reviews can be a good thing for your business

When trust is currency, Panda will be reading your reviews.

If you operate as a service or offer a product which can be reviewed by independently verified sources, then make sure your customers are using it! 5 star ratings not only ring positive bells for users but also search engines themselves, who recognise the quality of your service and translate it into a user experience – often pushing your site further up the SERP.

The Embryo approach

To stop Panda from negatively impacting your site and demoting content is fairly straightforward: sustainably continue to produce content that isn’t rubbish, doesn’t cut corners and actually gives your users what they want.

But what if you aren’t sure where to start? With years of experience in creating specialised content plans and SEO strategies for our clients, we know what it takes to make your website’s foundations strong enough for top-level SEO.

To get key insights into your existing SEO position – or to get your content journey started – get in touch with us today!

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