By Jennifer Kyrnin, About.com
In February 2011, search engine optimization changed for many people when Google released a new algorithm called “Panda.” This change was added to how Google ranks sites to increase the rank of higher-quality sites while lowering the rank of sites with lower quality. On the surface, that doesn't seem like a major change. Google and other search engine providers are always trying to improve their search results to place higher-quality sites higher and lower-quality sites lower. But Panda had an impact that many web designers and site owners noticed, both positively and negatively.
Then, in April 2012, Google released another update that got a lot of talk — Penguin. This update was added to remove or lower the ranking of sites that use black-hat SEO practices to artificially increase their rank. Google was originally calling this a “web spam” update.
And in January 2012, there was one other Google update that affected site ranking, but most people didn't even notice it. This update was the “page layout algorhithm improvement.” This update looked at how much actual content displayed above the “fold” and improved the ranking of sites that showed more.
These three updates may not seem to have much in common, but they had some major impacts on existing sites, and they have changed how content creators work with their content. All of these updates were added to Google to help improve the results for their customers. And so, if you want your content to show up high in Google, you need to create high-quality content that is better than the other results.
The first thing you should be doing is creating high-quality content. Ultimately, that is what customers want and what Google and other search engines are striving to provide. But here are some things you can do to help your pages rank higher and deal with any Panda penalties your site might be experiencing.
Google provides guidance on how to build high-quality websites. In that document there are 23 questions you should ask yourself about your web pages to determine if they are high-quality or not.
Personally, I have found that it's very difficult for the author or content developer to do this type of evaluation. After all, I know of no writers, photographers, or artists of any sort who set out to create low-quality things. So it's better to ask a friend or co-worker who you trust to give you honest answers and not just be nice to spare your feelings.
But beyond just those questions, you should be cleaning up your site. Get rid of or fix low quality pages. A site with a lot of low quality pages will see more of a Panda penalty. But keep in mind that unlike other Google updates, the Panda algorithm is applied periodically rather than all the time. So you might not see any change in your rankings until the next time the algorithm is run. It's run about every month or two.
It can be very frustrating, especially if your site was ranked well before and now seems to be languishing in the rankings. But the reason that these changes have been so frustrating to content developers is that things that used to work to get top ranking are now penalized or at least frowned upon.
The best suggestion I can give you, if you are worried about Panda, Penguin, or any update coming out of Google in the future, is to try not to think about it. Write your content for your readers not Google. If you provide content that your readers want, Google will eventually notice.
There is no guaranteed way to get your content to rank well in search engines. But getting people to notice it will get the attention of search engines, and that could raise your rank. And one good way to get people to notice your content is with social media. Things like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are getting more and more important and when your readers “Like” your articles, tweet about them, +1 them, this sends a signal that the content is valuable, and so good to rank higher in the results.
And so, on that note, if you liked this article, please say so on Facebook, tweet about it, and give it a +1 on Google+.