It’s that time again, folks! Google has enacted yet another one of its animal-named updates! Panda has come out of hibernation and been slapped with a new coat of paint and the fresh title of 4.0. In the past we’ve seen some severe changes in ranking as a result of large Panda updates, and this version is no different. Are you not familiar with the Panda algorithm and how it affects your website? Have no fear, we’re here to tell you everything you need to know about the cuddliest of Google updates, and we’ll provide you with some tips on how to handle it going forward.

Cute Yet Dangerous
People often look at the Panda and think they are quite cute. That may be the case with the living animal, but the algorithm can be very destructive; leaving many websites in SEO limbo. At its core, the Panda update focuses on content seen onsite. It is intended that higher-quality content sites will be boosted, while other sites would be punished for the following reasons:
Spammy Content
Content that doesn’t directly speak to the purpose of the page, or is littered with keywords that bog down readability.
Thin Content
Content that is very limited and doesn’t fulfill the desires of the searcher. This also results in limited on-page time.
Duplicate Content
Instances where content appears multiple times on the same site in the same wording.
Borrowed Content

Sites that have content that is sourced from other sites, or indicate that the content can be found elsewhere.
Ultimately, Google wants searches to find content that is actually relevant, helpful, unique, and high quality. Should this not be a given already? Regardless, it’s not up to the searcher how this is viewed, because Google is the determining factor in what is or isn’t high-quality content. Knowing what Google views as low-quality content is important to understand what route to take when generating content for your site. If you have a site that has “high-quality content” then there shouldn’t be any negative effects coming your way. But how do you tell if you have been hit?

Feeling the Effects

Now that you know the general purpose of the Google Panda algorithm, the question becomes something else entirely.
“How can I tell if Panda affected my website?”
The answer is both simple and not. While Panda 4.0 was a quick rollout, the results are still being determined. Perhaps nothing feels different on your end, but there is one major sign that your site could have been hit by Panda.

SERP (Search Engine Results Page) ranking is the goal of every website, and when you’re no longer appearing where you once were, there is cause for concern. Sites affected by Panda can go from the first page of Google, to many pages down the list. This is SEO limbo, as mentioned before. Tactics that had worked to get you highly ranked may be the culprit, but following a Panda update means that it’s strictly a content issue. In fact, this most recent update saw certain major sites fall in ranking (ask.com, ebay.com, etc.), so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that other sites may have similar results.
On the flip side of the coin, there can be positive effects from the Panda update. If your site was put together in a way that pleases Google, you might notice that you are ranking more highly than you were before. Part of this could be that those sites above you were dealing in spammy content, but there’s also a lot to be said for having perceived high-quality content.

Addressing the Results

Let’s say that you weren’t one of the fortunate ones to see a rank improvement trend recently, and are actually trending downwards or have fallen out completely. While recovery can be tough, there are steps that you can take to recover from it:

Complete a Panda Audit – Investigate deep for low-quality content, or potential problems that might impact high-quality content. Look into usability issues for searchers, and ensure that your site is easily read.

Continue Pushing as if Unaffected – While this may seem to be a strange tip, producing high-quality content even while under the burden of Panda can see drastic results. Not only can it speed up the process of recovery, but once the cloud has been lifted, you may see a positive impact on rankings.

Don’t Wait to Act – Analysis can only get you so far. Find the content that is problematic, figure out how to proceed, and do it. The faster that you work to improve the problem, the faster Panda will leave you alone.

Know the Schedule – Panda is a monthly check, and as such you have one chance per month to see a difference. While it’s unlikely that you will see recovery within the first month, by continuing to make the proper changes, you may see it faster than you’d think.

Just because you follow these steps doesn’t mean that you will be safe forever. The ultimate goal of Google is to boost sites that are user friendly. Once you’re in the clear from this round of Panda, continue to push for high-quality content that reads and functions easily, thus helping your case for the next large update to Panda.

Should you do anything if you actually made it through okay? Actually, yes. Performing well and coming out on top may make you feel pretty good, but that only means that there’s more work to be done. Steps should be taken for the positive impacts as well as the negative:

Continue on Course – Since you were helped from this update, that means you’re doing something right. So keep doing it! There’s really not much more to say, because Google really likes you. Good job!
Review Keywords – Take an in depth look at your keywords and categories that drive traffic to your pages. The reason for this is that you can see just how Google is matching searches with your content, and it can help you to create better content down the road.

Review Landing Pages – Google has a certain way of promoting the pages that work well with the intended audience. Look at your user engagement, and see just why those pages are doing as well as they are. Is the content in depth and easily read? Then perhaps that should be your model for good content going forward.
Check and Check Again – Just because you made it out this time doesn’t mean that next month will be as good. Analyze and audit your site regularly to pick up on quality or technical issues that may impede the content on your site. Regardless of how well you keep up to date, there will always be issues that arise, and one of those issues can derail your site very quickly.

Google Panda 4.0 is the new standard of content, and as such there should always be a push to please the hungry bear. Status quo is not a phrase that exists in SEO, because the world is ever changing. One week you may be humming along in the top three for your premier keyword, and the next week you may not be able to find yourself in the first ten pages. Staying on top of your content, making it high-quality, and presenting it in a way that makes it appealing can go a very long way to ensuring that doesn’t happen. This most recent update was significant, but it’s not the end of the world, it’s only Google.