illustration of panda

What is Google Panda?

As an SEO company in Costa Mesa, we hear a lot of questions from our clients regarding the SEO industy. One of the most frequent questions we get is about the term “Google Panda”.

The answer isn’t as complicated as you might think. When Google releases an update to their search ranking algorithm, they usually assign that update with the name of an animal.

Google Panda is a change to Google’s algorithm for search rankings that was first released in February of 2011. Since its inception, Panda has had a huge influence on how Google users view their daily search results, but most people don’t know exactly how or even what the algorithm is.

What exactly is an algorithm?

Algorithms are computer programs that look for clues to give you back the best answers to your online query. Instead of bringing back all of the thousands, if not millions, of webpages that may have helpful information, Google’s algorithms simplify the results and rank them in order of relevance to your search terms. These computer programs rely on more than 200 unique signals to find exactly what you are looking for.

How did Panda change the algorithm?

A typical change to an algorithm starts out as an idea about how to improve the search process. The changes that came with Google Panda focused specifically on website content, aka the text, images, videos, etc. that appear on a webpage. Google Panda continues to reward sites with high quality content by demoting “thin pages”, or those with spam-filled, duplicate, or low quality content.

Google Panda was implemented news websites and social networking sites enjoyed a huge spike in their rankings, while sites containing large amounts of advertising saw a significant drop. Google’s spokespeople explained that the value of a webpage to the visitor should be higher than the value to the site owner, and reiterated that a key aspect of Panda is that ads and affiliate links support a page’s content, not overwhelm it.

The Google Panda algorithm creates a ratio with a site’s reference queries and inbound links. That ratio is used to create a site wide and page specific modification factor based upon a search query. If a webpage fails to meet a certain threshold, the modification factor is applied and the page is ranked lower on the search engine results page for those search terms.

Google Panda also affects the ranking of an entire site or a specific section, rather than just the individual pages on a site. It only takes a few pages of poor quality content to negatively affect an otherwise solid site, so Google recommends that such pages be removed, rewritten, or blocked from being indexed by the search engine.

Google continues to roll out updates to the Panda algorithm, although they are never clear on exactly when these changes occur or what the updates will be. When updates do happen, Panda may catch sites that escaped scrutiny before and reward sites that have since made effective changes. Either way, Panda is now here to stay as an official part of Google’s core ranking algorithm.

If you have further questions about search rankings, call Search Owls at (714) 754-1564 or email us at