What are Google algorithms?

The algorithm Google uses to rank websites changes on a regular basis as they refine previous ranking factors and introduce new ones. What started out as a simple algorithm that focused mainly on how many backlinks a website had, has now evolved to consider over 200 separate ranking factors. It has evolved in such a way as Google try to further improve the relevance of search results, as well as combating any websites they think may be abusing the current algorithms.

Google Panda

 

What is it?

Google Panda is an algorithm designed to evaluate the content on your website, in order to assess the “quality” of your pages. It looks at three key things:

  • Thin content – Prior to the Google Panda update, many webmasters would include pages on their website with little to no content, optimised specifically to target a desired keyword before directing the user towards the main site. Google Panda now penalises websites with lots of pages with low amounts of content.
  • Duplicate content – If someone is ranking for your desired keyword, just take their content, put it on your site, and you’ll start ranking too, right? Wrong. Tired of the top ten results of search queries being similar (or the same) in terms of content, Google used Panda to start cracking down on duplicate content.
  • Low quality content – This a slightly more grey area, as it raises the question, “What is low quality content?”. Google seem to have it figured out though, as they now penalise sites with what they consider to be “low quality” content. This normally means content that has been overly optimised, with too many mentions of a keyword, but they can also look at sentence structures to assess the “readability” of content.

 

What does this mean?

Previously, the Google Panda algorithm was separate to the whole thing, and was ran at seemingly random intervals to crawl all indexed sites. Lots of websites received penalties for one of the three reasons above, which are really hard to come back from. Now though, Panda is part of the main algorithm, meaning websites are assessed much more frequently. This also means you need to be more careful about the content you upload to your website.

However, it’s surprisingly easy to meet the requirements of Google Panda. Those who were penalised by the initial launch just didn’t have very good quality content on their site. If you want to avoid a Panda penalty, just ask yourself these simple questions before uploading any content:

  • Do I already have a page that covers the same subject?
  • Could I write any more on the subject?
  • Have I written this content solely for the purpose of targeting a keyword?
  • Have I copied this content from someone else?
  • Is there an excessive amount of keywords in the copy?
  • Are there only a few words?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, you run the risk of being penalised. All content should be genuinely useful for your users, not designed to target keywords. The rankings will begin to follow once you start uploading good quality content.