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Penguin vs. Panda: A Guide to Google's Algorithm Updates


Penguin, panda, hummingbird, and pigeon: You might expect to find these at the zoo, but they are also important names in world of search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is a moving target. As Google updates and improves its algorithm, your online marketing campaign should adjust with it. To help SEOs track these changes, Google traditionally names each update after an animal. Two of the most important algorithm updates are Penguin and Panda.

Penguin and Panda: What’s the difference?

In short, Penguin updates involve your backlink profile, while Panda entails website content. Backlinks—any site that points to your site—are an important part of SEO. When it comes to backlinks, it’s easy to adopt a “The more the merrier!” philosophy. In reality, Google is more concerned with the quality of your backlinks, not the sheer quantity.

Panda, on the other hand, deals with on-site content. Things like keyword stuffing, copied content, and fluffy content are all factors that could trigger a Panda penalty. Clean, succinct, and appropriately-optimized content is the key to avoiding a Panda-related, algorithmic penalty.

Taking a Closer Look at Penguin

April 24, 2012 marked the first Penguin update. Since then, Google has rolled out a variety of Penguin revisions, the most recent of which occurred on in December 2014. Some SEOs called this update “Penguin Everflux” after Google announced that it would move away from massive (but infrequent) updates to a steady stream of smaller variations in the algorithm.

Here are a few things that could lead to a penguin penalty:

  • Forum signature spam
  • Spammy directory links
  • Over-optimized backlinks
  • Links from spammy blogs
  • Classified spam backlinks

Understanding the Panda Update

“Content is king” is a common phrase in the SEO community. In reality, content is one of many factors that contribute to the quality of your website. Bad content, however, can cripple your online presence. Google rolled out its first Panda update in February 2011, more than a year before Penguin. Google’s Panda update cracked down on low-quality content, such as content farms, spammy content, and over-optimized content.

Specific content strategies to avoid:

  • Unnecessary optimization (over-optimization)
  • Sloppy or spammy on-site linking structure
  • Generic, fluffy, or duplicative content

Panda-friendly content is unique, helpful, and written for the reader (not Google). Instead of optimizing your site for Google, focus on optimizing it for your readers. This means informative, useful, and insightful content. Keywords are still important, but only to the extent that they are useful to your reader. Good content starts with the questions, “What are my readers looking for?” and answers appropriately. Adding content purely with the intention of “making it rank” can quickly lead to Panda-related problems, since this kind of content typically violates Google’s quality guidelines.

What’s the best way to make sure your site’s SEO is up to par? Work with a leader in the online marking field. Contact Scorpion Design to take your campaign to next level!