Ever since Google first rolled out the Panda “upgrade” to how it ranks search engine results in 2011, online entities have been taking a dip, due to the newly-configured algorithms that more harshly judge web site and page rankings. In 2014, the latest version of Google’s search engine results decider Panda 4.0 was introduced, and many more websites fell to the search engine parameters thresher. Panda vehemently vets-out sites and URLs it deems of low quality, pushing them lower in the overall rankings, while also pushing those of decidedly higher-quality to the top of the SERP’s. Why is Google doing this? To encourage those sites that “create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics,” according to an April 2012 Google Webmaster Central Blog post.

Panda SEO

The whole Google Panda platform and cycle was designed to both show results of more “worthy” web sites and pages, and push site owners to provide more original, authoritative content. Case in point: Aggregator websites are ranking much lower post-Panda 4.0, and, many would argue, for good reason. Aggregator sites like Press portals, celebrity and gossip-column news sites, price comparison sites, and some Weather and Forum portals repackage and present content already extant on the Web. The hue and cry of Panda supporters then being, “Why rank those sites that are simply recycling original content above or on par with those whose content is original, fresh, and authoritative?”

The Searchmetrics Panda Results

Searchmetrics analyzed the effects of the Panda updates and listed the winners and losers, which could almost be grouped together by industry, or category. Sites like globalpost.com, spoonful.com, and songkick.com lost more than 75% of their former Google rank standing; gossip columns like thehollywoodreporter.com and aceshowbiz.com lost more than 50%, as did examiner.com. Conversely, sites that provided salient medical and health content like emedicinehealth.com and medterms.com increased their ranking by more than 500%. Interestingly, Zimbio.com, which is a celebrity gossip and trend-oriented site also went up by 500%. The difference? Original and relevant content combined with popularity, instead of recycling already-available or even questionable content.

Google as the Decider

Many who do business on the Web are (rightly) concerned about what one single company thinks is relevant, over what many others might consider relevant. And, just how does Google define or distinguish a high-quality page from one of low-quality, given the many millions of pages the monolithic search engine has to sift through?

A “relevant” answer to that question can be found in an article posted by Google’s own Webmaster Central Blog in in 2011 (the year of the first Panda rollout, remember) under the headline “What counts as a high-quality site?” The article asked the following pointed questions (of a prospective site visitor) towards determining a web site or web page’s relevancy:

We all know what Google and its Panda are doing to web pages that fail to get the visitor to answer yes to any and all of those queries. So, in one sense it has hurt the business of certain sites, like the aforementioned Aggregator types. It has also hurt the rankings of those well-meaning yet not-up-to-par search-engine-wise sites that don’t mean to be spammy but are now basically counted as such by the Google-Panda bearing down on unoriginal or “untrustworthy” sites. In another sense, it’s a very good Web filter and is raising the bar for those who own or curate websites, blogs, and who publish articles on the Web. “You better have something useful and original to say, or you won’t be a high-ranking site,” says Google’s fierce Panda bear, which is shaking the tree, letting the old and stale fruit fall, and allowing new, relevant content to replace it.

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