Google Panda, the algorithm policing site ‘quality’, has been officially baked into Google’s core ranking algorithm.
Confirmation came via Google Webmaster trends analyst Gary Illyes on Twitter, following a weekend of speculation among the SEO industry surrounding the nature of the update.
Can't pin down this weekend Google update. Something odd happened around 1/8 that it almost looks like Google reversed (in part).— Dr. Pete Meyers (@dr_pete) January 12, 2016
Introduced in February 2011, Panda seeks to penalise sites with content that is considered low quality, meaning domains hosting pages with high-quality content rise within the search results.
However, up until last week, Panda was added only as a spam-filter to search results after Google’s core algorithm had done its job. Its full integration could well signal the last time we hear of any updates made specifically for Panda, but future changes to Google’s core algorithm could be connected.
The full impact of the update was dissected in a Google-reviewed blog by The SEM Post on Monday, which suggests that - as was the case last year - removal of perceptively poor-quality content could be doing your search rankings more harm than good, with webmasters at risk of removing quality content and losing traffic.
Instead, the onus should lie in fixing the quality of existing content for more reliable analysis of Panda’s impact on your site’s pages, and more effective improvements to rankings
Advertising and affiliates
In regards to display ads, the message is that Panda shouldn’t be an issue unless the inventory is overly intrusive; an aspect that’s ranked by Google’s page layout algorithm, which down-ranks pages with an excess of ‘above-the-fold” ads, where user experiences suffer as a result.
However, affiliate links that detract from the content of the page will be at risk of penalty from Panda, where an overkill hints at revenue being a priority over user experience, according to a Google spokesperson speaking to The SEM Post.
“An extreme example is when a site’s primary function is to funnel users to other sites via ads or affiliate links, the content is widely available on the internet or it’s hastily produced, and is explicitly constructed to attract visitors from search engines,” they continued.
“The Panda algorithm may continue to show such a site for more specific and highly-relevant queries, but its visibility will be reduced for queries where the site owner’s benefit is disproportionate to the user’s benefit.”
That’s not to say that affiliate sites are singled out though - just that many reflect the attributes of “Panda sites”. The best performers are those with quality, original content that aren’t (obviously at least) seeking traffic with the sole aim of conversions.