Panda Update | One Year After The Google Bomb! [Infographic]

It has been a year now since the infamous Google Panda update was covertly rolled out.

Now is probably a good time to do a bit of analysis on whether it has achieved what it set out to do.

Panda Update on Google

How has Panda altered the way people approach search engine optimization?

Did it succeed with what Google set out to achieve?

First of all…

What exactly is the Google Panda Update?

The Panda Update could be described as a clip-on rather than a change in the Google algorithm. The algorithm itself is one of the most closely guarded secrets in the world and it is amended and updated more than 500 times a year.

The Panda Update is run periodically to improve the quality of a searcher’s experience by providing search results that are as relevant as possible. It does this by penalising sites that appear to have thin or low value content.

The Update has been run ten times that we are aware of – the most recent one on January 18th of this year!

Who was the Panda Update targeting?

There had been a major build-up of poor quality content over the last few years. A huge number of Internet marketing programs were and still are being sold to new online marketers. The potential to make a ton of money by teaching people how to manipulate search engine results in order to make sales of products, businesses or services is just too attractive to resist for some people.

And the organic results were free!

A couple of years ago you could research a keyword, write an article, create a press release, make a video, post on a Web 2.0 site and publish a blog with almost identical content and you would end up with 5 or more positions in the search results on Page One for the keyword!


But of course this was decreasing the value of search results as individual marketers were able to dominate a range of keywords. This was pushing what Google (and most users) considered quality content further down the results pages.

And in order for Google to retain their massive market share advantage they needed to do something about this problem.

Large article directories like Ezine Articles had more than 300,000 authors published and the leading author had over 23,000 articles published. Of course he had a range of products he sold to teach people how to do the same thing!


And this was just one of thousands of directories.

At the same time many marketers were using software to “spin” articles for SEO back-link purposes. Spun articles have been run through software to replace a number of words with synonyms. We have all seen the junk this stuff produces – incoherent and often laughable garbage produced to hack search engines.

Other marketers were using mass-submission tools to auto-submit a piece of content to hundreds or even thousands of sites with the push of a button…

Yes, we have all seen the “turn-key” Internet marketing cash machines which make money while you sleep!

The other target Google was aiming for were “scraper sites”. These are sites where the content is ripped off other sites, stripped of links, then posted on a site illegally.

One such site which stole some of our content had over 1,000 pages, all filled with scraped content. When we investigated the person who owned the site we found out he owned over 400 domains, all loaded with other people’s stuff! And all around our content this guy had put those flashing, Vegas like banner ads selling everything dubious you can think of!

The effects of the Panda or Farmer update

Panda was also known as the Farmer Update for the first few weeks as it targeted what Google referred to as “content farms”.

These included Article Directories, Web 2.0 sites and even some news based sites.

And boy, did they get hit hard!

Many lost 90% of their traffic within days! Can you imagine the revenue loss?

These are some pretty massive sites.

Eventually as Panda has been adjusted in subsequent roll-outs some of the sites have recovered a percentage of their original traffic but the halcyon days for the big content platforms will never return. It is now unusual to see an individual article on a directory ranking on page one.

Blogs on the other hand have been rewarded substantially. Large, high quality blogs have a huge presence in search now.

Multi-author sites, guest posting, content curation, social sharing, content marketing have all benefited from the new focus on quality content.

And this has to be a good thing!

Unfortunately scraper sites are still out there and there is still a lot of junk being produced.

A couple of days ago I was offered “unique quality articles” for $1 a pop! As many as I like!

And I came across a video where a woman showed how you too could use the same software she does (only $9.95 for a limited time!) to create 250 blog posts from one original and how to auto-post one of these awesome articles on your blog every few hours and watch the cash roll in… while you sleep presumably!

Overall though I think the shift has been positive as many have found spam is not working as well as it once did. So many have had to rethink some of the black hat techniques they were using.

Honestly, how many articles do we really need on how to get your girlfriend back?

And sure, some sites which were based on good quality writing got caught up in the update as well and there has certainly been a lot written both for and against the Panda Update. But there was always going to be some collateral damage from a shift as major as this.

Most of the quality focused sites have had time now to adjust strategies to suit the new post-Panda web.

In my opinion the focus on value based content marketing coupled with ethical SEO implementation and social influence is making the web a better place for both marketers and users.

Check out the infographic below for a great summary of the Panda Update.

This is from one of our favourite SEO blogs Search Engine Land

Let us know in the comments whether the Google Panda Update has helped your website or hurt it and whether you have had to adjust your strategies to allow for the changes.

The Google Panda Update, One Year Later


About Mike Morgan
Mike Morgan works with innovative businesses in New Zealand and Australia developing custom web marketing strategies integrating SEO, Content Marketing and Social Media Optimisation. When not in front of his screens you will probably find Mike walking on beautiful Ohope Beach with wife Midge and doberman Cooper. Follow Mike on Twitter here and


  1. Hello,

    A couple of my websites, in spite of having original content, have been hit hard by the recent panda update! In your opinion, can a website recover from a panda update merely by adding more content to the affected website, or is it more complicated than that? Thanks in advance for your help and advice! 🙂

    • Hi Keith,
      I would definitely say it is a bit more complicated if you have been hit by Panda.

      If you follow the threads from the Google forums and from the various SEO blogs it is hard to get a handle on a “fix”. The current wisdom definitely leans toward adding quality content and getting this content linked to and shared but for most people that is hard work if not impossible.

      I guess the answer is in why your site has been penalised to begin with and sometimes this is hard to fathom when you are dealing with a robot.

      Welcome to the wonderful and frightening world of SEO.
      Thanks for visiting

    • Keith,

      Given that you have just done a review of Build My Rank, I expect that your rankings have been harmed by the deindexing of their entire catalogue of sites. Perhaps somebody else has already advised you on this, however you need to check Google Webmaster Tools to see if you’ve had a warning message. If so, go through and kill backlinks from BMR sites (good way to check is see whether the domain linking to you is still indexed – if not, chances are it’s BMR).

      Good luck!

      • Hi Mark,
        Yes, agree Keith would have lost out substantially but I would be interested to hear how you can KILL links from BMR sites? There are a few links to our site I would love to lose… like about 40,000! – the problem is that even if you do not invite links, people link to you… and sometimes they have their finger on a button that hits your site again and again… is that our fault?
        All the best

  2. I had a bad experience with the Panda update. I makes me depressed for quite a moment in time. Most of my websites have been affected by Panda Updates. I sympathize with you Keith. That’s why I already change my mind and make another one to recover my loss.

    • Thanks for visiting Farrel,
      If you analyse why you have been affected and make an effort to address the problem you will improve your sites not just for search engines but more importantly for human visitors.
      All the best

      • I already analyse all the situation Mike and I found all my mistakes. This time I’m striving all my best to stand up and make a better site to be productive again.

    • Farrel, do you mind to share with us what step did you take to recover from Panda Updates. I know that Google works hard in order to punish the spammers and content thin sites forever. Is it true? Do you know something about recovery?

      • Hi Margarita,
        If your sites have been removed from the index altogether you will have to address all of the issues which caused this. Then you will have to submit a reconsideration request via Webmaster Tools. If you have just been penalised then make sure you fix the problem then publish content that will link to your site. You could also “Fetch as Googlebot” to let Google know you have made the changes.

  3. Excellent blog, Mike. It’s great to see those who paste rubbish all over the Internet are getting reined in.

    • I agree Andrew,
      Nothing worse than visiting a site only to find it is barely readable because it has been written purely to game the SERPs.
      Thanks for commenting.
      All the best

  4. Pandas are really adorable and cute! 🙂 Iv’e never heard this Google Panda before.. But thanks to your post! Now I’m aware with it.. Thanks for sharing this. Keep up the good work!

  5. Personally I think that panda did a little to act against very very badly done spam sites but only really the ones with a huge amount of low quality links, these sites were never the main problem and the real spam is still ranking in the serps. I think one year on we can say 25% of the problem is over,

    • I tend to agree with you. I am shocked by the open use of black hat techniques by some SEO companies in New Zealand. It honestly blows me away that they would risk their client’s reputations in this way. And many are still getting away with it… so far. I am sure Google will continue to focus on user experience and continue to battle the spammers.
      All the best

  6. Great stuff, this is exactly what people should read, there are hundreds of unuseful resourses about Google Panda , shooting their advices and strategies. Keep doing a good job.

  7. They will never release a working solution to spam sites as the way they spam will change with each update, its a matter of keeping on top of things and keeping things moving really. Panda came out and loads of black hats gave up and some were put off. The amount of PR around panda makes people think black hat doesnt work and puts people off getting into that game but the people with real understanding just change their methods. Its going to be an ongoing arms race with who ever released the last update or developed the last tactic taking the lead!

    • Absolutely agree Poppy,
      It is an ongoing battle and I am still seeing an awful lot of black hat stuff being used here in New Zealand by supposedly reputable companies as well as straight out spammers.
      Thanks for the great comment.

  8. Great article Mike.

    I really would have hated to be in the position of article directories etc right after panda, Google really hates article directories right now.

    I thought the Google bomb was something different though, I’m sure the Google bomb is the name for when Google steps in to manually alter search results like when george bush was ranking for “miserable failure”.

    • Hi Adam,
      Thanks very much! Article directories certainly serve a valid purpose but the power has certainly shifted away from them. Personally I find their infatuation with perfect grammar a bit weird and somewhat frustrating. I have had articles declined that were written by hugely intelligent people – thought leaders in their industries – because a comma was in the wrong place!
      You may be right on the origins of the Google Bomb phrase – it was really used here purely as a catchy headline. There have been a few cases of SEO manipulation (miserable failure) to make a point – the Santorum controversy has been an interesting one to follow. Should Google have stepped in to remove a site which people were genuinely searching for because it demeaned a politician? I think the jury is out on that one.

  9. Samantha says:

    This update is automatic, and is said that it updates every 1.5 months. Not only to slap the poor quality websites, but also to benefit those websites which had original and quality content. The official Google blog has more information about the Google Panda update:

    • Thanks Samantha,
      Appreciate your input. I think Panda has really knocked back some of the spammy techniques poeple have been using to game the search engines. And there will be more – paid blog networks have been shut down over the last few days. Any lazy workarounds like these will be found and eliminated I am sure.
      All the best

  10. I’m always fearful of my sites getting penalized. I have two main sites one about pizza and the other is a social media/blogging tips website which should not get penalized, but I tend to not know what makes poor content. Of course, I’m not spinning articles as you describe in your post but when people write books, they don’t think they’ve written a piece of junk, but sometimes they do. Sometimes I even do that.

    From your post, I think my sites will be fine. I just have to keep writing good content that helps people in regard to my social media blog and entertain people in regard to my pizza site. If I continue, I think the panda will go eat shoots and leaves somewhere else.

    • Hi Brian,
      Thanks for visiting and commenting. Google gives us pretty clear indications of what is allowed and what isn’t so creating quality content and avoiding black hat seem to be the only ways to stay out of trouble. (two links? Come on Brian…)

  11. The Panda update is not perfect. However, it has made a lot of changes in the mindset of the web publishers. They are now conscious of the quality of their posts, knowing that they might pay the price for poor quality ones.

    • Thanks Manuel,
      Yes, quality content should be the focus with any online efforts. Like most search users we are tired of the junk people are publishing purely for links.

  12. Ashley Ward says:

    Thanks for the update, it is nice to know what are some changes that Google had and I am happy to know it. I like the video above, I enjoy it. Thanks!

  13. It hurt lots of websites, but I think it will be best in the long run. It just sucks for all those that had websites that got affected by these updates

  14. And how about the website owners who dropped in the Google rankings but don’t know WHAT hit them. (In other words, how do you know if it was the Panda update or some other factor?)

    • Hi Joel,
      In the end you can only make an educated guess as to which update has hurt your site. You should be monitoring Analytics and Webmaster Tools regularly to make certain you see any sudden changes in site performance – then you can usually tie any changes in with announced updates.

  15. It seems like this is not the last update – they’re quite serious at google. I’m sure we’ll hear some more news pretty soon.

    • Hi Liza,
      Yes they run Panda through every month or so and the Google algorithm is updated more than 500 times a year so you really have to keep your eye on the ball.
      All the best

  16. This sounds great for consumers. Instead of getting keyword saturated nonsense the search engine actually brings up information on what they are searching on. This is also good for the bloggers that have information that they really want to share because it will actually help people.

    • Absolutely!
      Well this is the intention anyway. But every time Google deals with a spam element some Black Hat somewhere finds another way to subvert the system.
      Thanks for visiting!
      All the best

  17. I know several respectable webmasters who lost up to 50% of their traffic due to Panda . Nevertheless, this update penalized many poor quality sites so it also had a positive side. I’m looking forward to see whether the quality sites will benefit from these updates on the long term

    • Hi Jack,
      It must be tough to be one of the “good guys” who were unfairly hurt by Panda. And there is really nothing you can do about it apart from continuing to produce quality content and avoiding anything spammy. One Panda benefit is that scraper sites seem to be less visible – this has to be a good thing!

  18. You are right to an extent; the intent of Google’s Panda update was just that. But unfortunately many genuine and sites with quality content are being hit by it which is a matter of concern.

    • Thanks Becca,
      I have seen some prominent international SEOs complaining that their clients had been hurt by Panda even though they had tons of valuable content on their sites so I guess that some were unfairly penalised. However any efforts to clean out some of the junk on the web has to be a good thing in my opinion.
      All the best

  19. Honestly, I love the Panda updates. Each time I have received more traffic and visitors. I am assuming because it is my competition that is getting thrown in the mix of violators.

    I have been going the slow route of building backlinks and SEO by hand. It is frustrating some times to see junk websites a head of mine in the SERPs for keywords I am targeting. However each update sees me move closer and closer to the top.

    Users and Google alike appreciate real content written for humans, not bots.

    • Hi Scott,
      Thanks for the great comment! Nice work on building backlinks by hand – absolutely what you should be doing and I know what grueling work that is.
      It is always frustrating when you see how often junk is still able to gain high positions even if it is relatively short lived. To demonstrate how much junk gets through one of the big US SEO blogs (can’t recall which one but I think it was SEO Book) surveyed the top US spots for “SEO company” and found that all of the top 10 had dubious and spammy link profiles and none of the most highly respected and sought after companies were among them. This pointed to Google not being on their game even with Panda and the other spam and link spam targeted algorithm updates. Eventually each of the borderline techniques will be discounted or penalised and the search results will get closer to delivering accurate and relevant results… we hope!
      All the best

  20. Great article, I enjoyed reading it.

    Quick question: what’s your take on press release distribution services that syndicate press releases on multiple websites? Ones like PR Newswire, Businesswire and Realwire.

    Lots of people embed keywords in releases too – I don’t know if this makes the situation worse too?

    Thanks for your thoughts in advance and keep up the great blog.

    • Hi Phil,
      Great question. Before Panda press release marketing was much like article marketing. It was about high volume not high quality and you could find free auto-approve press release sites which would allow 2-3 links per release. These sites have lost a lot of their power now and the links are much lower value. The most valuable Press Release sites unfortunately seem to be the ones that charge the highest price and the reason why they are valuable is because journalists trawl them looking for stories – if they get picked up by a large paper the natural back-link benefits can be very useful. $400 per release tends to get rid of a lot of marketing spam.

  21. Thanks for the reply Mike, interesting thoughts. I appreciate you coming back to me.

    Press release distribution sites are interesting. In the US they tend to be used more by journalists than the UK (don’t know about NZ!), probably partly a cultural thing and partly down to the size of the country and multi timezone factor.

    So, when distributed in the UK they tend to get picked up on lower ranking websites than the national newspaper sites or tier one trade and technical publications. Some of these strip out the hyperlinks, others leave them in.

    But seeing as the content is the same, I was wondering if the site (and therefore company distributing the release) would be penalised for a) content farming (OK on a very light level) or b) repetition of content? I guess the news site carrying the content could be penalised, but would the destination site for the hyperlinks (the company distributing the release) be penalised too?

    I agree with your point about the freebie sites. I stopped using these years ago because it always seemed to be poor quality, regardless of the Panda factor, but I’m wondering how it’ll affect the PR Newswires of this world.

    Perhaps a subject worth exploring in its own right for a future blog post? 😉

    • Cheers Phil,

      Good points. Interesting to note the geographic and cultural differences when it comes to almost all facets of online behaviour. Now that would make an interesting infographic – I really notice the different time zones kicking in on Twitter. People from the UK tend to share slightly different content to people from Canada who share different content to the US…

      Anyway I digress. Having duplicate versions published on other sites is fortunately not a bad thing otherwise no one would syndicate RSS or republish in any way (apart from the scapers of course). But will sites that are primarily republishing be seen as content farms? Probably! If that was their main purpose. Note how the really powerful sites will only accept opinion pieces that are unique.

      Would the destination site be penalised? Not unless press releases which ended up in bad neighbourhoods were a site’s major source of link building which would point to a pretty poorly realised and unnatural SEO strategy.

      Curating content has to be managed pretty carefully in order to gain the benefits that being a great information source can bring without hitting low value duplication penalties. Who knows what the actual percentage of new highly linked to and shared content is to republished content from elsewhere?

      Google certainly won’t let on.

      Thanks for the great conversation. I will definitely keep this in mind for a future post.


  22. Thanks Mike, I really appreciate the insight. Look forward to reading future posts on your blog.


    • Thanks Phil,
      Likewise! I will be checking out your blog regularly – nice work. Thanks for visiting and starting the dialogue.

  23. Nice post which this was decreasing the value of search results as individual marketers were able to dominate a range of keywords. This was pushing what Google considered quality content further down the results pages. Thanks a lot for posting this article.

    • Thanks Julia,

      Panda has been pretty big news with each of the rollouts this year. Unfortunately I have seen good quality, highly trustworthy sites punished for accidental duplication. Technical compliance is becoming more important all the time.


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