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What does Google’s core algorithm change mean for your small business?

By Alexandra Gavril - January 18, 2016

Google Panda is now officially part of Google’s core ranking algorithm. Google confirmed that this past weekend there was a core ranking change but that it was unrelated to Penguin, the update we’ve been waiting for since December 2015.

Don’t know what Google Panda is? It’s a series of algorithm updates designed to identify and weed out low-quality websites with duplicate content. The purpose is to penalise sites with poor content and, at the same time, bring higher quality websites at the top of the search results. Learn more about Google Panda and what small businesses should focus on to increase their rankings through great content as well as how avoid a penalty.

The news of this update was first reported by Jennifer Slegg, speaker and search engine marketer, who received quotes from Google confirming that Panda is now part of the core ranking algorithm:

“Panda is an algorithm that’s applied to sites overall and has become one of our core ranking signals. It measures the quality of a site, which you can read more about in our guidelines. Panda allows Google to take quality into account and adjust ranking accordingly.

Both Gary Illyes and John Mueller of Google have confirmed on Twitter that the changes that webmasters saw over the weekend of 9th/10th January was a core ranking algorithm update.

What’s also important to clarify is that the ranking fluctuations aren’t related to Panda signals, as Gary Illyes of Google confirmed on Twitter:

So here’s what we know:

  • A core algorithm update took place over the weekend
  • Panda is now part of Google’s core algorithm
  • The ranking fluctuations aren’t related to a Panda update

What’s the difference now that Google added Panda into their core algorithm?

Google’s Panda update was first introduced in February 2011 as a search filter that was meant to prevent sites with poor quality content from showing up at the top of Google’s search results. This means that it was a spam filter that was applied to the search results only after the core ranking algorithm did its job. The difference now is that Panda is rolled into the core ranking algorithm.

So now that Panda has merged with Google’s core algorithm, search results will no longer be subjected to a separate Panda update and then to Google’s core algorithm, but together and simultaneously.

What should small businesses do to remain in Google’s ‘good books’?

Keep in mind that Panda was first introduced not only to weed out poor quality content from Google’s search results but also to bring sites with useful content at the top of the search results. With Panda now part of the core algorithm, quality will become paramount to a site’s success in the search results.

If you’re already doing a great job at creating useful and interesting content for your visitors, keep that up. Providing researched and purposeful information that people are searching for should be your main focus from now on, if it isn’t already. So when you’re creating content, make it your mission to help people with your content, and not to generate as much traffic as you can.

Jennifer Slegg has published a super comprehensive guide to Panda and has updated it to include some further pointers from Google.

Here are a few takeaways:

Stop worrying about the volume of visits, and focus on being useful instead:

“At the end of the day, content owners shouldn’t ask how many visitors they had on a specific day, but rather how many visitors they helped.”

Build some new paths, rather than trying to cover up your tracks:

“Instead of deleting those pages, your goal should be to create pages that don’t fall in that category: pages that provide unique value for your users who would trust your site in the future when they see it in the results.”

Try your best to meet your searcher’s expectations

“You might have an amazing piece of content, but if you are ranking for particular queries that don’t give people what they are looking for, Google could perceive it as poor quality content.”

Have someone unconnected with your website visit it and then give feedback

“I’d also recommend going through Amit’s 23 questions together with someone who’s not associated with your website, for example after having them complete various tasks on your site and on other similar sites. As you mention Panda, which is an algorithm that focuses on the quality of the content, I’d also like to suggest that you take a good look at the quality of your own content.”

Wrapping up

This is what we know so far about Panda now being part of Google’s core algorithm but we except more information to roll in soon. There was also another core algorithm update over the weekend of 16th/17th January, but little information is available about it as of yet.

What are your thoughts on Google adding Panda to its ranking algorithm?