Panda, Penguin, and Pigeon

I’m sharing slides from one of the presentations I did at WordCamp Kansas City this year.

Please feel free to download the slides for Pandas, Penguins, and Pigeons. Google’s algorithm changes frequently, but some algorithm changes upset people more than others. Since a lot of the reaction to algorithm changes is emotional, it’s easy to miss the point. Basically, Google’s search algorithm is Google’s product. People will only buy Google’s ads if the search works well enough to keep people coming back.  So Google works continually to improve the algorithm.


Panda made a lot of people angry. Panda was a crackdown on “thin” or poor quality content, including things like duplicate content, “spun” content, keyword stuffed articles with little value, and way more ads than content. Not only does this describe a lot of people’s business plans, but the changes were often big, as you can see in the screenshot below (not a client of ours).


As the screenshot below shows, some people also benefited from Panda. All the traffic lost by the site shown above had to go somewhere, and it typically went to competitors with better content.


Panda is part of the core algorithm, which means that your site can still be affected by Panda today. The solution is simple: write valuable content for your visitors.


The Penguin update punished people who did shady linkbuilding. Unnatural links, thin content pages with lots of links coming to them, links from link farms — all of these signs of sneaky linkbuilding brought on the wrath of the Penguin. 3P7

Google has advised people just to quit linkbuilding, because there has been so much bad behavior around manipulating links. But social media, honest and aboveboard linking out to others so they’ll do the same when they mention you, and trustworthy links in relevant directories are all good ways to help people find your content. Just make sure your content is worth linking to.


Pigeon wasn’t about penalties, but it made a big difference in search. The screenshot below shows pre-Pigeon search results for “bakery fayetteville ar.”


Post-Pigeon results are simpler, fewer (if there were enough options in your town to show a list of seven before), and closer geographically.


You’ll also notice that the results show reviews more clearly. Other signs of business quality and traditional search ranking factors are part of Pigeon. You should include the name of your neighborhood, not just your town, when you optimize for local search now. Pigeon doesn’t penalize sites with less geo-targeting, but it certainly rewards those who make the effort to locate their businesses precisely.


As always, algorithm changes can harm those who are using SEO tips and tricks, but not those who make a sincere effort to provide the best possible user experience and to communicate well with search engines.

Thanks to 454 Creative for permission to use the super-cute Panda Penguin Pigeon graphic at the top of the post!






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