While it might sound like the lead-in to a really lousy joke, online marketers like yourself surely know that the Penguin and Panda algorithm changes are a very serious matter in the online world. But do you really know the difference? All too often, webmasters fail to do the research and just pick up the latest lingo from the Warrior Forum or some other IM meeting place and squeeze it in with the other terms they use when wanting to sound like they know what they’re talking about.

Now, I know you’re not one of of “those ones,” but just in case you haven’t had time to get up to speed or are new online, let’s take a brief look at the Penguin and the Panda updates to get an idea of what they are and what they look at.

penguins and pandas

Source: flickr.com/photos/grantwickes


The Penguin Update

This algorithm came along in April of last year (2012), really changing the game online. For a long time, even otherwise honest online marketers had given into a kind of evolution, where all successful SEO involved a bit of spamming, and were rationalizing to themselves that it was the only way to compete with the “real spammers” on the Internet.

You know the drill. People were (and still are to some degree) stuffing their websites full of awkward keyword strings and placing anchor text links all over the Internet, wherever they wanted and in as many places as possible.

But the Penguin update put an end to that – or at least dampered the effect of these shady tactics, which had become so commonplace. Simply put, if you or your client’s rankings were totaled by Penguin, you needed (and maybe still need) to start rethinking your linking strategies and looking for ways to undo damage you’d created with your efforts.

Even Google spokesman Matt Cutts himself has specifically stated that you should be looking at your links if the Penguin flew off with your search engine rankings. Always a good person to pay attention to…

The Panda Update

In September, things got dicey with Google rankings again, at least for those people out there trying to grab the money and run rather than build a real business online. We think of Pandas as cute, chubby, and otherwise peaceful bears, but this guy came in chomping the positioning of thin, low-quality sites to bits.

What was the focus? Unlike the more link-focused Penguin, Panda seemed primarily concerned with with the quality of a site’s content, and SEOs noticed that most sites affected by the change had thin content (very few words on a page or poor quality), scraped content, or duplicate content. Many demolished rankings belonged to one-page sites with very little to offer.

A lot of pros have dubbed Panda the Farmer Update because of its particularly savage taste for the content farms that had become the bane of the Internet.

One thing to note is that sites were affected by Panda even if they were mostly good sites with thin or duplicate content on just a small percentage of their pages. This is one of the headaches when it comes to doing SEO right – even honest efforts can get caught in the crossfire when changes are made.

There you have it – the basic differences between these two algorithms, as far as the SEO pros can tell. Of course, there’s a lot more to tackling these animals than this, but we’ve just touched on the basics today. Stay tuned for future articles about specific challenges and advice on how to rank post-Penguin and -Panda.