Is Google's Panda Not Doing Its Job Well Enough?

Chris CrumSearch

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Google has been advising webmasters against publishing thin content for years. In fact, the famous/infamous Panda update was designed to weed thin content out of the high rankings of Google's search results. Obviously that hasn't completely deterred websites from producing it.

Do you think the Panda update has done its job well? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Some webmasters who have been affected by the update are still waiting on Google to launch a Panda refresh. There hasn't been one that we know of for something like seven months, which is highly unusual for Panda historically. Last week there was some talk that one may have launched, but Google denied this.

Depending on who you ask, the effectiveness of Panda has always been questionable, which is somewhat disturbing considering it has the power to kill businesses and jobs (not that this is exclusive to Panda). In recent months, the update has really come into question, considering that it apparently had a negative impact on one of the most authoritative blogs in the SEO industry.

Perhaps it's taking so long for Google to push out a new Panda update because it knows it has some serious flaws. I'm only speculating.

The company reportedly just blasted out "mass manual actions," sending webmasters warnings about thin content. Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable reports:

it seems like over the weekend, Google has issued mass manual actions over "Thin content with little or no added value."

It seems Google went after a content network and located many of the sites participating in this network and then slapping them with thin content manual actions. I do not have confirmation from Google but I received a couple notes about it over the weekend from anonymous sources and there are many threads in the various forums with people complaining about these thin content actions.

Again, such penalties are nothing new, but that doesn't mean everybody getting one understands exactly what Google means by "thin content with little or no added value".

Google says if you get such a message, it means the search engine has detected "low-quality pages or shallow pages" on your site. This may include auto-generated content, doorway pages, content from other sources (scraped or low-quality guest blog post), or thin affiliate sites.

This is in addition to the a recent algorithm update that went after doorway pages.

"These techniques don’t provide users with substantially unique or valuable content, and are in violation of our Webmaster Guidelines," Google says in a Webmaster help document. "As a result, Google has applied a manual spam action to the affected portions of your site. Actions that affect your whole site are listed under Site-wide matches. Actions that affect only part of your site and/or some incoming links to your site are listed under Partial matches."

Here's a video of Google's Matt Cutts talking about thin content with little or no added value.

Google's recommended actions for resolving your issues include reviewing the auto-generated content, affiliate program, scraped content, and doorway page guideline documentation. Then, check for content on your site that duplicates content from other sites, as well as for thin content pages with affiliate links and doorway pages/auto-generated content. Basically you'll want to get rid of any of that.

Google also points to its classic post-Panda launch blog post, which gives you a list of 23 questions to ask yourself about your site and content. These include:

1. Would you trust the information presented in this article?

2. Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?

3. Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?

4. Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?

5. Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?

6. Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?

7. Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?

8. Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?

9. How much quality control is done on content?

10. Does the article describe both sides of a story?

11. Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?

12. Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?

13. Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?

14. For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?

15. Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?

16. Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?

17. Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?

18. Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?

19. Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?

20. Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?

21. Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?

22. Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?

23. Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

It is interesting that Google has to dish out manual penalties for this stuff all this time after the Panda update launched. That combined with the fact that Panda has been MIA for so long really makes you wonder just how effective it really was.

Anyhow, if you got a manual penalty and get your site to meet these guidelines, you can submit a reconsideration request and wait for a message in Webmaster Tools, which will let you know when Google has reviewed your site. The penalty will be lifted if Google determines that you've fixed the issues adequately.

Have Google's search results reflected a successful Panda algorithm in your opinion? Share your thoughts.

Image via Thinkstock

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.