Over the past few years, Google has shaken up its algorithm and search results with two major updates, Panda and Penguin. They forced many people to change the way they optimize their sites for search engines. Many people often confuse the Panda and Penguin updates so here is just some basic background info.
Panda -Started in February 2011 with the goal of decreasing the rank of low quality sites. Just a little duplicate or poorly written content could hurt an entire site. Human testers rated thousands of websites on different quality factors and then used those qualities in its panda algorithm. It affected almost 12% of all google searches worldwide. more info
Penguin – Went live in April 2012. This updated was aimed at sites that appeared to be over optimized. Sites that appeared to be using manipulative techniques and working too hard to attract search engine rankings were the targets. For example, a page having all the same anchor text linking into them might have dropped in the rankings. more info
If you are wondering how your sites did with these updates take a look at the Panguin Tool from Barracuda Digital. It uses your Google analytics data and overlays it with annotations of the different Panda and Penguin updates. Above is a chart of one of my sites and the various updates over the past year. Overall my sites did ok with the updates. Some of them lost traffic, other gained some, but my larger sites with fresh content fared the best.
This information is useful because you can use it to improve your sites and recover from ranking and traffic loss. When you see which updates seem to have hurt your site you do something about it. I’ve found two great articles about how to recover from panda and penguin.