The Google Panda update refers to major algorithm changes to the way Google ranks pages. It was rolled out in stages, beginning in early March 2011 and continued all the way to June 2011. Here is a detailed timeline and what each stage was changing.

February 24th 2011 – First Google Panda Update (Farmer Update)
This update went after “low quality content sites” or “content farms” where most of their content was either duplicate, scraped, spun or just simply low quality. This update is said to have affected 12% of search queries. One of the biggest sites that seen the hardest hit from this was Ezinearticles.com which had become the top article directory for affiliates and marketers to use to rank their articles. If your site doesn’t contain useful relevant contain for your keywords, then your site would have most likely dropped in this update. This also applies to future sites/articles you may be working on, this update has changed the Google algorithm permanently so any future low quality sites to arise will be sure to have a lot of trouble ranking. Here is what Google had to say about those innocent caught in the crossfire:

Note that as this is an algorithmic change we are unable to make manual exceptions, but in cases of high quality content we can pass the examples along to the engineers who will look at them as they work on future iterations and improvements to the algorithm.

April 11th 2011 – Google Panda Update 2.0
The original update impacted only U.S English based search queries, this update now includes all English based queries on a global scale. So if your site wasn’t affected on the first update, then was on this update you now know why. Also included in this update was Google blocking data which was added to their browser Google Chrome, and the search results themselves where you can now block content from a site after visiting it. This just provides more data for google to analyze to help determine what’s a low quality site and what’s not based on real user interaction.

May 2011 – Google Panda Update 2.1
This update was less publicized and impacted a much smaller scale of search queries and websites. While Google refused to release any official numbers on the impact of this “minor update”, many professional SEO’ers out there noticed the update and Google was to quick confirm the small update.

June 2011 – Google Panda Update 2.2
This iteration of the panda updates was to reinforce their filter against scraping sites. These are sites that use bots to automatically scrape content from major news and article directories. Some of these bots are even capable of spinning the content prior to publishing it to help get by the duplicate content filter, but the content comes out fairly mangled with some sentences that make no sense. So perhaps this update was to target these bots more efficiently…

“We’re continuing to iterate on our Panda algorithm as part of our commitment to returning high-quality sites to Google users.  This most recent update is one of the roughly 500 changes we make to our ranking algorithms each year.”

In reality, there will never be an end to the Google Panda updates based on a quote like that. It seems this one was just so popular because it affected such a large percentage that it had to have a name.

Panda Update Affects Low Quality Linkbuilding

Somewhere along the line Google threw in an update to give less weight to low quality spam links. When this occurred is still up for debate, but what isn’t are the effects it has had. The low quality links I am talking about are mainly Scrapebox blog comments and Xrumer profile links.

Scrapebox blog comments are usually easy to spot, as you will see hundreds of other spam comments with outbound links on the post. These spammed posts are the result of the webmaster not using anti-spam protection like Akismet, and leaving comments open. These pages are referred to as auto approve, and there are lists of hundreds of thousands of these auto approve blog pages floating around.

Xrumer profile links are the other low quality backlinks that seemed to have been affected by Google Panda. These links are just profiles on forums that allow you to add a website, and signature. So your backlink would effectively be the link to your profile at said forum. Just like Scrapebox, you could easily obtain huge lists of forums to create these profiles on.

Using too many of these links with no other link diversity is now a great way of doing nothing to help your site and in some cases, even hurt your site. If you have a low quality content site, and throw a couple thousand of these low quality links at it, you are basically waving a white flag to Google saying “Hey look at this site, it’s complete crap!”.

There have even been some case studies I have been watching where people are testing the affects of mass amounts of these low quality links used against competitors in attempts to sabotage. From what I have gathered so far though, it seems to only work on thin, low quality sites.

Not sure how to go about linkbuilding post panda update?

Feel free to discuss any of the above below…