On April 19th, Panda 3.5 was released. Then, on the 24th, we got the infamous Penguin update. Finally, on the 27th, we got a Panda “refresh.” Since 2011, Panda has been changing the way we search, and Penguin has been busy making changes since 2012. There have been so many updates for both of these algorithms, we are starting to get used to them, sort of. Penguin 3.0 was released on October 17, 2015, more than a year from the previous one. The last couple of Penguin updates have been pretty minimalistic. Panda released 4.1, the 27th update on September, 23rd 2014. This update proved to be significant, with about 3-5% of all queries affected. 

It’s crucially important to know the differences between Panda and Penguin. Since Penguin is huge news, most webmasters who see a traffic drop automatically blame it on Penguin. But remember – Panda was updated several times in the past years but hasn’t gotten nearly as much publicity.

So in today’s article, we’ll be talking about the differences between Panda and Penguin. If your site got hit by these updates, this article should help you determine which algorithm is to blame.

Panda: Quality is King

We’ve written a lot on Panda. “New SEO” enthusiasts know all about the “golden rule of Google.”

Google is a business. Google wants to provide its customers with a top-quality product (high quality and relevant search results). This is what Panda was all about – making sure only the highest quality sites reach the top of the rankings.

Panda’s about content. It’s about making sure you have long, compelling articles. Panda’s about bounce rates, average time on site, number of pages visited. 

Remember SEO post-Panda? The days when article directory backlinks were considered one of the best ways to get a new site ranking? The days when entire websites consisted of outsourced “500-word articles”?

With Panda, those days are over – forever. In order to rank on page #1 of Google, your website needs to be worthy of page #1. It has to be one of the 10 best results for a particular keyword – on the entire net. This is no easy task to complete, but it can be done. In all honestly, if you have been practicing a high standard of quality on your website, you may have actually noticed a jump in your rankings. As other sites were being penalized for duplicate content, low-quality outsourced content, and poor design interfaces on their sites, yours could have been rewarded for practicing that high-quality standard. 

Did Panda kill SEO? Of course not. But it definitely made it harder. Harder because you couldn’t outsource your way to the top anymore. If you wanted to reach rank #1, you need to be rank #1.If you feel like this is not fair, think about Google for a moment. If Google was simply trying to supply quality search results to their users, how can you blame them for cleaning out the trash? They wanted to ensure that their visitors were greeted with only the most relevant, most popular, and most beneficial sites for their queries, so if that was not you, they needed to ensure you DID NOT show up. 

So did your site get hit by Panda? There are a few ways to find out. First, check your analytics – see what days your traffic dropped. Check the Moz page for the history of updates and check which one occurred at the time of your penalty or traffic loss. 

Additionally, give your site a quality check. What are the bounce rates? What kinds of content do you have on your website? Do you have an active community? If you determine your site was low quality to begin with, it’s likely Panda did some damage.

Penguin: Webspam and Over Optimization

Where Panda is all about assessing site quality, Penguin is more of a “punishment” algorithm. Every once in a while, Google releases an update that hurts sites that are using shady tactics to rank well.

Before Penguin, we didn’t really know what “over-optimization” consisted of with Google. Well, we had an idea, but now we’re a lot more certain. Why? Penguin affected a LOT of sites. We can look at these sites and figure out why they got penalized.

It turns out Google’s a lot stricter than we thought. Although Panda hurt a lot of link-building strategies, it didn’t kill them all completely. Even Penguin hasn’t done that, yet. However, Penguin has shown many link-building strategies that worked post-Panda are still under-considered by Google to be “abuse.”

Over-optimizing can mean a lot of things. It could mean keyword stuffing, it could mean unnatural link building, it could mean hiding search terms in your footer… the list goes on. Panda and Penguin work together to some degree when it comes to over-optimization. Panda is requiring you to have quality content, and Penguin looks at all those short keyword-stuffed articles as well and then penalizes you. 

So how do you know if you got hit by Penguin? Well, for starters, check the dates. If your loss matched a date when a Penguin update was released, chances are, it is the culprit.

Have you been over-optimizing? Is the anchor text in your on-site links all the same? Do you use too many of the same keywords in your articles? Have you been building links through link networks or through other “grey hat” methods?

There has been a lot of controversy over the two algorithm updates. Some people consider the updates to be harmful, while others see them as beneficial. It really boils down to how you were handling your SEO strategies. If you were focusing on black hat or grey hat SEO strategies, such as buying links, over-optimizing keywords for a better rank, or outsourcing for low-quality content, then you were probably among the group of people that were unhappy about the updates. If you were already using high-quality white hat SEO practices, then chances are you were among the ones who were happy about the updates.

Many of the updates provided an opportunity for smaller businesses to enter the number #1 ranking position in the search engine results pages. With less competition from businesses that were using large amounts of marketing dollars to “game” the search engines into believing they were relevant, the actual relevant sites with less marketing budget dollars were able to climb on top. 

How to Get More SEO Tips

When you know what algorithm hit you, you know how to make the appropriate fixes. With Panda, it means upping the quality standard of your site. With Penguin, it means removing bad links and toning down optimization efforts.

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Lastly, don’t forget to run a free on-page analysis on your site using our free tool. If you over-optimized, it can help you figure out what changes to make