Google’s Panda update released in early 2011 changed the game forever on how Google views and gives recognition and penalties to pages and websites with duplicate content. Many people were angry and frustrated by this update because they saw a big drop in their keyword rankings.
Our opinion is that the Panda update was an overall positive change, and something long overdue. Websites with tremendous amounts of copied, stolen, and duplicate content were ranking incredibly well, which encouraged more plagiarism, spun content, and poor quality websites. If this continued, more and more poor quality content would be created, which effectively fills the internet with junk, and rewards companies using shortcuts and black/grey-hat SEO tactics.
Duplicate content was penalized
Panda update ensured that the websites with duplicate content (content that is also on other webpages) did not receive as much authority or recognition as they previously did. It has effectively leveled the playing field because websites that take other people’s content are not getting recognition from it, and even often receive a penalty if they are egregious offenders.
Since having duplicate or spun content on a website lowers its recognition, links from those sites are less valuable as well, which is another reason why many sites experienced a drop in rankings after the Panda update. If a site has duplicate content throughout its own site, as well as links from sites with duplicate content, they will be penalized. We’ve noticed with our ecommerce SEO clients that the degree of the penalty (i.e. keyword ranking drop) is relative to the amount of duplicate content on the site itself, as well as the sites linking to their website.
Impact on ecommerce websites
The Panda update did have what many felt was an unintended consequence for ecommerce websites, that we specifically noticed with many of our Magento SEO clients. The problem was with product descriptions, because many ecommerce sites use the same manufacturer product descriptions for their products, rather than re-writing them. So, what happened was if 50 websites are selling the same set of products, and they all used the manufacturer’s product descriptions, they were all hit with a duplicate content penalty. The good news is that over time, this penalty has decreased because Google must’ve corrected the issue on ecommerce sites and made duplicate product descriptions have less of a penalty.
However, that doesn’t make duplicate content any less of an issue and unique content any less important for ecommerce websites. Having optimized written content on the homepage, category, and sub-category pages is critical to a website’s SEO success. The more unique and relevant text throughout a website, the better, because Google uses the text on your site to determine what your site is about, give it authority, and also determine keyword rankings. 250-500 words is what we recommend to be on every keyword landing page (homepage and category/sub-category pages) in order to get the most recognition and “SEO juice” from Google.
So, the consequences of the Panda update are that poor quality websites with little or no unique and original content are devalued, as are the links from those websites, and websites with more unique and relevant content are given more authority and higher keyword rankings. This is a step in the right direction because it promotes good quality content to be created and shared.