Google Panda and Google Penguin are two filtering mechanisms that Google uses to block websites from appearing in SERP results when they've disobeyed with Google's website guidelines.
There's plenty of confusion between what each of the filters do and how to figure out if you've been affected by one. I'm going to try to clear up some confusion with that today.
The Panda filter helps Google's search algorithm figure out the difference between good quality content and bad quality content on websites. Good content refers to anything that is well written, interesting, adds value to your website, and is not duplicated on another website.
What counts as good content? Google's goal is to get you to write high enough quality to be published in a book or a magazine.
Bad quality content is typically anything that you get from a low paid blog writer. I've seen a lot of bad quality articles written by people from for-hire websites like elance.com, fiverr.com, and iwriter.com. When using one of these services, you should always pay for premium writers and then edit their work before posting it to your website.
Whenever you post copy to your website, you need to ask yourself if the words written will match the goal of the page they are posted to. Every page of your website should have a goal which could be as simple as getting someone to click on the next page or it could be to invite them to call you. The copy on every page needs to convey that goal.
Product detail pages are especially tricky. On a product page, you need to ask yourself if the product description doing its best to sell the product or is it just a random story. There is a delicate balance that is difficult to master.
Over the last 10 years, Google has amassed a huge library of statistical data that they now use to mathematically figure out when the words on your website are good or bad. It's difficult to fool the Panda system and it doesn't make sense to even try any more.
If the information on your website is not satisfactory for human consumption, then the Panda filter will lower your SERP ranking.
The Penguin filter takes a different approach. It doesn't look at your website, but rather, it looks at how all other websites in the world are linking to you. Penguin counts links. It attempts to find all the links that you might have paid for in the past... "Paid for," as in, you hired an inexpensive link building company to set up thousands of links around the internet.
Many of those old link building schemes included hundreds of business listing directories, links from blog comments, and random posts on non related forums that wouldn't make sense for your business.
Penguin also looks at the anchor text you use to link from all other website to yours. The Penguin filter will interpret the repetitive use of "engagement rings" as anchor text as a paid link building strategy. The penalty is then to block your website from ranking for the phrase "engagement rings."
So Panda tests to see if your content is good to "consume" and Penguin tests to see if the links pointing to your website were not paid.
Will you remember the difference? Most people get them confused.
Let me share my memory trick to differentiate between Google's two pet black and white animals...
I think about Pandas and what I know about them... They sit around all day in China consuming bamboo. For my memory trick I relate "consuming bamboo" to Google's need to "consume content." I'm sure a real panda knows the difference between good and bad bamboo and not to eat the bad stuff, just like Google's Panda knows not to let people consume bad website content.
Now, when I think of penguins I always have that image of the cute birds sliding quickly down a snow bank with their beaks pointing towards the water. *Sploosh* then they're underwater darting around from one place to another. Their beaks always lead the way to their next destination; much like a link leads you from one place to another online. My memory trick is to relate the penguin beak that points from place to place to the link that points from one website to another. Google's Penguin knows when it's bad to follow their own beak, and they don't let people follow either.
How do you know if your website has been penalized by Penguin or Panda? You can't look yourself up on a master Google list, but you can look at your Google Analytics to see if your website traffic dropped around the time when a new version of either filter was released.
I use a few different sources to keep up with those release dates. Here they are:
Compare all the dates listed from those pages to your Analytics. Any correlation in traffic increase or decrease means you were affected by that filter.
If you don't have Google Analytics data to refer back to then simply be honest and ask yourself if you every paid for link building services or inexpensive content writing services. It doesn't matter how long ago you paid for those services; if you answer yes, then you are probably experiencing a Panda or Penguin penalty.
How do you fix it? It's going to take a lot of manual labor, which means a lot of money.