The Only Way to Stay on Google’s Good Side after the Google Panda 4.0 Update

Do thoughts of Google search algorithm updates keep you up at night? If so, you’re doing something wrong.

It is well-known that Google has one goal in mind every time the search giant tweaks the way it ranks search results: To make the best, most relevant content rank higher.

So if videos of cute pandas make you twitchy, you might want to consider the state of your website content. The following three categories are strategies to avoid. Beneath them, you will find the only SEO strategy that is guaranteed to keep you in good standing with Google.

Unoriginal content

Reposting content from other sites, with or without attribution, is heavily frowned upon by Google. Whether it’s outright plagiarism or not, simply copying and pasting content from other sources adds zero value to the surfers of the Internet, and it dilutes the hard work of the original author. Reposting your own content across multiple sites is also detrimental. Google’s algorithm can identify duplicate content, and your SEO will get dinged for it. The best way to repurpose content is to recontextualize it for its new media and audience.

Low-quality content

Google calls it “thin” content. It’s original, sure, but it’s not adding any value. It can be fairly easy to write a click-bait headline, but when a person clicks and finds that the content does not deliver, it’s a negative experience. That person then clicks back to the search engine results page (SERP) to find a better match for what she was looking for. No one knows the inner workings of Google’s secret sauce for sure, but there is strong evidence to suggest that Google factors the SERP return rate of pages into its PageRank algorithm. So when people click on your link and quickly return to the SERP to find a better site, your SEO will suffer.

Press releases also seem to be a victim of the Panda 4.0 update. These are often optimized with keywords and hosted on sites such as and with high domain authority. However, their content can be weak. The devolution of the press release is best left for another post, but if your company is investing in press releases, this update might hurt.

Gaming the system

Keyword-stuffing is old-hat at this point, but companies are still able to find and exploit new loopholes in Google’s algorithm. In many--if not most--of these instances, Google relies on its Search Quality team to flag what it deems abusive practices. These specialists are like the inspectors in an assembly line factory who are looking for mistakes that the machines don’t detect. The Search Quality team has the authority to penalize these websites, which is then factored into the algorithm going forward and negatively affects search rankings for that site.

One high-profile case of such a penalty was RapGenius. The website, which features lyrics to rap songs and serves as a forum for discussion, allowed its back-linking strategy to spiral out of control until Matt Cutts, the leader of the Google Search Quality team, stepped in and penalized them. The site dropped to the sixth page of search results, even for the query of “rap genius.”

Since the Panda 4.0 update, people have observed a drop in eBay’s rankings. There is some debate as to whether the online auction giant was affected by the algorithm change, or if they were manually penalized like RapGenius.

Reflect on your SEO strategy

If any of the above describes the content marketing strategy of your business, you are right to be nervous, because Google has your website in its crosshairs. If they didn’t get you this time, they’ll get you soon enough.

So what is a website to do? If we don’t know what the algorithm is or will be, how can we be confident in any SEO strategy?

The only way to stay on Google's good side

Luckily, there is a guaranteed way to stay on Google’s good side. It will protect you from all future algorithm updates, you’ll enjoy nights of profound sleep, and you won’t recoil in fear from the latest viral panda gif:

Publish consistently high-quality content that you can’t find anywhere else.

It sounds simple, but it requires planning, effort, and execution. So here’s some further advice to get your content marketing on the right track:

1. Achieve quality with the CODA method.

2. Maintain consistency in 4 ways.

3. Learn how to act like a publisher.