Optimize SEO: Almost a Decade into the Panda Update


Google has had its fair share of makeovers over the years that both seasoned and rookie SEO players have experienced. As the Panda Update celebrates its 9th birthday, it is an insightful effort to see how far it has come from its conception over a decade ago.

February 24, 2011, marks the date that Panda stirred the SEO world. Black and white-hat strategists alike restructured their perspective of how they present their site through their content. I remember the days when updates such as the aforementioned Panda or Penguin update kept us on our toes on what our next move will be.

This is what makes SEO exciting, it helps keep your mind sharp as you think of strategies and innovations that can help you build your visibility on the search engines. It is arguably harder to do SEO today with all the updates sprouting about but in the end, SEO is still a zero-sum game so you will be rewarded if you play right. Having said that, let’s take a look back at how the Panda update changed SEO as we see it today.

What is the Panda update?

Panda was launched for the purpose of hunting down content farms as they grew in number. Google decided that their quality should not be compromised because of this unethical method of publishing content. Their team branded the update as a way to find higher-quality sites.

The algorithmic improvement honored sites with original content and highly relevant branding. Furthermore, it tackled trust and authority. Looking at it now, this must-have served as a sneak peek for the E-A-T metric for sites.

Before it was known around the globe as the “Panda” update, it was first called “Farmer”. This is a subtle homage to content farms that have been dramatically hurt by the update. To rehash how the update shook most of the webmasters’ world back then, it is known as the major algorithm update that affected 12% of the English search results.

This is by far and large, a heavy percentage of the listings. Businesses came to a close as they were flagged down for using unethical techniques in increasing their site’s visibility. There were many casualties but this only proved that there is a right way to do SEO.

How did it affect our team?

We are a decade strong just like the Panda update and I have witnessed how it improved the search engine by a mile. The team I lead has always practiced the best for our clients with ethical and powerful strategies that help them secure a position on the first page.

The Panda update is a blessing to us because this has helped us rise above the ranks as a team that respectably practices SEO. Personally, my blog did not suffer from this update, but we felt its effect briefly as there is a slight dip in traffic after February 24.

Fortunately, it picked right back up again. Not bad for a site that’s not even a year old by this date.

panda update

Here is a comparison of our traffic from February to March:


Traffic was steady as February only lagged behind because it is limited in the number of days. This is no surprise since I have been very strict in the articles that I write ever since. I make sure that the blog’s content is relevant to the readers and will give them the value that can help them with their goals.

The Panda update proved to be an advantage for us because it went on to help us achieve an approximately 100% increase in traffic as its version 4.0 rolled out. Practicing ethical methods to win at SEO will help you stay afloat even if you are vulnerable to getting hit by an update. It pays to be a good guy and the Panda update is a testament to that.

Optimizing for the Panda Update in 2020

There’s no such thing as stagnant SEO. It is a common misconception that optimization is a passive chore. To help you stay on the winner’s side, you must adapt and work hard together with the updates that come from the system. More than that, optimize content for user experience and it will help you as much as you are helping your audience with the content you are generating. Here are some tips to help you stay on top of things in relation to the Panda update:

Design and develop a great website

You do not need extravagant web design, you just need to have a clean one. Your content would be put to waste if you do not have the right structure for it. Begin by having a clear vision of how your site will look as you insert your content. Although you can say that this is a vanity metric, having a clean and well-maintained site helps in improving the user experience of your site visitors

Publish original content

That’s all there is to it, really. Everything goes back to content. Creating content just for the heck of traffic will bite you in the butt when you’re least expecting it. Although we have algorithm updates to guide us on the right path, always keep in mind that you should create content for people. Provide useful, evergreen, unique, and quality content and be of value to your audience. Beware of risky content strategies that veer away from helping your site build up authority against competitors.

Focus on specific topics

It is easy to fall prey to writer’s block if you focus on a distinct topic but you should keep in mind that this will help you build authority for your site. One thing that the Panda update tackled is content focus. I recommend that you plan around the content themes that you know will give value to your readers.

Key Takeaway

It’s nice to look back on this and see how far SEO has come since its early days. Today, I am leading a team of over 50 people which is also a milestone since SEO Hacker was just a one-man team. Now, we have come a long way from having a few thousand readers to an average of 60,000 users. This is a fruit of the team’s labor in satisfying user intent and optimizing according to Google standard, we will be prepared for more updates in the years to come with powerful strategies that deliver results.

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Sean Si

About Sean

is a Filipino motivational speaker and a Leadership Speaker in the Philippines. He is the head honcho and editor-in-chief of SEO Hacker. He does SEO Services for companies in the Philippines and Abroad. Connect with him at Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. Check out his new project, Aquascape Philippines.