Google’s Panda Update & Its Effect On PPC

When you run a business reliant on paid search or Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising and a Google algorithm update as important and far-reaching as Panda rolls out, it’s hard not to worry. Much has been said about the Panda update and its effects on search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing – but what sort of effect does it have on PPC?

Cute, Cuddly Pandas?

Long gone are the days when pandas were cute, cuddly, black and white fur balls who dined on bamboo sprouts and delighted children in zoos. These days the word Panda is more closely associated with a Google algorithm update that has heavily influenced ranking.

First rolled out in February 2011 under the apt launch codename “Farmer,” the Panda update ultimately penalized low-quality content all across the web, hitting content farms and other article directories rife with generic, search engine fodder. In essence, Panda is less of an update and more of a ranking shift, and technically, Panda is a sifter that fires off in irregular intervals to sort through the content of the web and filter out the good from the bad content online.

Panda’s Paw-Print on Search

After the initial havoc caused by the first Panda launch, webmasters and website owners across the web had to rethink just what sort of “quality” their content had to offer. Google specified that “thin” content or content that was “not good enough” will suffer from lower rankings.

Panda is now one of over 200 factors Google uses to rank websites. After several minor and not-so-minor changes to Panda, it has become a powerful sifting tool that is more sensitive to changes in the Internet and more accurate in ranking. Other algorithm changes have taken effect, such as a shift in link evaluation processes that dictate PageRank, as well as the use of universal Google Search ranking for Local Search results, among others.

Panda’s Influence on PPC

So far Panda has contributed to drastic changes in content strategies of websites, marketing firms, and SEO providers. As for PPC, however, Panda has had almost no tactical impacts. Research into case studies of leading SEO providers found that non-paid search traffic significantly decreased after Panda hit, but PPC revenue remained relatively steady.

The implications of Panda for PPC are strategic, not tactical. Indeed, an SEO research and services firm reported that with Panda lowering the volume of traffic for low-quality sites which are generally also the low-performing sites for PPC networks, efficiency of PPC strategies across search networks should increase. The only significant, standout strategic implication of Panda for PPC is that advertisers should start focusing more on picking which publishers to show display ads on, such as any Google AdWords campaigns.

Long story short: increase PPC campaign efficiency by maximizing its pay-for-performance model. Do not ignore low-performing, Panda-hit websites simply because there is no significant and immediately actionable loss and pick your publishers based on quality of content and keyword ranking.

In retrospect, Panda has been one of the best things to happen to search for users of Google, and one of the most difficult challenges search and PPC marketers have had to face. It is changing quality metrics for content, and influencing PPC decisions like choosing publishers.