It has been three years since Google Panda made its introduction, and a lot has changed for the web-verse since this time. The initial goal of Panda was to give users fast, relevant answers to their search queries. At the time, Matt Cutts and Amit Singhal admitted that in order to reach this goal, there would be a lot of fine tuning required. Most updates and refreshes would be subtle, but Panda was a big one, affecting nearly 12 percent of queries.

Now, three years later, has Panda really improved search results for Google? Has it lived up to its expectations?

Well, that’s debatable. At least for some people.

The short answer is yes. Panda has refined the search query experience for users. Results are more accurate. Users are led to better content and good standing websites. In fact, most users never look beyond the first few search results because they trust what’s at the top of the page. They’re able to find exactly what they need in a matter of seconds.

That being said, Panda has also created a lot of challenges for marketers. Many solid websites have been penalized by the update and have spent the last few years trying to pull themselves back up. Some sites haven’t been able to get traffic where it once was. This is frustrating, to say the least, and it takes away from the experience of building a great website that positively reinforces the brand and attracts a niche audience.

To deal with this, some sites like Inside (previously Mahalo) and Rap Genius are going the mobile app route so that their content can’t be penalized by Google. But other sites are following suit with Google’s demand for quality content. Facebook recently made changes to their News Feed algorithm to favor high-quality content. The difficulty is that Facebook doesn’t define what criteria constitutes good content.

At least Google has been fairly straightforward about what high-quality content is. The trouble is that words like engaging, compelling and enjoyable are subjective. Matt Cutts does recommend that sites that aren’t ranking well should remove or at least refresh content that has duplicate or unhelpful material. It’s a good place to start. At one time, some content was better than none, but now, that mentality can hurt businesses.

Panda isn’t loved by everyone. And there are still refinements that need to be made to ensure that the right websites are rewarded. Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula for this, which is why there have been a handful of updates and refreshes, as well as additional algorithms like Penguin and Hummingbird. What we can say is that there is a more even playing ground for today’s websites, and with diligence, consistently good content and a willingness to adapt to new changes, businesses young and old, big or small can secure a top spot in the search results.