As business owners and Internet marketers everywhere adjust to Google’s newest search algorithm changes, Penguin, it’s time to take a refresher course with last year’s update, Panda.

First and foremost, the Panda update last year was designed for one important aspect: quality. The Panda algorithm change helped bring high-quality websites to the forefront of Google’s search listings.

Many changes made were subtle ones that few would notice. Overall though, the changes ended up impacting nearly 12 percent of search queries. This is because the update was designed to bring down rankings for low-quality sites — sites with low-value for users, copied content from elsewhere or sites that are just plain not useful. Simultaneously, the update provided better rankings for higher-quality sites — sites with original, fresh content and information like research, quality reports and useful analysis.

So how did businesses – and more importantly, their websites – adapt? Some site owners and Internet marketers felt justified in finally seeing their wholesome efforts at genuine search-engine optimization (SEO) paying off. Others felt the heat severely in the search engine result pages (SERPs) for tactics like keyword stuffing, cloaking, hidden text, and doorway pages (a.k.a. grey and black hat SEO tactics).

Some of the latter were marketing professionals who were rooted in SEO know-how, though many of those punished by the update were people who turned their site over to an agency, or people who just plain didn’t know the rules.

Quality website owners needed to reject buying inbound links and instead focus on controlling a quality site, increasing the frequency with which they generated thoughtful, useful content, and creating a well-managed network. Internet marketers willing to dedicate time to these practices saw more quality visitors and enjoyed a wide reach due to their affiliation with other high-quality, relevant sites.

Panda also targeted sites that featured spammy content, were littered with ads, and just generally low-quality and low-caliber. This is where that aforementioned 12 percent statistic comes into play.

What this meant is that Internet marketing had to focus more on writing for people, instead of at them. Market research, talking to users on social networks, and creating online personas and brands now take precedence over content stuffing and other shady tricks. Marketers and site owners should learn what their audience actually wants to read, and address those topics in a beneficial way.

Perhaps the biggest update to come from Panda was Google’s rewarding of content that is timely, which impacts 35 percent of searches. Marketers can be rewarded in the SERPs for staying abreast of breaking news and being the first to offer analysis and coverage. Marketers should use their role of first-responder by establishing their sites (and brands) as a thought leaders in their particular industries. The network will be rewarded, as will the site itself and its placement in the SERPs.

The bottom line? Quality needs to come first when it comes to Internet marketing and running a website. That’s why it’s important to either sit down and learn all you can with correct SEO procedures, or have the right agency take care of SEO for you. When learning about SEO on your own, ensure you’re consulting reliable information. For basic SEO, most of the main search engines provide guides that explain industry best standards. These guides give the basics on what is considered acceptable or not, and can serve as a good starting point. For advanced SEO tactics, users will have to consult company blogs and announcements.