Google Announces Algorithm Update: Panda 4.0

Google recently announced a new update to the Panda algorithm which is being deemed, Panda 4.0. Here is some useful information about algorithm updates, the Panda update and how it will affect you.

What are algorithm updates?

Google as well as other search engines continually update their search algorithms to improve search experience and provide quality results. These updates are designed to limit the ranking ability of sites that Google may deem as low quality. There are believed to be more than 200 factors that play into the algorithm and helps decide the rank of a website. These can include signals related to links, on-site content, website structure, page load time, user experience, brand mentions and much more. As Google gathers and analyzes data they will make updates to limit what they deem as lower quality sites from ranking. The efforts of SEO are designed to optimize sites for the many signals that help Google define a quality site.

It is important to keep in mind that Google isn’t perfect; there is always a level of collateral damage when updates are pushed out. Quality sites can and have lost rank due to these updates. No site is immune to updates. The intent is to work to stay within Google guidelines and adjust strategies as needed when the search landscape changes due to updates.

Why should you be concerned with algorithm updates?

It is helpful to understand that we are playing in Google’s world. They have full control of who and what they choose to serve in the search results. It is helpful to put this in perspective and understand that movement in rankings will happen over time due to updates.

Monitoring updates also allows us to continue research on what signals are providing the highest value. We do this by analyzing sites that are ranking well and creating correlation and causation theories. This helps drive new and better SEO strategies.

Algorithm Update vs Refresh

An update to the algorithm will usually have a stronger impact on search results. This means Google has made a change that impacts how they serve results. This results in a new version of the algorithm. These types of updates usually occur every few months and often followed by an announcement from Google. A refresh is usually a minor tweak but they happen frequently, most likely on a monthly basis.

What is the Panda Update?

The Panda algorithm was first announced on February 23, 2011. This update was aimed at sites that were acquiring high rank but providing little value to the web. Many of the sites that were impacted by Panda were large sites with volumes of thin content and ad heavy pages. These sites were considered content farms. They would allow users to place content on any subject they desired with limited quality guidelines. This allowed sites with a wide range of content to rank for thousands and thousands of keywords that would drive traffic and ultimately ad clicks.

Sites with duplicate content or poor user experience in general are also believed to be targeted by the Panda update. Ultimately, the perceived intent of any update by Google is to limit low quality sites from ranking. This can also create collateral damage as many sites that had no intent to abuse Google guidelines may get devalued due to updates. This can cause a drop in rank which usually results in a loss of traffic.

As with any update, we will closely monitor the new Panda 4.0 update and the impact on our client’s sites. We will work to make any changes or strategy improvements as needed.

Here are some tips to help keep your site relevant and high quality during updates:

  • Always create unique content on your sites
    • Content is King. Never be afraid to create great and unique content for your site. Adding fresh content on a regular basis helps build credibility and trust with the search engines. The more engaging your content, the more it will get linked to and shared.
  • Create content that provides value to readers
    • Creating content is just a piece of the puzzle. Work to create content that answers questions that your clients are searching for. After creating content that provides value, it is important to optimize and distribute it for full SEO value.
  • Limit use of duplicate content. In the case that duplicate content is leveraged, add a canonical tag to source the original content
    • It is easy for Google to pick up on duplicate content. Some sites may leverage duplicate content for various reasons. In these cases, it is important to add canonical tags to the duplicate pages.
  • Limit use of ads, especially above the fold
    • A site that is heavy on ads usually means a poor experience for visitors. Google wants visitors to be driven to sites that provide answers to what they are looking for and not to be tricked into landing on a site that only wants an ad click.
  • Work to build your brand and authority online
    • Content is necessary in order to continue to build your brand online. This can range from articles to blogs and infographics to videos. It is important to continually create and distribute various types of content.