It’s official. It’s here! The Google Panda has been let loose & with a reputation for crushing sites down in SERP results, it has already taken the SEO world by storm.
Matt Cutts, head of Webspam team, confirmed this on Twitter:
Google is rolling out our Panda 4.0 update starting today.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) May 20, 2014
This has been termed as a major update to the algorithm & is not just a data refresh. According to Google, the Panda 4.0 affects different languages and to different degrees. For search queries in English, the impact is estimated to be ~7.5% of queries that are affected to a degree that a regular user might notice.
Google announced its first ever penalty on sites that had ‘thin’ or ‘low quality’ content on Feb 24, 2011. It was created to help the search engine sift out sites that seemed to lack substantial value. For example, if a site claimed to have a solution for a particular topic but described only the basic outline around the topic, it was likely to get affected. Additionally, sites which blatantly violated Google’s Quality guidelines were taken off the result pages too.
Samir Saraiya, CEO That’s Personal said that “this was much awaited and expected when sites with low content quality were able to device ways to climb up the Google SERPs.”
In the past few years, there have been a number of changes to the algorithm which have helped improve the search results across the world & fight spam. However, a lot of small business lost out on rankings & hence Matt Cutts announced at SMX West in March 2014 that his team was working on the next generation of the Panda update which would help them do better in search results.
According to Eric Enge, CEO, Stone Temple Consulting,
“The interesting thing about this Panda update released in May, 2014 is that it lays emphasis on two aspects:
- Improved detection of more sites that Google wanted to impact with Panda. This is why we see reports of many different sites that were hit
- A lessening of the scope of the traffic decrease caused by Panda. This is why some have referred to this as a kinder gentler Panda. Many sites had partial recoveries as a result.”
Who Benefited & Who Got Hit
It is too early to speculate and point out any clear winners or losers as now. Pritam Bijlani, Head Projects and Digital Marketing at Richfeel Trichology centre clarified that so far he hasn’t seen any impact on their SEO as they frequently update their website with rich informative content. However, SearchMetrics conducted a preliminary analysis which they say is ‘based on the organic SEO visibility for all researched set of keywords that are constantly monitored’ & their findings show that eBay is amongst the top losers along with Ask.com.
Dr. Pete Meyers from Moz also studied the changes they saw from the latest Panda update, and noticed that eBay got hit particularly hard. He said “Digging into the May 19th data (and before Google confirmed anything), I noticed that a few keywords seemed to show losses for eBay, and the main eBay sub-domain fell completely out of the “Big 10” . The following graph confirms the same:
GlassDoor, emerged out to be the clear winner with its unique content & value which it provides to the job seekers. Also, eMedicineHealth, an online knowledge base created by experts on topics related to health & medicine saw huge gains in traffic.
The following table segregates both:
Even RetailMeNot was not spared and lost traction for quite a lot of keywords (although they have sent out a press release saying that these reports greatly overstate the impact on the site).
Should I Worry?
It wasn’t just a Panda update that affected sites in May. Google simultaneously released an updated to the Payday Loan Algorithm. A Google spokesperson said: “Over the weekend we began rolling out a new algorithmic update. The update was neither Panda nor Penguin — it was the next generation of an algorithm that originally rolled out last summer for very spammy queries.”
Leo V J, Marketing Manager – Online, CQ Customiquepersonally feels that this release will help a lot of genuine mid-scale online websites rank better.
However he cautions that “if a site like eBay has dropped in SERP ranking, then it sets an alarm for all other players to watch out for internal links & content syndicated on their sites. Google is either helping its visitors get better page results or pushing highly seo ranked giants in the online space to move to paid media.”
The fact that Panda 4.0 has hit at the same time as a refresh of an algorithm targeting spammy queries like ‘payday loans’, you definitely have a reason to worry about & need to monitor your rankings and organic traffic closely.
Content is Still the King!
With the above set of updates, one thing is crystal clear which Google wants the world to know ‘They will not tolerate spam and continue to crack down on thin quality content.’ ‘Me Too’ sort of content is now an endangered species.’ Writing generic ‘How to’ articles & content pieces on topics which have been covered before won’t help you win anymore.
The questions which you need to ask yourself are – What are you going to do that stands out? What are you going to do that’s exceptional?
Here’s what Ayush Agrawal, Humint India advises on planning your future SEO efforts:
“Few years back, we were only hearing about ‘Semantic Web’, though Google has certainly moved towards it pretty fast. Contextual search is an evident reality now, and if you do not have that unique proposition for which a visitor (read customer) should consider you then you are bound to be left behind.”
Have a well-defined content strategy & invest in creating a brand and you will cut down the risk of your site being affected by Google updates in future.
Let us know your take on this!