Since the original Panda algorithm was introduced in 2011, Google has updated it twenty-seven times. The most recent, arriving four months after the previous iteration, is known as Panda update 4.1. It arrived on the scene nearly a week ago (September 25), so I think it’s about time that we give this Panda a once-over. How is it different from the past twenty-six updates? What are the effects thus far? Who’s enjoying the bear’s company and who’s been chomped up like bamboo? Scroll down to find out!
The Panda Update 4.1
About Panda 4.1
The Panda 4.1 update has been slowly rolled out over the past week, and it’s expected to affect 3-5% of queries (depending on the location), making it a pretty major update. According to Pierre Far, a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google UK, the goal of this newest edition of Panda is to weed out websites with thin content and improve the rankings of small to medium, high-quality websites:
“Based on user (and webmaster!) feedback, we’ve been able to discover a few more signals to help Panda identify low-quality content more precisely. This results in a greater diversity of high-quality small- and medium-sized sites ranking higher, which is nice” (source).
As it’s arrived about four months after the last update, some are speculating that Panda will continue to be updated every quarter. Of course, it’s hard to say for sure because Panda has had a very spotty update record in the past: nine updates in 2011, fourteen updates in 2012, two updates in 2013, and two in 2014 (so far). Additionally, it’s possible that Google has updated the algorithm in the past without a public announcement or confirmation.
Winners & Losers
According to SearchMetrics, many websites benefiting from the Panda update 4.1 are involved in the news, content, and download portal sphere. For example, babble.com (a news and lifestyle website for moms) and rd.com (Reader’s Digest). If your website was hurt by the last Panda update in May and you took the time to right your wrongs, you might have noticed a boost after the Panda 4.1 algorithm went into effect. For example, ivillage.com and hotelguides.com were able to recover from Panda 4.0 losses.
Some sites with low-quality or thin content have seen a dramatic drop in web traffic due to Panda 4.1. If you’ve noticed a slump in your rankings during the past week, you can probably blame the 27th Panda. Amongst the losers, you’ll find many websites focused on lyrics, games, and medical content, all of which tend to have thin content. For example, lyricstranslations.com and emedtv.com.
If you were negatively impacted by Panda 4.1, your website might need to gain a little weight. Thicken up your website’s thin content, creating quality content that is relevant and unique. It’s also important that you build your website with Google in mind, specializing your XML sitemap and defining crawl priority, making it easy for the search engine’s spiders to get what they need. Also, make sure that your website’s demands don’t conflict (for example: your sitemap says one thing, but a robots.txt command says another). And finally, remember that many of the “winners” in this round of Google’s algorithm game were previous losers, so it’s certainly possible to improve your status in just a few months’ time. Pinpoint your weaknesses, work hard to improve them, and wait for the spiders to notice.
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