I covered Google’s crack down on spam with Panda 4.0 back in May, and now the search titan has struck again with yet another update (the 27th, to be exact) to its algorithm, just when we were all finally adjusting to the last. Luckily, it’s not a massive change, but it still packs a punch. So once again, it’s time to pivot strategies and tweak practices to stay on (or get on) Google’s good side.
However, in order to pivot correctly, we first need to know exactly what has changed. The last thing anybody wants to do is reel into a wall at full speed, and as is the case with any of Google’s algorithm updates, any wrong adjustments could be devastating to your overall ranking.
What’s New in the Latest Google Panda Update?
As is so often Google’s modus operandi, they’re not telling us a whole lot about the exact changes to the algorithm, but the SEO expert is giving us some details as to what the intent of the update includes. The update was unleashed onto the World Wide Web last Wednesday. And according to Search Engine Land, the latest roll out has been dubbed “Panda 4.1” because the update is small and doesn’t warrant a boost to a full-fledged 5.0.
In the announcement that was posted on the Google+ page of Google World Trends Analysts in the UK, Pierre Far observed that the feedback provided by both user and webmaster sources led to the discovery of more signals to assist Panda in identifying thin, low quality content more readily. As a result, we’re going to see a lot more high quality, small- to mid-sized websites ranking higher.
So while it’s not a huge update, it is important—especially to those of us focusing our resources on high quality content production. Thin content will be penalized even more than before, seriously affecting search engine rankings. The update is designed to be more precise at catching poor content than the previous updates, and it puts even more emphasis on quality.
The update will also allow sites that were previously hit by penalties under Panda 4.0 to have a chance at redemption; Assuming, of course, that they made the proper changes to allow for it. Just because your site was penalized under 4.0 does not mean that all of your penalties will be cleared and you’ll be given a clean slate. The guidelines are still strict, and the penalties are still harsh.
The Possible Impact to Your Website
Panda 4.1 is intended to give a boost to smaller sites that have high to medium quality content. It’s basically a Goliath trying to help out the David’s of the Wild West we call the Internet. Pierre Far also stated that Google believes only 3 to 5 percent of search queries in the SERPs will be affected.
However, the Panda update did have some unintended casualties. For example, according to Search Metrics, some sites, such as MedTerms.com (a medical terminology website), have been caught in the crossfire. Below is a graph showing the SEO visibility of MedTerms.com from June 22, 2014, to September 28, 2014:
As you can see, they took a -40 percent hit in SEO visibility between September 21, 2014 and September 28, 2014. And they aren’t the only victim:
- OnHealth.com took a -57 percent hit
- HubPages.com took a -46 percent hit
It’s entirely possible that there were other reasons for various sites losing a percentage of their SEO visibility. For example, redirects or a changed URL could be to blame for the drops. Correlation is not necessarily causation, but it seems to have a strong link right now.
Although it’s still early goings, it seems as if lyric sites, game sites, and some medical content sites are on the losing end of the algorithm update. The early winners seem to be news sites, content heavy sites, and the download portal realm. Search Metrics goes on to spotlight some sites that have witnessed huge increases in their SEO visibility since the update went live:
- GeekWire.com saw a 144 percent increase
- ThePirateBay.se saw a 162 percent increase
- Spoonful.com saw a 218 percent increase
Conclusion: The Content Throne Is Even More Prominent
It’s pretty obvious that the new Panda update is taking quality a step further as it aims to help smaller websites. The algorithm is growing ever more apt at spotting and rewarding high quality websites while penalizing those that don’t make the grade. Dare we say that the throne where content sits as king has just gotten a bit more prominent?
The update has leveled the playing field, in a sense, and it’s now possible for little brother to play with the big boys, meaning that if you’re a small site that delivers high quality content, your door to the big leagues in rankings is wide open. While the update doesn’t add a whole lot of new terminologies or methods, it is designed to continue removing redundant, irrelevant content and spam from Google indexes.
4.1 re-asserts the fact that quality content is, was, and forever shall be the king of the SEO world. If your content is subpar, then there isn’t a single algorithm update that will save your site from poor ranking. You can use every trick in the book in an attempt to guide a horse (the audience) to water (your website), but it will be for not without quality content. It’s the content that keeps people coming back for more and ultimately results in epic SERP ranking right alongside conversion.
Google Panda: The Final Verdict
Google’s 27th Panda update just goes to show that quality content is a staple of SEO. As a copywriting expert, we know that a great deal of time and energy goes into brainstorming, creating, and publishing high quality copy. It’s time and energy that will never be wasted because Google’s algorithms keep getting smarter at spotting and rewarding awesome content. Audience focused, well written, and engaging copy IS the future. Investing in it will be incredibly beneficial both today and tomorrow.