Following weeks of rumors and speculations, Google launched the newest iteration of its search algorithm a little over a week ago. Many business owners and SEO marketers get worried when Google makes an update because it can have drastic effects on search engine rankings and the accompanying traffic to their sites. This newest update, Panda 4.0 is supposed to be kindler and gentler than other updates, however, since the announcement of the rollout is the most Google has said about the update, it’s hard to know exactly what has changed. This post will tell you what it known about Panda 4.0 and what some preliminary findings suggest the effects will be.
One reason that the Panda 4.0 update is so important is that Google felt the need to mention it all. About this time last year, Google said they would no longer confirm current or future updates to Panda. Instead the company has opted for smaller, monthly updates to Panda that are rolled out over a 10-day period. Since Google both announced and confirmed this update, it’s likely that this is more than just the usual refresh the company does every month. This will be the first major update in more than a year. Even though Google has done more than a dozen smaller updates in that time, they chose this update to be named Panda 4.0.
It’s unclear what all has changed because of the update, but it will most likely continue Panda’s push to lower the ranking of sites with low-quality content or that have pages built solely for the purpose of boosting search engine rankings. According to Cutts, this update impacts around 7.5 percent of English searches. The official rollout began on May 20th and was fully rolled out over the next few days of the weekend. As more webmasters have a chance to see the results and to question Google about them, more details about what changed with Panda 4.0 will be revealed.
Though the algorithm has just experienced a major change, the results won’t affect websites as drastically as other Google updates. As was mentioned in a previous post on this site, Google is working on an algorithm that will be softer and gentler. This may not be exactly what they have in mind, but Panda 4.0 probably has the architecture built in to pursue that goal later.
SeachMetrics did a preliminary analysis after update went live and they came to the conclusion that aggregator sites that mainly ranked with information from other sources lost SEO visibility. This included celebrity news sites like GossipCop.com and TheHollywoodGossip.com. Most of these gossip sites are only restating content that can be found on other sources (i.e. TMZ) so these aggregates may be losing their rankings as other sites with original content get better placement. Similiarly, price comparison and coupon sites such as DealCatcher.com and RetailMeNot.com were among the initial losers identified by SearchMetrics. By their nature, these sites pull their information from external sources.
This wasn’t a clear-cut indictment of aggregator sites. For example, the pop-culture website Zimbio.com has a lot of celebrity news but according to SearchMetrics, their SEO visibility increased by 500 percent. Similarly, CouponCabin.com saw a 250 percent increase in SEO visibility. A quick look at both of the site shows that they each have a lot of original, high-quality content, even if some of it is sourced from external sites. This means that the Panda update may make it easier for Google to decide which aggregator sites have the most valuable content
Panda 4.0 may be a game changers for SEO marketers. With this update, Google takes a major step toward content-based SEO (in opposed to traditional keyword and link based methods) as was discussed in a recent post on this site. Sites that use syndicated or duplicate content will see their rankings lowered in favor of sites with original content or that are functionally more useful to visitors. Business owners should begin working on content marketing strategy that will allow them to regularly produce high-quality, original, and useful content. Thus far, Panda 4.0 hasn’t been an extremely punitive update, but it’s important for marketers and business owners to keep a look out as Google continues to refine their search algorithms.