It is official. Google’s Panda 4.0 has hit the search engine results. In the last 48 hours ( from the 20th May) we have had confirmation of two different updates; Panda 4.0 and Pay Day Loan 2.0. The affect of these updates has already been felt. Ebay have suffered drastically, with a reported 80% drop in organic traffic. So what is the Panda 4.0 update all about?
Panda 4.0 was announced by Matt Cutts on May 20th in his usual Twitter broadcast style. Unfortunately, Mr Cutts’ Tweets are usually rather blunt and the actual changes are never given. It is likely that this new update will make the algorithm softer, rather then just refreshing the data. This could mean that sites hit by earlier Panda updates could see a return to previous rankings.
In brief, Panda 4.0 is Google’s attempt to rebalance the scales. It penalises larger sites like Ebay that are using thin content and doorway pages, whilst redeeming sites previously hit hard by earlier Panda updates. Panda 4.0 gives a boost to genuinely useful sites and penalises those sites generating content for the sake of appeasing Google.
What does this updates mean to you? What affect will Panda 4.0 have? Currently, the best we can do is make an educated guess. In this post we will explore the facts about 4.0 and draw a conclusion for small businesses. First, we need a quick recap of the initial Panda Update.
What is the Google Panda Update?
In February 2011, Google introduced its Panda update. Panda is a filter that stops sites with poor quality content from ranking in Google’s top search results. Occasionally, Panda is updated and some sites that were previously hit may escape, if the right changes were made. Conversely , the Panda update may catch other sites that were previously not hit.
The original Panda update hit a lot of web masters and small businesses hard. Rankings fell. Revenue plummeted. And people’s businesses suffered. Google’s Webmaster forum was filled with comments like the following:
So the original Panda update had winners and losers. It cleared up some pretty spammy content whilst upsetting a lot of business owners. The lessons from the first Panda update changed the digital marketing landscape and put more emphasis on high quality content.
Here are some general tips for not getting Panda-ed:
- Focus on unique content – This means don’t steal articles or copy text from other sites. If you have an e-commerce site, ensure you are writing your own unique product descriptions.
- Focus on high quality content – Generate content that matches what the searcher is looking for. Use robots.txt to block Googles Spider from indexing any poor quality, thin content you may already have.
- Be reasonable with advertising – Focus on a small amount of ads with a higher revenue per advert then alot of smaller ads. This not only helps with ranking but also with visitor experience.
A whole lot more tips can be found here. So what do we know about Panda 4.0 that can help us hypothesise its affect?
What is Google Panda 4.0?
To unpick the latest up-dates lets take a look at what we know about Panda 4.0
- Affects different languages differently. In English, Panda 4.0 will affect 7.5% of queries
- On March 11, Matt Cutts announced at the SMX West conference that a softer Panda update would favour small businesses.
- There have been reports accounts of websites that were previously hit by Panda getting a boost.
- The winners after 4.0 were sites like Glassdoor; a site that provides useful content for job searchers ( according to a search metrics survey)
- The losers were sites like ebay who lost 80% of their organic traffic. Why? Because ebay typically has thin content and uses doorway pages. When you land on a ebay page, typically it contains further product listings you can drill down into, advertisements, external links etc but little in the way of content ( combine this update with Ebay announcing they have been hacked and 200 million people need to change their passwords – its a bad day for Ebay!)
Below I have included an screenshot of Ebay’s landing page for the term “Dinky Toys”. As you can see, all that has been listed is a series of links and listings of other pages. The page is a door-way to other pages and is very thin on content.
They have included a small amount of content at the bottom of the page. It would appear that they are just including this text to please the search engines. The content is given so little prominence and the content is very thin. It is clear that this content has not been added for the user, but to appease Google. This is the type of manipulation that Google is trying to avoid.
So there are some of the facts. I am sure there will be a lot more in the coming months. But what conclusions can we draw about Panda 4.0
Smaller businesses may be likely to have websites that are structured in a way that hinders Google’s spider from indexing their site. For this reason, earlier Panda updates may have hit small sites with good content inappropriately hard. Whilst smaller sites have suffered, larger sites like Ebay have been getting away with thin content. Sites like Ebay use pages designed only to funnel traffic to other pages, whilst providing no useful content. The update penalises those sites that have been adding content for contents sakes, rather then the usefulness of that content to the visitor.
This update is an attempt to balance the scales. The businesses who were trying to play by the book but were nevertheless hit hard by earlier updates have had their rankings redeemed. Sites designed to provide helpful information, such as Glassdoor, have had rankings improved due to genuinely useful content. It would appear that Matt Cutts is true to his word and that latest updates would favour small businesses. It is still too early to tell for sure, but it would appear Panda 4.0 is a point scored for the under-dog.