Back in Feb 2011 Google rolled out the first of their so-called Panda updates. This new algorithm filter was designed to improve the quality of Google’s search results by filtering out web pages that Google considers to be low quality, primarily due to unoriginal or thin content.
Panda had a significant impact and many sites hit with a Panda penalty over the last 4 years have seen massive drops in organic traffic as a result.
A Panda penalty can have a long term detrimental impact. This is because even if you fix up penalised pages immediately following a Panda penalty, you have to wait until the next Panda update to see if those pages are now considered acceptable by Google and have earned an escape from jail card. Given the long delays between Panda updates this can be a frustratingly long wait to recover from a penalty.
Google has rolled out about 30 iterations of Panda and the most recent, known as Panda 4.2, finally started rolling out last weekend. That’s about 10 months since the previous Panda update and a very long time for penalised sites waiting to recover.
Google advise that this latest update will effect 2-3% of English language queries and, unlike previous updates, this will be rolled out very slowly and it may be a couple of months before all pages on a website are impacted (for better or worse). Earlier this year Google indicated that Panda would move from being a filter run periodically to a real-time, or near real-time, filter. That was widely welcomed because that would remove the painfully long periods in between updates, meaning quicker recovery times. Regrettably it looks like real-time Panda updates are still some way off.
Why should you care?
If your site has previously been hit by Panda & you’ve taken steps to fix it, then this long overdue Panda update will be welcomed with open arms. And, whilst there are already reports of sites previously penalised by Panda seeing improved levels of Google traffic since last weekend, it may take up to several months before you know if all your penalised pages have recovered.
How do you know if your site’s been hit with a Panda penalty? Unfortunately, Google doesn’t tell you – they only advise you in your Google Search Console account if manual penalties have been applied, not algorithmic penalties like Panda. The way to tell is if you see a noticeable & sudden change in organic Google traffic around the date of Panda update. Further examination will show changes in rankings of affected pages.
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Jeremy and Mark are two of the partners behind SureFire Search. Despite their deceptively youthful appearances, both have worked in search marketing for many years. To put that in context, Google didn't even exist when Jeremy started.