It’s that time again! Yes, that’s right, the SEO community has been keeping a close collective eye on the organic listings this week as it was announced that Google rolled out version 4.0 of its notorious Panda algorithm update on 20th May.
Introduced to target websites that contained thin or low-quality page content, the Panda algorithm caused its first rankings shake-up way back in February 2011. Since then, one big Panda update the following year and a series of smaller, softer Panda refreshes on a monthly basis have been keeping fly-by-night webmasters on their toes.
It’s been reported than some of the web’s biggest players have already seen sharp declines in positions thanks to Panda 4.0. This post from Search Engine Land claims that search engine regulars eBay, Ask.com, YellowPages.com and Health.com have lost a significant amount of search visibility overnight.
To harden the blow further for webmasters who have been trying to cheat the system, Google has simultaneously rolled out a refresh of an algorithm that targets websites that are trying to rank for ‘spammy’ queries (like the ever-competitive ‘payday loans’, for example). Releasing two powerful updates within the space of a few days has made it doubly hard for SEO analysts to work out exactly which factors have contributed to a website’s decline, but the general consensus is, if you’ve been relying on churned-out web copy and outdated link building tactics for a while now, you’re going to suffer.
The good news is, plenty of webmasters who have been playing by the rules will have seen a spike in positions (or may do over the course of the next few days). In the same article, Search Engine Land goes on to list a number of domains that have actually seen a marked increase in visibility, and subsequently traffic levels – ShopStyle.com, MyRecipes.com and OnHealth.com are three example sites that have seen their overall search visibility increase by around 250% (according to the data in the report, which is taken from SearchMetrics).
And on another positive note, if you were initially hit by a previous incarnation of Panda and you’ve been working around the clock to improve your page content ever since, you may finally see the fruits of your labour. As we often tell our clients, if you’ve been slapped on the wrist (or worse, penalised!) by Google’s spam team, you often need to wait for the following algorithm update before you’ll see a genuine improvement in your search engine ranking positions (SERPs) following a lengthy clean-up process.