What you can do about Panda 4 – Google’s latest update to their search ranking algorithm

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A history of Panda(s) – according to Google

The first version of Google ‘Panda’ was initially launched in February 2011 to catch sites that were seen to be spamming the top Google search results with poor quality content. Sites that were positively impacted by this update included news websites and social networking websites. Sites that were negatively affected included those that contained a lot of advertising. Overall about 12% of all search results were affected by the first Google Panda update.

To help webmasters avoid penalties, Google published content guidelines on their Webmaster Central Blog. These guidelines are still relevant today as are important concepts and terms explained within the post.

Since the initial launch, Panda has undergone various iterations. The most recent one, officially announced by Google on May 20, is known as Panda 4.

Panda 4 is both a data refresh and a big change to how the Google search algorithm identifies websites. According to Google, Panda 4 affects different languages to different degrees, with English search results being affected by about 7.5%.

Thus far, who has Panda 4 affected?

According to search engine expert, Barry Schwartz, the sites most affected by the latest update to Google’s ranking algorithm are Press Release websites. However, as stated by Schwartz within his post, this may also be due to ongoing fluctuations in rank. Press release websites that lost 60% to 80% SEO visibility include PRWeb, PR Newswire, BusinessWire and PRLog. While it’s not yet clear whether or not Panda 4 was the culprit for the drop in ranking visibility, the fact that it comes right after the latest algorithm update is telling.
prweb panda drop

How should you be dealing with Panda 4.0?

Firstly, if you do not publish spammy content, buy links or generally partake in activities aimed at ‘gaming’ your search results, you’re unlikely to have been affected. However, that said, there’s a simple way to check:

Step 1: check to see if you’ve been hit with a penalty

Login to your Google Webmaster Tools account and check your ‘messages’. If you’ve been hit with a penalty that comes about the same time as the latest update, Google will have sent you a message. If you haven’t yet been hit but know that you’ve partaken in not entirely ‘white-hat’ activities, you may want to take a second look at your overall content and search engine optimisation strategy. If there are links that are bringing you down, it may be a good time to either ‘disavow’ them or to remove the content from your website entirely (if you’re the one hosting it). This will also help to avoid future penalties.

Step 2: disavow links that are harming your rank or that you know to be ‘spam’

The ‘disavow tool’ is a tool within Google’s Webmaster suite. It was released in October 2012. The disavow tool allows webmasters (aka site owners) to submit a list of links to Google that are considered to be questionable or unnatural). Most people will NOT need to use the disavow tool unless they have been sent an ‘unnatural link’ warning, which will show up in the messages section of Webmaster Tools.

If you’re not sure about whether or not you should be disavowing links, please speak to an SEO expert or your digital agency first. If you disavow the wrong links you may negatively affect your search result rankings.

Step 3: take a proactive approach to creating great content in order to avoid penalties

For the future, make sure that content you post on other websites is relevant to both your own website and the website on which you post it. Google is getting better and better at picking up unrelated content.

Overall, whether or not you’re worried about being hit by a Panda update, focus on creating fantastic content. At the moment, high quality content is one of the best ways to increase your organic search result rankings. Be sure to make that content relevant, interesting, useful, and if possible, evergreen – something that browsers can come back to time and time again. Your visitors’ interactions with your own website will have an impact on your search result rankings as Google takes bounce rate, time on site and engagement into context.
If you need some tips on getting started creating great content, have a look at the following articles:

If you’ve been hit by Panda and are panicking…

Get in touch with Xanthos. We will be able to help you figure out where you may have gone wrong and what you can do to fix the problem. This may include disavowing certain links and creating content to boost your rank for specific key terms.

If you want a strategy aimed at fighting future Panda updates…

Just the same…get in touch with Xanthos. We specialise in helping clients create search engine friendly strategies aimed at increasing a website’s overall rank in the search engine result pages. This includes content marketing strategies, search engine optimisation strategies, pay per click strategies and social media strategies.