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Google Panda 4.0 – What Did They Do Now?

Panda 4.0 Has Arrived.

May 2014 was a busy month for the Google algorithm department. First, there was Payday Loan Algorithm 2.0 – an update which targeted queries like payday loans, insurance quotes and certain pornographic phrases. Then, Google launched Panda 4.0.

Both updates made waves. Moz.com puts out a report called the MozCast, which basically measures the volatility of Google’s search activity based on Google’s algorithm. It’s like a weather report for the search engine. And on May 19, their volatility metric measured 97.6 degrees, and on May 20, it measured 80 degrees.

According to Moz, anything over 60 degrees constitutes unusual “weather,” and these two days were way over 60.

Late May 2014 Mozcast - Panda 4.0

The Panda 4.0 update was reported to affect a healthy 7.5% of queries internationally and is widely believed to be a softer, updated version of the algorithm that seeks to recover sites which may have been unfairly affected by previous versions.

Pandas and Penguins and Birds, Oh My!

Google’s algorithm updates include adorable animals, but what do they all mean?

In a nutshell: Penguin targeted bad links, Panda targeted bad content, and Hummingbird was less of a spam-removal action and more of an algorithmic shift to focus on answering questions that could be made from search queries. Panda 4.0 is the fourth major iteration of this algorithmic spam-targeting update.

Winners & Losers

There were some very noticeable losers with Panda 4.0, despite it being a softer update, and many of them were well-known brands. eBay was one of the standout sites most talked about with regard to Panda 4.0 fallout, with some reports noting that the site had lost 80% of their organic rankings.

eBay's Share of Top 10 Rankings - Panda 4.0 Effects

Searchmetrics.com published a detailed winners and losers analysis on sites that appear to have been affected by Panda 4.0 and it’s a who’s-who of big brands and information-rich sites.

Google SERPs: Panda 4.0 Losers

Domain Percent Loss
ask.com > – 50%
ebay.com > – 33%
biography.com > – 33%
retailmenot.com > – 33%
starpulse.com > – 50%
history.com > – 33%
isitdownrightnow.com > – 50%
aceshowbiz.com > – 75%
examiner.com > – 50%
yellowpages.com > – 20%
yourtango.com > – 75%
dealcatcher.com > – 50%
livescience.com > – 50%
webopedia.com > – 50%
xmarks.com > – 50%
simplyrecipes.com > – 33%
siteslike.com > – 50%
digitaltrends.com > – 50%
health.com > – 50%
spoonful.com > – 75%
songkick.com > – 75%
realsimple.com > – 33%
appbrain.com > – 33%
thehollywoodgossip.com > – 50%
dealspl.us > – 33%
techtarget.com > – 33%
gossipcop.com > – 50%
rd.com > – 75%
chow.com > – 33%
doxo.com > – 50%
heavy.com > – 50%
csmonitor.com > – 33%
toptenreviews.com > – 20%
parenting.com > – 50%
globalpost.com > – 75%
espnfc.com > – 50%
serviceguidance.com > – 50%
mnn.com > – 75%
mystore411.com > – 50%
urlm.co > – 33%
delish.com > – 50%
healthcentral.com > – 33%
whatscookingamerica.net > – 50%
columbia.edu > – 20%
songlyrics.com > – 20%
internetslang.com > – 33%
ibiblio.org > – 50%
webutation.info > – 50%
cheapflights.com > – 33%
mybanktracker.com > – 50%
Google SERPs: Panda 4.0 Winners
Domain Percent
glassdoor.com > 100%
emedicinehealth.com > 500 %
medterms.com > 500 %
yourdictionary.com > 50%
shopstyle.com > 250%
zimbio.com > 500 %
myrecipes.com > 250%
couponcabin.com > 250%
buzzfeed.com > 25%
consumeraffairs.com > 100%
wordpress.com > 20%
thinkexist.com > 250%
onhealth.com > 250%
alternativeto.net > 100%
whosdatedwho.com > 250%
reverso.net > 50%
wikimedia.org > 100%
dogtime.com > 100%
findthebest.com > 50%
eatingwell.com > 100%
quotegarden.com > 100%
goodhousekeeping.com > 250%
everydayhealth.com > 25%
simplyhired.com > 100%
momswhothink.com > 100%
similarsites.com > 100%
southernliving.com > 50%
theknot.com > 25%
allaboutvision.com > 100%
openculture.com > 50%
babyzone.com > 50%
tasteofhome.com > 33%
gotquestions.org > 100%
movie4k.to > 50%
wmagazine.com > 33%
ycharts.com > 100%
historyplace.com > 50%
rcn.com > 100%
salary.com > 50%
skepdic.com > 100%
mediawiki.org > 100%
oodle.com > 100%
abbreviations.com > 100%
homes.com > 100%
spokeo.com > 50%
hlntv.com > 33%
sparkpeople.com > 33%
hayneedle.com > 50%
emedtv.com > 100%

If you’d like to read more on this, Moz’s own Dr. Pete has put together some great big data fall-out information and it’s well worth checking out.

“Improving,” Not “Punishing”

Panda 4.0 didn’t just punish, it also rewarded sites that may have been unduly affected in previous refreshes. Panda – and the other cuddly-animal updates, for that matter – are not rolled out because Google has an axe to grind. They are on a mission to improve search results, and because of Google’s colossal reach and influence, the secondary effect is to improve the overall internet experience for its users.

We did our own in-depth research with our own resources, and have noticed that the majority of the sites we are optimizing weren’t affected at all by this update, and in fact, some clients gained some ground. We gave ourselves a pat on the back for this, but frankly, any SEO firm that abides by Google’s guidelines should be able to say the same about their clients.

This is how businesses can prevent their websites from being negatively affected by future Panda updates:

  • Focus on high quality content – Do you have redundant content on your blog? Are you pulling in previously published content? Time to clean it up! You should not be duplicating content throughout your website.
  • Avoid over-optimization – It may feel nice to add a keyword to every sentence, title tag, header tag and description. But that’s not going to cut it these days. Focus on quality content and readability. Your users are humans with brains, and they know when they’re reading an over-optimized page.
  • Maintain a useable website – We mean it! Your site should be easy to navigate. Your pages should load quickly. You shouldn’t have broken images, links, or errors on the site. Google has been saying for years that usability will affect your ability to rank.

That’s about it. There’s plenty more to do to optimize your site and increase your rankings and grow your audience, but these should be the top priorities when it comes to the long-term stability of your website.

For those who have focused on high-quality, well-written content while keeping their audience firmly in focus, not much appears to have changed. And with Google focusing so heavily on quality content as a ranking factor, it doesn’t look like anything’s going to change anytime soon.

Author: Rahul Alim
Custom Creatives was established to serve as your full-service one-stop Digital Marketing Company, offering graphic design, web design and web development agency, catering to businesses of all sizes. Custom Creatives has designed and deployed over 100,000 banner ads, as well as thousands of websites and landing pages and print collateral for small businesses and large international corporations. Providing exceptional quality services and products with a high return on investment is at the heart of everything we do.

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