The latest update to Google’s Panda algorithm is finally here, 10 months since the 4.1 tweak, as Google tries to improve the quality of their search results.
Compared to the previous two refreshes of the Panda algorithm, update 4.2 is only affecting 2-3 percent of search queries; in May 2014, Panda 4.0 affected 7.5 percent English queries, while in September 2014, Panda 4.1 affected 3-5 percent of queries. Additionally, the update is expected to roll-out slowly over a period of several months, so the impact may not be immediately noticeable until much later.
Comparison of the newest Panda Refresh to previous updates
The first Panda Update, Panda 1.0, occurred in February 2011 and impacted 11.8 percent of all English queries in the US only. Since then, Google has increased its focus on content quality, removing any irrelevant or redundant content and spam from the index. All updates to the algorithm are site-wide, which means that they affect the entire domain.
In the previous update, Google favoured small and medium businesses compared to large corporations, which caused many big corporations to drop in their search engine rankings. This latest refresh gives the businesses that were penalised by Panda 4.1 an opportunity to emerge, if they have made the necessary changes. The impact will not be noticeable immediately, but you should starting seeing changes in your organic rankings over time.
This is one of Google’s long rollouts, which is not unusual. However, it will make it difficult to identify and assess the usual winners and losers by measuring changes to search traffic and ranking, compared to when the entire refresh is done at once. In fact, no one has been able to really spot any evidence of the refresh in the last couple of weeks, including Mozcast data.
How to prepare your website for Panda 4.1
Once Google releases one of its updates, it is impossible for any changes made to reflect during the rolling out period. If you have been keen with the implications of previous updates, you should know that each refresh has a cut-off date, and any adjustments made after that date will only be applied to the next update or refresh. So, the only people who stand to benefit are those who made the right changes after Google Panda 4.1.
That said, it is good practice to keep your content updated at all times. If you were impacted by the previous update but haven’t made any changes to the quality of your site, you will have to wait for the next refresh or update to make a comeback.
Even if it is hard to identify what the update is rewarding and punishing, it is safe to assume that these should be in line with what Google’s initial intentions when introducing Panda: to promote quality content(original, well-written content and better website design) and punish keyword stuffing, content mills, broken websites, and basically any kind of unsavoury practices that attempt to exploit Google’s search algorithm.
One thing to remember: If Panda 4.2 hits you, irrespective of what you do, you have to wait for the next Panda refresh to see if your efforts worked, and whether they were sufficient to help you recover.