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Panda 4 – 7.5% more Pandary

Now the digital dust has started to settle, Webmasters, SEO’s and Search Marketing Agencies have a better understanding of the latest Google Panda update. Although, it could quite easily be argued that the dust never really does settle in SEO.

Panda is reflective of Google’s (as fronted by Matt Cutt’s) key philosophy – a dynamic pursuit of constant improvement, and as users we should all be grateful for it because at the heart of this is the search experience.

Although the latest Panda update is widely being referred to as Panda 4, there have actually been twenty minor updates in-between the four key changes to the Panda algorithm since it first appeared in February 2011, where 11.8% of queries were impacted in English in the US (with the UK following in April 2011 affecting 6% to 9% of queries in many non-English languages.

To put this all into context, the Panda 4 update has been reported to have a 7.5% impact on English queries, which is significant to say the least. The real impact of the latest major update is far greater however, as revealed by Matt Cutts via Twitter:

matt cutts twitter panda 4

Further light was shed on the Panda 4 update by Cutts prior to its release at the Search Marketing Expo in March where he said that Google was working on the next generation of the Panda update which would be ‘softer and friendlier’ to small sites and businesses. It was also revealed that for sites which have been hit by the Panda update, that if two to three months after a link clean-up you’re not back in the rankings then you didn’t fix the problem or weren’t hit by Panda at all.

In trying to gauge the impact of the Panda 4 update, Search Engine Roundtable recently ran a poll asking how Panda 4.0 impacted readers’ sites, with over 1,200 responses providing the following information:-

  • Over 15% said they had recovered from a previous Panda penalty.
  • Over 19% said their rankings increased, but that they were never hurt by Panda.
  • Over 23% said their rankings remained the same, but they were never previously hurt by Panda.
  • Nearly 27% said they were never previously hurt by Panda, but saw their rankings decrease this time.
  • About 11% said they didn’t recover from a previous Panda penalty.

The poll doesn’t take into account business size, but it’s probably safe to assume that a good amount of those who participated are from or represent small businesses. However, it’s difficult and risky to make any bold statements regarding the impact on small business purely from this information.

Panda 4.0What we can say with certainty is that the latest Panda update reinforces Google’s quality guidelines. Trying to find quick wins in SEO is a guaranteed way to put at risk any gains that might have been achieved because Google is only becoming more intelligent sand savvy. Google is very clear about SEO best practice and claiming ignorance is simply no excuse.

The latest research since Panda 4 was released 10 days ago has also shown that, according to Search Metrics data, a range of Press Release sites have lost significant SEO visibility. To be more specific, sites such as PRWeb.com, PR Newswire, BusinessWire and PRLog appear to be victims of the Panda 4 update. And although we cannot definitively attribute the two, this seems a likely correlation.

Press release sites have for some time been a reliable SEO tactic. It is possible however that they may have become a victim of their own success, growing too powerful and eventually being abused in the eyes of Google. Whatever the exact reason may be, there is a lesson to be learned, which is that if something is too good to be true, it probably is.

SEO is not about the quick wins and easy options. Successful SEO requires putting the user’s needs and experience at the heart of everything. It requires doing the basics to the highest possible standard, original thinking, determination, persistence, patience and willingness to constantly improve.