Google’s Panda update, which hit the net on 24 February, wreaked havoc with websites that weren’t expecting it. One of the aims of the update was to eliminate content farms and deliver better quality content in search results. Unfortunately, many sites that are definitely not content farms found themselves sliding down the rankings. On 11 April Google unleashed a second Panda update and the slide continued. Now another Panda update is on the horizon (no official release date) and the apprehension online is almost tangible.
Google is not calling the update Panda 3, instead it’s referred to as Panda 2.2 and it’s supposed to be even better at identifying sites that rely on scraping content for rankings; which, in theory, suggests that sites that produce original, quality content are less likely to be affected. But the trouble with theories is that they sometimes fall apart in practice.
Panda recovery is poor
On 8 June, Barry Schwartz released the results of a poll he conducted to find out if websites had recovered from the first Panda updates. The answer was an overwhelming no. Schwartz based his results on 500 responses to the poll and found that a whopping 85% of websites affected by Panda have seen absolutely no improvement; 9% had seen a partial recovery and only 5% reported a total recovery.
According to Matt Cutts, “… there have been no manual exceptions made to sites that were wrongly affected, but there have been recompilations of data that may have helped some sites”.
Matt McGee cites Cutts as saying the Panda algorithm runs only infrequently (every few weeks), so even if sites make changes to address problems that might have caused the penalty, it could be a while before they come into effect.
Cutts adds that the algorithm is being constantly tweaked, which effectively keeps SEOs off balance.
What is an SEO to do?
After the first update, Amit SInghal, head of search at Google, published 23 questions that webmasters should ask about their sites to determine the chances of being penalised. These apply now as much as they did back then. A sample of questions includes:
- Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- How much quality control is done on content?
- Is the site a recognised authority on its topic?
- Would you recognise the site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
- Would users complain when they see pages from this site?
Don Reisinger believes that the Panda 2.2 update will affect fewer sites than the first two. Largely because Google doesn’t just do things willy-nilly but evaluates the effects and results of its actions. But that doesn’t mean SEOs aren’t nervous.