Man, you gotta love Google.
It was just last October when Matt Cutts spoke on “softening Panda,” helping some of those quality sites that got stuck in the “grey area” of past updates. Maybe it’s our fault for reading too much between the lines, but many SEOs took that to mean that Panda updates would be “baked in” with the regular algorithm updates.
…And, cut to earlier this week…
Google is rolling out our Panda 4.0 update starting today.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) May 20, 2014
Google went on to say that Panda 4.0 would affect approximately 7.5% of all searches. 7.5% of all searches? So much for soft updates.
So now, Panda 4.0 is all the talk of SEO Town. What does it mean? Who are the big winners? The big losers? How do I alter my strategy to take advantage (read: avoid being torn apart and shuffled to the ninth level/page of Google hell) by this change to the algorithm?
The honest truth is that it’s still too early to know for sure what Panda is doing to our sites. Certainly, some sites have experienced clear gains and losses associated with Panda, but those sites are still too disparate and varied to draw strong theories of substance.
So, what do we know? We know that Google Panda is an algorithm filter than focuses on evaluating content and rewarding sites that keep their content fresh, unique, and high-quality. In terms of retail sites, Panda hasn’t done too much damage to first parties – the wide assortment of products and seasonally shifting catalogs has become a strength, providing new content on a regular basis.
One thing to keep an eye on (and others across the web have noted similar findings) will be how big brands react to the update as compared to smaller brands. In retail, we would also focus on comparing first party retailers with affiliates, and again with smaller and less reliable resellers.
We would expect big brands to perform well in these comparisons in the wake of Panda 4.0, as with prior Panda updates over the last three years. All the same, it wouldn’t be the first time Google decided to change the game.
Another item to keep in mind is what this update means for the Google algorithm as a whole. We’re less than a year out from the launch of Hummingbird (a near complete rewrite of their algorithm), and Panda 4.0 comes just days after a significant update to their “Payday Loan” spam search filter.
Does this mean that a massive Penguin update (3.0?) is looming over us, preparing to pounce?
Sleep tight, SEO Town.