The Slow Burn of Panda 4.2
Google began rolling out the latest Panda update in mid-July and will continue to do so over the next few months. This gradual process has meant that the rankings volatility that occurred with previous algorithm updates has not been present this time, and SEO companies and forums have been the first to report fluctuations.
What to expect and who will be affected
Panda 4.2 will only impact 2-3% of search queries, which is lower than the previous updates. This will still affect millions of searches, however, approximately 1 in 50 out of the billions conducted every month. Due to the slow implementation, it is difficult to assess the winners and losers of Panda 4.2 yet. As ever, Google is pretty cagey on what the update will mean for sites, but it has reported that the initial effects will be seen on small to medium sized sites, with those of high-quality climbing the SERP rankings. For the businesses involved a rankings drop can have a huge effect on revenue, which means that webmasters need to be on top of their website’s content and analytics.
Quality content is a vague concept and to understand what it means requires revisiting the original aim of Panda. It was designed to punish content farms and scraped content, keyword stuffing, websites consisting mainly of advertising, broken websites, and even ones deemed “ugly”. Sites may not see the full results of Panda 4.2 for several months and if the traffic begins to drop significantly, chances are the site has been Pandarised for one or more of the above reasons.
This algorithm refresh also enables sites that were hit with the previous 4.1 update to climb back up the rankings if they have made the right changes to their site. The speed of the roll out means that the organic rankings won’t bounce back immediately, but there will be a gradual improvements over the coming months. If a site falls foul of 4.2 though there is nothing much that can be done until the next update is released. However, this doesn’t mean a penalised site can simply wait, as there is no telling when the next refresh will be implemented.
What it means for future updates
The speed of the roll out is geared towards Google’s aim of creating an algorithm that doesn’t rely on periodic updates. Instead, Panda will be constantly shifting, making it more difficult to pinpoint the times and dates, and the exact nature of changes in the system. To give a website the best chance of ranking consistently, it will need to maintain pages of unique, high-quality content, as well as continue to create new content to remain dynamic and authoritative.