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Google Panda 2.2?: Why the Pandobsession Has to Stop

I can absolutely understand why people focused in on Panda. It was a major shift in the Google algorithm – more substantial in its impact of traffic than Google Instant or any other recent algorithm update. And more than that, there were numerous innocent victims. I’ve had the chance to work with some of them myself, and I can see how unfairly Panda has mauled them. But since that time the world of SEO has used the term “Panda” as a buzz-word for getting more attention to any news story related to algorithm updates.

The “Next Big Update”

Case-in-point: Search Engine Land recently reported that “Panda 2.2 is on its way.” This is all coming from a he said, she said chain of hearsay, but assuming that the report isn’t making things up, Panda 2.2 is an idea based on tweaks to the Google algorithm that continue to focus on spam. The specific confirmation came from an interview with Matt Cutts at SMX Advance conducted by Danny Sullivan.

Here’s what was said, specifically:

Danny Sullivan: Where are we now? Panda 2, Panda 2.1? Are we at Panda 2.2?

Matt Cutts: There’s another change coming soon. I don’t know when we’ll launch fully internationally, not just in English.

So, here’s the actual translation: Google is continuing to make changes and tweaks to the Panda update. As expected. Because Google updates their algorithm more than once per day on average. It’s not news that this is continuing as expected. It’s not news that there are new waves of releases that will gradually help sites damaged unfairly

And here’s what people heard: Google is coming out with another Panda update that will we world-shattering and/or world-saving, and I really need to keep my eyes on this! Not so, my little SEO compatriots. This is just business as usual. There are no earth-shattering alterations to speak of – even though the word “Panda” made its way into the conversation on the topic. When Cutts talks about Google, he talks about continuing iterations in this sector of development – not about bringing a new Panda to the game.

Actually Relevant Upcoming Updates

So, there, you’ve got my whine and moan about how the industry has come to use the term Panda as a scare tactic. That doesn’t mean that the update – or the interview – didn’t have anything useful. It just means that the focus has been on surprisingly narrow portions of what was actually said. Here are a few relevant points on what Google’s working on and what you can expect in general trajectory for algorithm updates:

  • One of the major problems not addressed by Panda is “scraper sites,” or sites that pull content from elsewhere on the web and – due to improved SEO – actually outrank the original content. Cutts has assured us that they’re actively working on this issue.
  • Cutts confirmed in black and white language that there haven’t been any manual exceptions. His words?: We haven’t made any manual exceptions. So stop saying they have and, please, stop asking them to do so.
  • Google has been on the hunt for more signals to differentiate thin sites from quality ones, but this is primarily a re-computation of data that affect sites in a minor to moderate way (i.e., not a huge shift).
  • Site usability is not a factor in Panda. Exactly what this means (such as an arbitrary judgment of architecture or actual site performance indicators, such as time on site) isn’t clear.

Site Survival Tips for a Post-Panda World

In previous entries I’ve discussed ways that you, as a webmaster, can make steps toward success in the post-Panda world. There are a couple points I want to reiterate, and then I’ll give you the fast breakdown of key things to consider in constructing a Panda-friendly site.

Thing to Consider #1: Don’t rely on Google changing in a specific way. Assume that if your site has been damaged, that damage comes from something you did wrong – or that, to Google, would make it look like you did something wrong. One example of this is someone I’ve worked with who had a site with duplicate content on it; several of their pages were identical because they’d moved from one version to another to another. That will flag you for duplicate content, a sign of being a thin site.

Assume you’re guilty, and try to make any fixes necessary, if you really want to see progress. Don’t assume “I was fine before and I think I’m quality, so I should be set.” You may just discover some glaring site problems.

Thing to Consider #2: Google is always trying to improve their evaluation of high-quality sites. If your site is legitimately high quality and you’ve avoided the flags for being thin, future iterations of the Google algorithm – be it in the Panda sector or elsewhere – should be of benefit to your site.

Okay, that said, here are some quick tips:

  • Check for spam flags, such as:
    • Duplicate content from pages in your own site.
    • Oversaturating for keywords.
    • Excessive grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.
    • Missing meta titles and descriptions.
    • Duplicate content from off-site (including checking whether off-site pages have duplicated your pages).
    • Poor user performance (time on site, bounce rate, etc.).
    • An excessively high “ad to content” ratio.
  • If you’re being scraped, take advantage of the new “authorship” markup language from Google. This certainly seems to be intended as a scraper countermeasure.
  • Normal SEO rules still apply. More links are good, especially from quality sites. Better content will get you better results. Optimize for the user experience. Continue sharing your site in social spaces, doing guest content, and whatever else you can to increase visibility.
  • Social elements are becoming more important, and they’re not being gamed yet. User experience as an SEO factor, despite it not being integrated into the algorithm, has never been more important. Additionally, you should absolutelyget Facebook Like, Twitter Share, and Google +1 buttons on your page.

So there you have it. The world of Panda isn’t one we should be obsessed with. It’s happened, it’s an integral part of things, and every iteration now will be fine-tuning. Don’t freak out when you hear the Panda name being thrown around. Nothing it does now will be even a fraction as extreme as the initial update. Just take the standard precautions, focus on user experience, improve the quality of your site, and engage in smart SEO practices, and you’ll survive.

aeb8c9ad553480aa0a551ceaa5bc5a72 64 Google Panda 2.2?: Why the Pandobsession Has to Stop
Rob has been insatiably obsessed with Google, search engine technology, and the trends of the web-based world since he began life as a webmaster in 2002. His work as an SEO consultant since 2006, and subsequently to content writing for technology and internet-focused publications, has done nothing but fuel this passion.
aeb8c9ad553480aa0a551ceaa5bc5a72 64 Google Panda 2.2?: Why the Pandobsession Has to Stop

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26 thoughts on “Google Panda 2.2?: Why the Pandobsession Has to Stop

  1. Panda was fine by me.  I think Google should kill all the spam scraping websites.  I run a clean ship and will continue to do so. Hopefully my websites will keep on chugging along to the top of the SERPs.

  2. Panda was fine by me.  I think Google should kill all the spam scraping websites.  I run a clean ship and will continue to do so. Hopefully my websites will keep on chugging along to the top of the SERPs.

  3. The obsession is often because many pandalized webmasters did accept the status of guilt laid upon them, and they did do everything they were told to do (got rid of thin pages, dup pages, excessive ads, etc). So, when they realized that all those changes weren’t making a difference, presumably because the sites haven’t been re-analyzed by the big bad Panda, it’s understandable that they’d be obsessed over when that re-analysis might take place.  

    1. Absolutely, there are legitimately innocent victims. The more I’ve worked with the pandalized, however, the more I’ve come to see that there are typically very real problems or concerns with the site – and that’s it’s not merely an issue of re-evaluation.

      I’d be interested to see a broader analysis, say from an SEO group, that actually looked at what portion of the impacted groups were impacted for no discernible reasons – but that would require far too much investment to be a worthwhile study. I’m afraid we may have to satisfy ourselves with subjective debate on the matter.

      1. I’m talking about the webmasters, however, who have dealt with the very real problems or concerns…regardless of whether or not they were innocent victims. They were hit…fixed problems (doing all they could imagine might need doing based on feedback, which in some cases meant they did a lot of fixing), only to have done all the fixing for nothing (so far), because their changed/fixed sites have not yet been re-evaluated. They therefore, are anxious for another run-through by Panda that will re-analyze their sites, now that they’ve fixed so many problems.

      2. Certainly. And knowing the timing of, or at least the general frequency at which webmasters should expect, Panda re-cycles of the index would be very useful.

  4. “Because Google updates their algorithm more than once per day on average. It’s not news that
    this is continuing as expected.”

    Actually, it is news. Go back and read the story. Panda is a set of filters that are run independently of the regular algorithm and applied to sites each time a Panda “update” is released.

    So if you were hit by Panda, knowing a Panda 2.2 update is telling you that maybe you’ll have a chance to be reassessed by those filters or maybe you’re going to get hit by improved ones.

    1. I respectfully disagree. I read the story, and it’s not anything different than the predictable course of action. It’s no different than adjustments in other portions of the Google algorithms, which themselves so frequently help or hurt.

      I am, of course, more than willing to hear any specific, concrete way in which the application of updates to Panda is newsworthy (as I do feel the focus on scraping, mentioned in the original story, was), in the exact way that I want to see specific, relevant information about any change to the algorithm of Google or other sites. But the overall idea of, “Yes, they’re still working on it” – which is often what’s being pitched, especially as the original information and quotes are re-posted at other locations – is not something I consider informative or newsworthy.

      Addendum: I’m familiar with the work you’ve done in SEO, and I respect both your perspective and who you are as a professional. My gripe is certainly not with you. It’s with the current SEO news trend of honing in on a fairly minor and predictable segment of the search engines.

      1. I’m sorry but if you don’t think additional Panda updates are newsworthy, then why are you writing about it!?  I’m tired of SEO writers using “Panda” in every post because it brings in traffic.  If you don’t think Panda is news, then stop writing about it!

  5. (psstt.. page says ‘please enter backup tag here for placement size 300×250′ between the like button and the bio)

  6. my site was impacted by panda quite a bit, must admit that I had few things to consider fixing but I never thought google would be so dramatic about it. Like dup titles due to images ( 5 of them over all ,from 1991 posts!)
    Then I had /mobile on my site which allowed people to tweet , had about 45K pages there . I decided to remove that app and google found 20.5K 404′s , so I fixed that.

    MWD recovered somewhat, not too much but enough for me. Lost about 300+K pv/mo gained about 70k back since I deleted some posts, placed nofollow on bunch of things…

    Danny, helped me also a lot with some tips :)

  7. I agree with your things to consider, very good article, I feel where webmasters/SEO’s may have previously not worried too much about the duplicate content, perhaps lazy canonicalisation or bad redirects in place, it has kicked them into gear to create a much cleaner site.

    I have also wanted to see where for example our own sites get scraped the duplicate content on another site recognised as a duplicate of your own. I don’t think Google places enough importance on time stamp and other factors favouring the original creator.

  8. FINALLY Google listens to webmaster who have been hit HARD by the original panda, which started outranking scraper sites above my original content.   Thank GOD, now is time to really kill out all the real spammers.   For those unaffected, it might not be big news to you but for those of us honest online bloggers who were unfairly punished by an algorithm that didn’t work, this will be good, very good.

  9. I think it is a strategy to expand google’s business by manually placing their desired sites! its just an eye wash! Google will surely corrupt, if this experimental torturing porgram continues! 

  10. panda update is not going to happen it has already happened around 7th, I have seen variation in rankings of various websites, google has once again included age as a factor in their rankings as this update effected newer sites more.

  11. Google updates its alogo more than once a day? Is it true.. how daily someone can update his algorithm..
    Also to point out the fatcors that you have listed…One is that the results will be measured by niche sites also. If your nice site has bounce rate as 90% and you as 88%, you will be preferred.
    No doubt both numbers are high but then also you will get weightage.. SO need to look SEO factors for niche sites as well.

  12. Google updates its alogo more than once a day? Is it true.. how daily someone can update his algorithm..
    Also to point out the fatcors that you have listed…One is that the results will be measured by niche sites also. If your nice site has bounce rate as 90% and you as 88%, you will be preferred.
    No doubt both numbers are high but then also you will get weightage.. SO need to look SEO factors for niche sites as well.

  13. Yeah we saw quite a few sites get hit hard by the first Panda, and then some of them seemed to rebound during second iteration. It will be interesting to see results of this one come next week.