SEO & Content Marketing

Fighting Back Against the Panda 4.1 Update

Written by Neil Hannam on 30th October 2014

UPDATE July 2015: Panda 4.2 is now rolling out.

Since this blog post was written a new Panda update has been announced by Google. Get all the information on this latest update on our new blog post.

 

There’s a huge difference between the very real black and white pandas found in bamboo forests in central China and the Panda algorithm update released by Google; designed to demote sites with thin, poor or spammy content. Just to clarify, I’ll be talking to you about the latter.

When Was Panda 4.1 Released?

The Panda 4.1 algorithm update was rolled out on the 25th September – however it has been an extremely slow roll out. This process of slowly rolling out the update is one that Google also adopted for the Penguin 3.0 update.

What is Panda 4.1?Panda 4.1 Algorithm Update

Panda 4.1 is an algorithm update rolled out by Google. Google uses a number of different algorithms to deliver users with relevant search results. Panda 4.1 is an update to a specific algorithm which was first introduced on the 23rd February 2011 and affected up to 12% of search results. It targeted thin content, content farms and sites with a high ad-to-content ratio. This particular update is an upgraded version of its predecessor, becoming more sophisticated in how it finds and targets websites which deliver a poor user experience.
With this said, the new Panda 4.1 algorithm update is expected to impact between 3 – 5 % of all search queries. This is not as dramatic as when it was first rolled out, but it’s still a significant amount.

 

 

What Does Panda 4.1 Target?

 

bulls eye targetThe new Panda 4.1 algorithm update can be good or bad news for your website – depending on the type and level of content which is currently on your website. So what exactly does the Panda 4.1 algorithm target and why?

 

 

 

 

 

Historic Panda Algorithm Updates

Yeah sure, there are many mysteries in the world – but they have nothing on the elusive algorithms designed by Google.

 

 

Panda updateDate of Release
Panda 4.125th September 2014
Panda 4.020th May 2014
Panda #2515th March, 2013
Panda #2422nd January, 2013
Panda #2321st December, 2012
Panda #2221st November, 2012
Panda #215th November, 2012
Panda #2027th September, 2012
Panda 3.9.218th September, 2012
Panda 3.9.120th August, 2012
Panda 3.924th July, 2012
Panda 3.825th June, 2012
Panda 3.79th June, 2012
Panda 3.627th April, 2012
Panda 3.519th April, 2012
Panda 3.423rd March, 2012
Panda 3.326th February, 2012
Panda 3.215th January, 2012
Panda 3.118th November, 2011
Panda 2.5.319th / 20th October, 2011
Panda 2.5.213th October, 2011
Panda 2.5.19th October, 2011
Panda 2.528th September, 2011
Panda 2.4August, 2011
Panda 2.322nd July, 2011
Panda 2.218th June, 2011 or so
Panda 2.19th May, 2011
Panda 2.011th April, 2011or so
Panda 1.024th February, 2011

The Panda Algorithm Targets…

 

Known as the ‘content’ update, we know that in the past the Panda algorithm tackles the following with a ferocity that scares even the most seasoned online marketer.

  • Thin content
  • Spammy content
  • Spun content
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Doorway pages
  • Deceptive content
  • Security warnings
  • Pop-up ads
  • Forced downloads
  • Content farms

However, recent observations have highlighted that broad informational website have been targeted by the new Panda 4.1 update. There are two ways you can look at this – Google have penalised their ‘competitors’ (and I use that word loosely) or Google have decided to support niche informational website which offer better information on specific topics, as opposed to websites which try and cover a broad topic and as a result, lack really informative content.
This is supported by Pierre Far, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google UK who announced that;

“Based on user (and webmaster!) feedback, we’ve been able to discover a few more signals to help Panda identify low-quality content more precisely. This results in a greater diversity of high-quality small- and medium-sized sites ranking higher, which is nice.”

Who Could Benefit from the Panda 4.1 Update

Using our knowledge of the previous Panda updates and the case studies which have been reported online we can safely assume which sites could potentially benefit from this update.
This includes websites which focus on a specific theme or topic and provide lots of great, high quality content for their audience. So much so, that they are considered an authority on their particular topic.

 

Fantastic News for Some!thumbs up

If you were previously struck down by Google’s Panda update, then this update could see you re-emerge within the search results – if you’ve taken the correct action.
If you’ve placed informative, unique content on your main landing pages and you invested in a content marketing strategy which has been in place to steadily build the amount of good quality content on your website then you should see a dramatic improvement.

 

 

But (And This Is The Big Question) How Do You Know If You’ve Been Hit?

It’s time to keep a close eye on your organic traffic – to do this you can use Google Analytics which is a free tool most of you will already have in place. If not, it’s time you did.
By monitoring the level of organic traffic to your website you’ll be able to see if there is a noticeable and unexplained drop in organic traffic. If this coincides with a drop in ranking positions then you could have been hit. If you’ve had Google Analytics for a number of years, you can compare the data against last year. This will give you additional insight which will allow you to determine if a drop is seasonal or not.
This is a slow roll out, so if you’ve not noticed a drop in ranking positions and organic traffic – don’t get too comfortable.

 

 

panda warning signThe Warning Signs of a Potential Panda Attack

While a drop in organic traffic and ranking positions could be a clear indicator you’ve been hit, you first need to assess the website to identify why. If there’s no clear cause, the drop could be due to something completely different.
Here’s a check list which looks at what you need to review on your website

  • Thin Content: review the pages on your website to identify if the level of content is sufficient. This will normally depend on whether it is a product page, a category page or a service page.
  • Duplicate Content: there are a number of tools which allow you to check if there is duplicate content on your website and elsewhere on the internet. These tools include Copyscape, Moz and Screaming Frog are two tools we recommend.
  • No Supporting Content: if you want to raise your visibility within the search results while safeguarding yourself against a potential attack from Google’s Panda then we recommend that you invest in a Content Marketing Strategy to provide lots of useful content on a particular topic. Thus driving more traffic to your website and providing a better experience for your target audience.

How to Recover from a Panda Update

If you know for certain that you’ve been hit or you’re just keen to prevent a future attack, then there are certain things which you can do.

 

  • Firstly you need to perform a site audit of the content on your website, taking into consideration the points mentioned above.
  • Next you need to add useful content to the existing pages of your website and optimise it for relevant keywords.
  • Once you have done this, you need to create a Content Marketing Strategy to safeguard the clear and concise delivery of great content.
  • Review the user experience of the website and identify how you could improve this.

If you need help with this, please get in touch with the team here at Anicca on 0116 298 7488 or click here to complete our online contact form and a member of our team will get in touch with you.

 

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