Google rolled out its Panda 4.0 search engine algorithmic update on May 20, 2014 that left webmasters across the globe wondering about what the new version exactly meant for their rankings. In what could be a humble coincidence, the search engine giant had unleashed Penguin 2.0 around the same time last year in 2013, which literally hammered thousands of websites and flushed them down the Google search spam drain. Most webmasters would like to forget that episode, but what really is interesting to note is did Google roll out Panda 4.0 and next generation Penguin at the same time?
For starters, let’s look at Google’s new kid on the block – the Panda 4.0
Panda 4.0 like its predecessors targets websites with low quality content and poor user experience, and it is too early to say anything about version four yet, but empirical data suggests that it stresses more on a website’s internal linking structure. It could be so but it is just our opinion. Matt Cutts, Google’s anti search spam head, confirmed the panda 4.0 roll out via Twitter and eBay is supposed to be its first major casualty!
Featured image via Shutterstock and SearchEngineJournal
How we cracked the Panda/Penguin dilemma
Panda and Penguin when unleashed together make it difficult for webmasters to deduce which is working against what. For instance, it gets difficult to understand a website that is hit with both Penguin and Panda, since both of them operate in tandem with each other usually and it gets a little tricky to figure out which update hit and which didn’t.
Many people were confused and worried if Google had intentionally introduced new Penguin update along with the Panda 4.0. The doubt was substantial as many eBay like cases appeared where sites with top ranking results on their business keywords witnessed a dramatic drop in search engine visibility and organic traffic accordingly. Google is known for its no-nonsense behavior when it comes to combating search spam, but another Penguin update and ranking loss sent chills down the spine of webmasters!
Allow me to clear the air and put an end to this madness. Both Panda and Penguin are Google’s efforts to keep in check search spam and those who try to manipulate search engine results. The two share the same purpose, albeit via different ways and approaches. However, saying Google’s Panda and Penguin updates are completely different is somewhat of an understatement in my opinion.
Whenever Panda or Penguin is released worldwide, they are launched with some components of the other one. In simple words, if a new Panda version is rolled out then it will have few elements of Penguin as well all the components it was designed with, just like the latest episode. Similarly whenever Penguin is rolled out then it will carry some Panda elements in the same bundle as well! This is one of the reasons why so many felt they were duped by Google introducing Panda and Penguin together and claiming that only the former was launched.
New Panda Launched = Panda (All components) + Penguin (Few components)
New Penguin Launched = Penguin (All components) + Panda (Few components)
The dilemma also stems from the fact that the above mentioned Google updates behave differently upon release for different domains. When Panda is rolled out, it comes trimmed with some Penguin components, and vice versa when a new Penguin update is released.
MozCast, Algoroo and SERPmetrics are my favorite search algorithm change monitoring tools, and let’s compare their results around the last week of May 2014.
MozCast result offers the most fluctuations as is evident from the screenshot taken on June 3, 2014. The ups and downs indicate just what madness was going on the Google’s backyard!
SERPmetrics 30day flux chart says a 13% change in search rankings in the June 2, 2014 versus the month long median. The May 21, 2014 peak says a lot about the new Panda update and its subsequent effect on the search results.
Algoroo is perhaps the most lenient of the three. Yellow bars after May 17, 2014 indicate the arrival of Panda version 4, which means Google started fooling around with Panda before the unofficial announcement by Matt Cutts on Twitter!
Say hello to Google Penguin
Officially Google has denied the release of a new Penguin update piggybacking behind the Panda version 4. However, the uncertain variations in search traffic post Panda 4.0 are creating more questions than we can answer. The last official release was the Penguin 2.1, and the next generation update is expected sometime this year!
Google Penguin update penalizes websites trying to manipulate their search engine rankings by spammy or unnatural link building schemes. Penguin update automatically detects if a website’s backlink structure is linked with bad link networks and accordingly throws their search rankings off balance.
Google Panda and user experience
Factors associated with the Google Panda update are kind of exclusive and few people understand its true principle in the first place. Arguably one of the most complex algorithm update, Panda is where most of the people get confused and only talk about duplicate content where the truth lies far beneath the perceivable ground. In my honest opinion, key factors contributing to Panda are as follows:-
1. Trust Factor – People should trust the information presented to them via a web page or even a published guest article. Does that content website have this much of trust that people can give credit cards details if asked for?
2. Does this site working on any affiliate website, for instance doorway websites.
3. On-site changes like HTML Coding and site structure and meta descriptions.
4. Site navigation menus including internal linking structure and overall browsing experience.
5. Google Authorship has close relationship with the Panda update. Would your audience trust the author of a published article or publisher of a website? Does the author have established a renowned name in his/her niche industry?
6. How frequently content on the website is updated and who is responsible for the same (authorship)?
7. Thin content, keyword stuffing and content spinning (Google deals duplicate content in clusters by removing the prepositions, articles, etc.)
9. Use of schema and structured data markup on the site.
10. Overall take on a visitor’s user experience including color scheme, fonts, content arrangement, scrolling and website loading time, amongst others. In all fairness, Panda affects all on-site factors that contribute to a website’s user experience.