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Inbound Marketing Blog

    The Latest on The Panda 4.0 Update

    Posted by Katie Redmond

    Why eBay’s Rankings Dropped, Who Panda 4.0 is Going After, & How to Tell if You’ve Been Hit

    It has been just over two weeks since Google quietly rolled out their Panda 4.0 update. When Panda was originally released in February of 2011, many websites experienced a huge drop in rankings and thus, traffic. Because of that, lots of website owners have been nervous about this big update.

    Quite a few rumors and questions have been floating around SEO blogs about the update since its release, and we’ve found the answers to a few big ones.

    Was eBay Hit by The Panda SEO Update? 

    As soon as Google’s Panda update began making headlines online, bloggers and SEOs pointed to one website as the primary example of sites hit hard by the update: eBay. On May 19th, eBay’s rankings dropped swiftly. Generally nestled comfortably in Moz’s Big 10 domains list, they dropped quickly from the 6th highest down to the 25th highest shareholder of Google’s top 10 rankings.

    Because this drop occurred just the day before Google’s official Panda update announcement, many SEOs believed that eBay might have been the first big site to feel the hurt from a big algorithm update. This lead to much analysis on what eBay was doing to trigger the drop in rankings from the Panda update.

    However, Recode.net released this article last week; it claims that Google hit eBay with a manual penalty that just happened to coincide with the Panda update release. While there’s no real consensus on what eBay did to warrant the penalty, some speculate that it could have to do with the way eBay was categorizing their sub-category pages to boost rankings.

    Why is this newsworthy? That leads us into point number 2…

    Who is Being Affected by Panda 4.0?

    According to Matt Cutts himself, Panda 4.0 is a much softer update to the algorithm as a whole. It aims, as all the algorithm updates do, to reduce the amount of spammy, shallow content on the top of Google’s search results. While Panda 4.0 certainly is a big update (Cutts claimed in March that "it will, [lay] the groundwork for future iteration”), it won’t necessarily have the large effects on smaller and medium sized sites that the Panda updates have had in the past. 

    Large Aggregators Are Feeling The Burn

    In fact, most of the websites that have experienced negative side effects of Panda 4.0 thus far have been larger sites like RetailMeNot and Ask.com. The most common factor between the larger sites that have seen the negative side of Panda is that they are aggregator sites, meaning that they compile information that's already online, like celebrity gossip, coupons and discounts, software, or press releases, and redistribute them on their site.

    Unfortunately for these aggregators, because they’re simply redistributing information that’s already on the web, not much of their content is original, which may be the cause for their drop in rankings.

    However, not all aggregator sites are feeling the pain from Panda 4.0. Aggregator websites like GlassDoor and Buzzfeed saw nice bumps in rankings as the Panda SEO update rolled out, likely because their aggregation generally features a new, unique take on what they redistribute.

    How Do You Know If You’ve Been Hit by Panda 4.0? 

    This is one of the most prominent questions in many of the comment sections of the Panda update blogs I’ve been reading, and it’s a very valid question. Panda 4.0 was a huge update that has affected over 7% of all English search queries, and a large amount of websites have felt the effect, both positive and negative, of its release already. Luckily, the answer to the question many of you may be asking is simple:

    How do you know if Panda has affected your web rankings? Just look! 

    Panda 4.0 Google Analytics

    There are a number of free, easy-to-use resources out there to help you keep track of your website’s rankings in the aftermath of the Panda update.

    Probably the most useful one of those resources is Google Analytics. If your organic rankings have taken a huge turn north or south since May 19th or 20th, then you’ve probably seen the affects of Panda 4.0 either help or hurt your site.

    Not seeing any notable movement? It may be that this update hasn’t had a huge affect on your traffic. But don’t let that deter you from keeping a regular eye on your analytics. Checking your organic traffic regularly will help ensure that you’re never surprised by the consequences of a Google update.

    Another way to check for the effects of Panda 4.0 to your site is to check your keyword rankings. Compare them to how your keywords ranked in early May – see any major differences? If so, it might be Panda.

    If you aren’t already tracking your keyword rankings, now is the time to start! They’re not the be-all and end-all of SEO, but they can certainly help to indicate any major issues that your site may be having with Google. As far as tools for keyword ranking, I like Cuterank, but you can use whatever works best for you.

    Looking for other ways to ensure that you’ll only experience positive ramifications from Panda 4.0?

    3 Easy Guidelines to Ensure an Easy Panda 4.0 Experience

    1. Don’t post duplicate content on your site

    If you do find a helpful article on the web that you just can’t help but share with your site visitors, make sure you share it in a way that avoids being pegged for duplicate content. Make sure you add a canonical tag to whichever page features the duplicate information. This ensures that the original poster gets the credit and that Google doesn’t view you as a plagiarizer.

    Unsure of whether or not you're posting duplicate content? Not sure how to add a canonical tag? Check out the blog I wrote on the topic here:

    The 3 Most Common Types of Damaging Duplicate Content (and how to fix it)

    2. Stay away from too much syndication

    This tip is very similar to the first one. While syndication is technically sound as a practice (as long as you add a canonical tag), it doesn’t provide your site with very much unique content. Google loves to see lots of original content on a website, so if you’re aggregating loads of content just because its easy, you may want to reconsider your content strategy. 

    3. Lighten up on advertising

    Having too much advertising on your page in comparison to your content is a huge no-no – especially when most of that advertising is above the fold. If you’ve already got loads of ads on your site, consider removing some or at least rearranging the way they are placed so that more are at the bottom of your page than at the top.

    The Next Update is Coming

    At the end of the day, Panda 4.0 isn’t the last algorithm update that Google will make. The best explanation of Google’s algorithm updates that I’ve ever seen comes from Business Review Weekly

    Much like when you’re fixing your hair in the mirror, each of these updates has the same end goal, it just takes some adjusting to make sure Google has a ‘good hair day’.

    Coming up with a way to avoid negative side effects from just this one update is ultimately not going to keep you safe from the next one. If you want to stay on top every time Google updates their algorithm, create a site that lasts.

    • Enrich your site with unique content.
    • Make sure that the user experience is quick and engaging.
    • Double check that your URL parameters are correct.
    • Basically, stick to SEO best practices and stop looking for loopholes and quick tricks – they’re not a viable long-term plan.

    Need some help mastering your website's SEO? Download our free eBook and get the skills you need to prepare for Panda's next big update. Click below to get your copy now.




    Topics: SEO