Just when you think you have all the answers, I change the questions.

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As recently reported across the vast digital landscape, many SEOs and webmasters reported some major ranking activity in Google SERPs over the weekend, similar to what was witnessed just the previous weekend. Though many of us perceived this to have been a potential major update to the Penguin algorithm, Google were quick to quash any such rumours with Gary Illyes indicating that the consequence of these fluctuations was as a result of ongoing updates to their Core Algorithm.

confirmed google update twitter

Despite the impending arrival of the next update to their Penguin algorithm, it’s possible that these common core ranking algorithm updates may be being rolled out as an early warning sign to prepare SEOs and webmasters for the expectedly significant effects of the next major Penguin update. Without succumbing to speculation, it’s worth considering that ongoing updates could be the search giant’s method of fine tuning their Core Algorithm in order to enable Penguin to operate more efficiently, or become more discriminatory to further improve the quality – and accuracy – of search results for any given term. Although we are yet to fully understand what the true impact of these updates are to the world of SEO, we can infer that there’s likely to be some wholesale changes when the Penguin update is rolled out.

What have we seen?

From an agency point of view, we’ve seen many positive movers over the past couple of weeks with some really quite noticeable increases to many of our client’s rankings, as shown in the image below.

ranking increases google core algorithm update

As can be seen from the above image, there has been a major uplift in organic rankings for many of our clients’ sites that we track in our self-developed ranking tool. Though we can see also see an increase in rankings in Bing, we can clearly discriminate between the two by looking at the ranking fluctuations over a set time period which would indicate that such movement is consistent with this month’s two confirmed updates to the Google Core Algorithm.

ranking decreases google core algorithm update

To further prove that these sudden increases were as a consequence of the Google Core Algorithm update and, if we look at the some of the negative movers that were tracked, you can clearly see that despite a loss in positions in Google, almost all campaigns in the below image demonstrated an increase in rankings in Bing (as shown above). As such, we can now confirm the notion that the cause of these fluctuations was Google specific.

ranking increases google core algorithm update

By drilling down into the campaigns that demonstrated the greatest increases across the board, this evidence only serves to prove that this uplift was as a consequence of this weekend’s Google update. In fact, the graphs (above and below) clearly demonstrates huge increases on the days that the Core Algorithm was updated and has shown further positive increases since.

ranking increases google core algorithm update

With the Google Panda algorithm now fully integrated into the Core Algorithm, it’s possible that these changes may pertain to the quality of site content – particularly since we have encouraged many of our clients to refresh their site content in 2016. Not only that, but with this integration, Google are now unlikely to specifically release a major update to their Panda algorithm, as any change to their Core Algorithm will inadvertently update Google Panda too. So although we can’t necessarily interpret this as a major update to Panda, we can rationally assume that Google is further tightening the screw on what it defines to be quality and relevant content.

Don’t fear though. Such volatility in the search results over the past couple of weeks should simply be used as a guideline to determine whether you can panic or relax when the next Google Penguin update is confirmed. However, providing that standard and best practice is followed on a consistent basis, there should be no need to worry as it’s likely that many of us will have already made efforts to switch to a more natural strategy.

Google Panda has continued to grow and evolve since its inception, but in February it will turn 5 years old. Let me just say that again…we have been talking about Google Panda for 5 years now!

In this time, we have experienced several phases of the Google Panda algorithm, though they haven’t been reported as different phases. Instead, it was through the 28 announced updates Google have pushed out, the focus has definitely shifted onto what content was an issue and what content was deemed as fine. The way Panda has been sculpted has been highlighted by each update and what effect it had. For example, you may have had content on your website that didn’t become an issue until update #27 3 years into the Panda algorithm.

Below, I have gone through the 3 main phases of the Panda algorithm and in my hands on experience, what each phase was implemented for.

Phase 1 – The Clean-up

In the beginning, Google introduced Panda to crack down on the volume of content spam there was on the internet. People working in SEO knew content links worked well, and as a result of this, the internet was flooded with low quality, meaningless content. The reason it was so poor is because people who knew content related links were good, also knew that the quality of the content was irrelevant. Poorly produced content was then spun time and time again to create even lower quality content, but at the time it worked well and everyone did it.

festival clean up

Credit: Daily Mail

At this point, Google introduced Panda, and with one update, they started to clean up the internet. The first iteration of Panda (I believe) was launched to help combat link spam. Most, if not all, the poor content produced online was done for link building, so creating an algorithm that combat this not only improved the quality of the internet, but also started the fight against spam link building.

The main sites that were targeted in round one were content farms, press release and article submission websites, and any other forms of spam content that had been created on mass by the marketing industry.

Phase 2 – Home Improvements

As time went on, Google got on top of the spam content used for link building and, as it started to affect site rankings, webmasters focused their attention on removing spam content that had been produced purely for ranking purposes, which saw an increase of spammy content being cleared off the internet. For many webmasters, this was simply a links task – until Google went into phase 2, that is.

Phase 2 was changing the focus from content farms and websites that displayed large amounts of spam to websites that are doing the optimisation themselves. Google started looking at on page content that websites used, homepage, category, service and product pages all had their content scrutinised by the Google Panda algorithm.

home improvements

First in the firing line were people that had content as a second thought i.e. content hidden when the page loads, or content that was placed at the bottom of the page. If people add content for the search engines and made it harder for the user to read, Google became clever at realising this and took action.

Blogs were another aspect that became an issue, when blogs took off, people really invested much time into adding blogs to their website every day, 7 days a week. The issue with this was that the content was produced for the sake of it – because webmasters knew they needed to – and not because it was good content for a user to read. Again, Google started to see this as an issue.

As a result, people started removing content from their websites and, as a result, they did improve the quality of their website. However, this was only making a slight improvement from poor to OK.

The next phase started making webmasters think about the content on their site in an effort to further improve the quality of site content in general, gearing it more towards engaging visitors and offering relevant and accurate information.

Phase 3 – Fine Tuning

The final phase of Google Panda is how it’s been for the last 12 – 18 months. It’s not wholesale updates any more that devastate rankings and, if you got through phase 1 and 2, then Panda isn’t causing you penalty issues, though your website may no longer be up to scratch to achieve great rankings.

Having no site content is better than having spammy content, but good quality content aimed at users is what gets a website ranking better.

fine tuning

Google Panda is now built into the algorithm, so there are no longer Panda specific updates that get announced. However, Google does still update their algorithm with content at the source, but instead of it being an update, it’s more about turning the screw and tweaking the effectiveness for continual improvements.

To be a success you need to look at the following on your website and see if it can be improved (in no particular order):

  • Do you have any duplicate content on your site internal or external?
  • Is the content on your website aimed at a user or a search engine?
  • Do all your pages have content on them?
  • Is the content engaging and meaningful?
  • If you were the client, does the content on your website tell you everything you need to know to achieve its goal and convert?

If it’s been a while since the last time you refreshed your site content, then it’s likely that you’ll need to refresh your entire site to bring it more in line with today’s requirements. Not only that, but it can potentially provide your site with an uplift in organic rankings as Google indexes and assesses these content changes to your internal pages.

On 25th of September, Google announced that they have released and started to roll out another Panda update. The implementation was predicted to take approximately 2 weeks with it starting a week before the announcement.

Despite the fact that Google often quotes percentages of searches affected by any new update – including the magnitude of impact that this has on certain websites – I have found that being a part of a large agency has provided me with the ability to see movement with most updates and this one is no different.

In layman’s terms, Panda was designed to clean up the internet of poor content. 3 years on, and they are still working on it! Each update ‘tightens a screw’, so something that was acceptable a few months ago, all of a sudden becomes unacceptable.

Who were the winners?

Almost all websites that saw movement in the last two weeks were positive, which we would have expected. As part of any campaign, content always plays a major part in it and good content that is relevant to the page has or will never cause an issue with Panda updates.

Homepage, category or blog content can all be affected, but with a good content strategy and overview you can be confident that your site won’t be negatively impacted.

Increase in organic rankings Significant increase in organic rankings following Panda 4.1 update

Not every increase was as satisfying as the above graph, however the overall trend was positive one.

Who were the losers?

We had two examples of websites that saw a drop in the Panda rollout window, but we were already aware of the website issues on both of the websites and actively working with the webmaster to rectify on-page and content issues.

The benefit of witnessing a drop organically on these websites, means that we can confirm what we know in terms of content and what Google wants, or expects to see. These two sites will recover well, but let’s have a look at what we can learn from this recent update…

What can we learn?

The main issue with Panda updates is that it creates issues out of something that wasn’t previously a problem. Sites could have sailed through the previous 26 updates without any issues, however as we described above, each update can be thought of as tightening a screw with Google scrutinising different aspects more or less.

Thin Content

It’s been highlighted for a while that Google doesn’t like “thin” content and it seems almost certain that this was a part of the latest update.

Websites that had content, but not a great amount, may have come out as losers during this update any may have caught people by surprise if they thought that what they had was enough. If the design of your website means that it is more visual than content based, then it may be time to refresh the design of your site and allow for more content.

If this sounds like your issue, simply add more content to the website ensuring that it’s written for the user and you can’t go wrong.

International Duplicate Content

This example isn’t as common as other issues, though, and Google has a lot of recommendations that people do follow, but sometimes issues can still arise even after following their advice.

The second site we saw drop was a company that has websites all over the world. During the update, Google cached another one of their websites as the UK website, which caused a significant drop in rankings (shown below).

Drop in organic rankings Significant decrease in organic rankings as a consequence of the Panda 4.1 update

Google has many different tools to geotarget domains and websites, but if these tools are not used correctly then issues can arise, after all, Google isn’t perfect.

There are some simple points to follow if you have international websites:

  • Create a strategy for how to service different countries.
  • Ensure the different countries have content written for that country.
  • Ensure content is in the native language.
  • Ensure the sites are geo target correctly.
  • Utilise the Href Lang Meta tags correctly.

If you do have a drop during an update then it’s generally easy to rectify, especially when the update is content related. However, if you still seem to be having trouble reinstating your rankings or require a manual penalty removal, then contact us today for a website health check and we can advise you on the steps required for Panda and Penguin recovery.

Once the issue is fixed, Google will always return your rankings.

Here at SEONext we know how to help our clients create their own unique brand, the most efficient tool any small business can have when it comes to selling yourself to your potential customers.

Itisntjust about having a good logo and a great slogan; the company matters itself. SEONext has gone from strength to strength as a brand with strength internally & externally, our reputation preceding itself when it comes to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Taking the example from the strongest worldwide companies today such as Pepsi, Coca-Cola, BskyB; we sell our services as well as our brand. Our unique service of ethical, non-contract, strategic SEO is not offered anywhere else in the world.

At SEONext we dont tie our clients into endless contracts with no results; we trust our clients and our own reputation in providing credible, recordable results. So whats the secret? Theres no secret what so ever. There are 5 topics to address when creating your online presence.

Being Unique

You need to separate yourself from any of your competitors, analysing your strengths over said competitors and delivering results based on those strengths. The branding of your company needs to be designed with that in mind; create that personal touch, something that will catch the right eye and elevate yourself throughout your target market.

Target Market

When thinking of your strengths as a brand or product, identify that niche in the market in which you will thrive; this can prove difficult but the rewards are tremendous. Use your brand to communicate your message to your target market; who you are, what youre about, why youre the best. It should be something that a potential customer wont find it easy to forget.

Getting Personal

Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and think of what you would want in a company or service that someone is selling to you. People like to know as much as they can about whom theyre dealing with, so tell them. Let them know about yourself, it will help increase their overall impression of the integrity of a brand. A powerful brand always has an emotional & personal connection; the perfect example is the Virgin brand & Sir Richard Branson.

Your Delivery Statement

Your delivery statement will create the trust in your brand throughout your target market, used throughout any kind of advertising available to you. A company that has a commanding message will never be forgotten. Always Coca-Cola as they say.

Creating Consistency

The long-term benefits of an effective branding strategy are only felt as they are maintained. Any company needs to consistently deliver their message throughout their target market, their new products or services, and any new areas of their market. Being consistent creates a powerful brand.

Here at SEONext we have one of the strongest internet branding teams devoting their time to creating this presence for our clients, developing & expanding any existing brand and rocketing them through their respective markets.

For any help or any enquiries you have please call 08455390642 or email us at info@seonext.co.uk, were more than happy to help your company become a global brand.