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.