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What Is Google Panda All About?

In today’s environment, most people get their information off the web.  And the majority of that group of people will click links on the first page of results in Google search engines.

Recognizing that the front page is where the largest market browses the web, Google will periodically update their algorithms to improve the web browsing experience for users.  These updates are known as Panda and Penguin, which act as filters blocking spam filled websites from reaching the top page while rewarding sites using organic SEO strategies with higher rankings.

Panda is an algorithm that was first introduced in February 2011, and was one of the biggest changes made by Google in years.  The initial launch was said by Google’s Matt Cutts to affect up to 12 percent of all search engine rankings in the US market, with similar rates in other markets around the world.

Since the initial Panda launch, there was a Panda 2.0 and a Panda 3.0 released intermittently over the years.  These larger, more extensive updates overtook the monthly updates used by Google to make minor changes to algorithms and rankings.

There was a recent Panda 4.0 update that many webmasters believe was tested throughout the month of May 2014 as there were notable shifts in rankings for many key search terms over that time.  Matt Cutts gave hints about the new Panda update in March at the Search Marketing Expo, where he hinted the new algorithm will likely benefit many small businesses.

As with other Panda updates, Google is expected to reward sites sharing unique, creative, and most importantly user related content that fits their brand or product profile with improved rankings.  Consequently, Google will continue punishing spamming or link heavy sites with lower rankings – or in certain extremes, removing sites from search engine results altogether.

Though Panda is known for punishing sites that fail to follow Google’s webmaster rules, very few sites see sizeable jumps in rankings in the immediate aftermath of an update.  Noticeable shifts up or down in the rankings over the first 48 hours following a Panda update should be taken with a grain of salt.  It takes time for Panda to filter through all the content on the web.

Tim Worstall, a contributor on Forbes magazine, calls Panda 4.0 “evolution in action” requiring webmasters to analyze how their sites come through the updates, and then adjust their SEO strategies to take advantage of potential higher rankings.  Worstall describes the aftermath of Panda as sites “running to stand still” – if your site remains more or less in line with where you stood in the rankings before the update, you likely came through the changes ok.

Webmasters and SEOs should spend the first week after Panda 4.0 carefully monitoring Google analytics and other factors that measure a site’s rankings.  Over the course of a 7 day adjustment, site managers can fully understand if they are working within Google’s guidelines – or preparing for a serious problem.

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