Google’s Panda 4.0 – Are You Panicking or Picnicking?

June 18, 2014

Pando 4.0 and what you need to knowWe’ve talked to people in the industry on both sides – those panicking because they’ve lost as much as 50% of their organic traffic overnight; and those picnicking because they’ve seen great gains overnight! Below is what you need to know.

Since the dawn of the early search engines, online marketers have sought ways to exploit holes in search engine algorithms. In the early days of search, this wasn’t tremendously complicated. Search engines were gamed when marketers stuffed pages and meta tags full of keywords and later by building huge amounts of low quality links.

As time moved by, the search engines became more sophisticated and cheating them became more difficult. With each passing update, Google, the current king of search, has aimed to close up these loopholes and force websites to be high quality and valuable to their visitors. In the past few years Google has had various releases of its Panda and Penguin updates, most recently, their “Panda 4.0” which was rolled out on May 20th.

Since Google rolled out the Panda update in February 2011, the major updates have been updates to that original Panda update and its follow up Penguin in April of 2012. So what specifically do sites need to worry about as Google continues to refine these updates? Here’s what we’ve seen the past three years:

What’s good for users is good for Google

  • If your site speed is lagging, Google may drop you in the rankings. No one wants to wait for a page to load, least of all Google’s crawlers who are trying to index the entire web.
  • Your site needs to work well, not just on standard computers, but on mobile devices as well. Check out this blog on Responsive Web Design.
  • Quality content will eventually win. This means page content and blog content. Yes, some spammy, low quality sites still rank out well, but with each passing update more sites get cracked down upon for having thin content. One automotive accessory site we spoke with recently lost over 80% of their traffic when Google decided that hundreds of their pages with only one sentence about the accessory and the name of the car model was no longer worth indexing. If you have a huge site, you better be prepared to write huge amounts of quality, unique content. Check out this blog on How to Write a Great Blog!

The link schemes are up

  • The Penguin updates target low-quality link schemes with each passing update, so if your site ever worked with an SEO company but didn’t track their work, you should definitely set up Google Webmaster Tools and review your links. If you have too many links from low quality blog comments, forum posts, article sites or link farms, you’re bound to get penalized sooner or later if you haven’t been already.
  • Don’t overdo it! In the past Google’s rankings could be gamed by getting a large number of anchor text links using your target keywords. In non-SEO speak, this means if you wanted to rank for the phrase “brand x” you would want as many links as possible to your target ranking page to use the text “brand x”. Like all manipulative tactics, Google eventually wanted to correct people who abused this tactic, and most recently, sites with high percentages of non-natural looking anchor text have been dropping like flies in Google’s rankings.

There is some Good News!

More and more it pays to follow Google’s rules, which means creating great content and gaining links to your site naturally. That’s why we continue to focus on generating excellent content for our customers and this latest update once again backs up our approach. A customer we work with saw a week to week increase of nearly 1,500 visits to their blog after the update, with several posts increasing their traffic by over 50%. (Analytics screenshot below)

Pando 4.0 Update

Yes, in the past you could find cheap, easy ways to quickly jump up the rankings on Google, but that’s a thing of the past. SEO in 2014 is a marathon, not a sprint. If you cut corners with tactics like the ones mentioned above, don’t be surprised when things go south.

Have you seen in a big drop in traffic? Not sure what all this means? Need help navigating it and just want someone who can get you results? We’ve heard that before … schedule a 30 Minute Consultation and we’ll be glad to share some advice to get you headed the right way!