Despite the promise made by Google to roll out a Penguin Update early this year, the beginning of 2016 saw an update but it was not Penguin. It wasn’t a Google Panda update either! It was Google’s core ranking algorithm!
How did it start?
Webmasters noticed some ranking variations for their keywords over the second weekend of January (9th /10th). At first, everyone thought that it must be the awaited “real time Penguin” update but then the effect was multifaceted and not just restricted to “links”.
We too dug into our data to see the variations in our keyword rankings at the time of the update. The figures for 12th and 13th January reveal that overall there was a change in the keyword rankings by 2%.
Panda as Part of Google’s Core Algorithm
Google has confirmed now that our spam-fighter real hero “Panda” is part of Google’s core ranking algorithm.
Jennifer Slegg posted a Panda Guide on Sempost which cites some of Google’s quotes.
The following is one of them:
“Panda is an algorithm that’s applied to sites overall and has become one of our core ranking signals. It measures the quality of a site, which you can read more about in our guidelines. Panda allows Google to take quality into account and adjust ranking accordingly.”
Generally, Google chooses not to talk much about their search algorithms, but this time, they have been quite transparent.
Also, there have been some rumors that this core algorithm is real-time. However, Gary Illys confirmed on twitter that panda is a part of their ranking algorithm now but is NOT real-time.
Here is the tweet:
— Gary Illyes (@methode) January 12, 2016
Therefore, I am not quite sure if the fluctuation we saw was part of the Panda effect.
When Google Panda was originally launched in February 2011, it was a separate spam filter. Google Panda 4.2 was the last confirmed update which was expected to roll out “very slowly” over a number of months. Well now, you won’t see any panda update in the future.
What it means to be a part of the core algorithm?
As I mentioned above, Google has been quite open to giving information about on the update.
Gary Illyes on Google+ also answered the question “what is the core algorithm all about”
I think this is really the worst takeaway of the past few days, but imagine an engine of a car. It used to be that there was no starter (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starter_(engine)), the driver had to go in front of the car, and use some tool to start the engine. Today we have starters in any petrol engine, it’s integrated. It became more convenient, but essentially nothing changed.
For a user or even a webmaster it should not matter at all which components live where, it’s really irrelevant, and that’s why I think people should focus on these “interesting” things less.
Also, Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist participated in a Q&A and gave his comments on the core algorithm:
“It is less about the functionality, which means it probably doesn’t change that much over time, and it is more about how we perceive it, in the context of the algorithm. Do we still think this is an experimental thing, it is running for a while and we aren’t sure how long it will last? Or is it like PageRank, it is part of it, it will always be there, at least in the foreseeable future and then probably call it in certain context part of the core algorithm.”
What can we do about it?
First of all, you need to understand that Google Panda focuses on content only. Not links, not site structure, not URL but only “quality content”.
Don’t go about removing content: Extensive removal of content without proper research might end up decreasing your rankings even more. Perform a proper content audit on your website. Give a close look at all the pages to determine their value. Use Google Search Console or Analytics to separate the “good” and “bad pages”.
Prefer “fixing” content over “removing” content. Google has always pressed on fixing low-quality content. You can always No-index the thin content (if Google doesn’t index it, your website will not suffer) and improve it in the future.
Put the focus on User Intent: Your content should match the expectations of the user. If any keyword is bringing traffic to your web page, make sure that the page is delivering the promised content. This is one of the easiest steps you can take to save yourself from Panda.
Do not freak about duplicate content. Yes, it does affect your SEO but not as much from Panda perspective.
Always remember there is no relation between word count and quality content. Sometimes even a thousand word article has poor content and sometimes even a 100-word article manages to rank. The bottom line is, go after quality content and not number of words
Don’t fill your website with ads or affiliate links.
While we won’t be seeing any further Panda updates, this major change raised several questions! It is going to be hard to analyze why some of your keywords are not ranking – whether it’s because of Panda or because of one of the hundreds of other ranking signals.