What can we expect from Google’s ‘Soft Panda’ Update?

The Google Updates Keep on Coming

The world of SEO changed forever when Google released the Panda update on 23rd February 2011. Targeting thin content, sites with too many ads, over optimising content, content farms, duplication and sites with other quality issues, the update demolished many sites and left others with a significant loss in traffic and a need to rebuild from scratch.

It is safe to say that some businesses and websites have never fully recovered, and Google’s Head of Webspam Matt Cutts has become a Sith Lord or a Jedi Master depending on your view of Google and the way they conduct and apply their spam measures.

On one hand, the websites with great content who have seen their rankings and traffic improve because of the Panda update beating away their dodgy competitors, other sites have been hit when they feel – rightly or wrongly – that they didn’t deserve to be. The issue here is that when Google owns the vast majority of the pieces, you have to play the game by their rules.

What Does a ‘Softening’ Of The Panda Algorithm Mean?

There have been over 20 updates of the Panda algorithm since Feb 2011, and although they have never been as big and terrifying as the first, people have still complained of their results and traffic being demolished. Now, arguably for the first time, Matt Cutts and his team seem to be leaning towards a new, softer approach to the Panda update, as Cutts himself announced at the recent SMX West event.

Cutts said that he and his team are looking to soften the algorithm in order to help small businesses who may have been destroyed or slightly impacted by the past Panda updates to come back from it. This seems to be a direct response to the recent cries of SEO’s and businesses everywhere who have complained that it takes far too long to get a penalty overturned, even if it is a simple Manual Spam action that has come through Webmaster Tools.

The last time Google supposedly softened the Panda algorithm was in July last year, when 18% of search queries recovered from the penalty. It will be interesting to see what percentage of queries are affected this time, whenever the update finally goes live. There is no date given as of yet, but Matt Cutts is likely to make a statement leading up to it because of the publicity it has already received.

What Will The New Panda Update Mean For The Web?

The businesses and webmasters who have actively kept up to speed with the Google algorithm updates (including via Moz.com’s algorithm change page) and have made changes to their websites design, content and the number of ads they have on their site according to each change are likely to see an increase in their rankings and web traffic, particularly the sites who have changed and improved their site activity as a direct result of being hit by the Panda update over the last three years.

It can be a pain trying to keep up with Google, but if you are prepared to put in the work to make your website and its content the best it can be, without taking short cuts and taking your eye off the ball with ads, thin content and your web design, there is no reason why your site should be affected by the Panda algorithm update, or why it shouldn’t recover if you already have been.


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