Google Panda 3.3 Update confirmed together with 40 search updates

Again new Google Panda update confirmed. Together with confirming this new 3.3 Panda Update, Google announced 40 search updates that happened in February.

This article will point out few of the search updates I find most important and explain what Google says about the newest Panda update.

Google Panda 3.3 Update

“This launch refreshes data in the Panda system, making it more accurate and more sensitive to recent changes on the web.”

So basically, this update sounds very similar to the update that Google launched mid-January, Panda 3.2. This update was described only as a “data refresh” and not related to new or changed ranking signals.

You can check again this infographics to see the full background of the Panda update that Google introduced 1 year ago.

Evaluating Links

Google has been using for years a certain link evaluation signal. Now it will be getting rid of that, surely causing some discussion:

“We often use characteristics of links to help us figure out the topic of a linked page. We have changed the way in which we evaluate links; in particular, we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years. We often rearchitect or turn off parts of our scoring in order to keep our system maintainable, clean and understandable.”

Google is reluctant to give away too many details about ranking signals and the company has indicated that the blog post says everything they want to say.

Local Search Rankings

Google says that traditional algorithmic ranking factors are playing bigger part in improving local search rankings.

“This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.”

Since Google launched its Places Search in late 2010, traditional SEO has played a bigger part in Google’s local search. This seems to be even further enforced.

According to Google’s post local results are being improved because of a “new system to find results from a user’s city more reliably. Now we’re better able to detect when both queries and documents are local to the user.”

More accurate detection of official pages

Google has made an adjustment how they detect official pages by using codename “WRE”. By this adjustment Google wants to make identifications more accurate.

“We’ve made an adjustment to how we detect official pages to make more accurate identifications. The result is that many pages that were previously misidentified as official will no longer be.”

Improvement to Freshness

Google introduced its “Fresh” algorithm change in late 2011. The purpose was to make search results more fresh, more current. Now Google wants to improve this algorithm change:

“We’ve applied new signals which help us surface fresh content in our results even more quickly than before.”

Other Google Updates

I won’t recap all the 40 search updates in this post, but you can find them here. There are some thing pointed out that you should pay attention to, such as:

  • “Site:” query update
  • International launch of shopping rich snippets
  • Updates related to sitelinks and related searches.

SEO in 2012

It is now time to get ready for 2012 and sum up 2011. The year 2011 was from many perspectives a frustrating year being an SEO specialist, especially if you were running sites that were affected by the Google Panda updates. Starting on Feb 24 with the words from Google that:

“This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high quality sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.”

With more or less constant updates during the year after that it has been a challenge to try to figure out what Google has been up to. The update was only supposed to hit 12% of the rankings initially so if you were hit your first thought was probably – why me? And then Panda rolled out internationally and another hit – why me again?

Sites with content that is much more shallow and thin might still be ranking and going through different KPIs most things might look good. Your next idea might be “has it got something to do with my brand”?

Maybe – PANDA is an algorithmic change where brands are being promoted as they are more trusted and usually have higher quality content. But what if you are active in a vertical where there basically are no brands?

Maybe Google just want to rank non money focused sites like Wikipedia in order to make people click on the ads instead of the organic search results so that Google makes more money, or they might just use the Panda update as a way to save money by having webmasters fixing their sites removing tons of pages etc.? Desperate times call for desperate ideas…

Looking at high performers in competitive verticals after Panda many seem to have a small amount of converting elements and quite a few social media mentions, this is understandable. In many cases they have surprisingly low amount of pages indexed, this however probably comes more down to that these sites have a low amount of low value pages.

Is this the way to go? If you are majorly hit maybe you should just change ownership, do a 301 and hope for the best? Probably not…

So where to go in 2012? There are many KPIs to measure and focus on but after fixing the basics:

  • Identify your major problems (where am I performing bad and where am I performing good)
  • Clean up (crawling errors, canonical tag, low value pages etc.)
  • Improve (make sure your important KPIs actually are improving)
  • Measure (what has changed)

I think most comes down to 3 things.

  1. Content – “Content is King” and going forward and it needs to be unique, relevant and value adding
  2. Brand – At least in the eyes of Google with many direct type ins, long time spent on site, low bounce rate and social media mentions that match your amount of incoming links
  3. Links – They still need to be there and they need to relevant and strong

Changes won’t have immediate effect but work right and work hard, luck favors the prepared!

Have a nice 2012!

Google Panda 2.5 – Winners and Losers

The article published yesterday was about websites hit by Google Panda. This post will complement the yesterday’s article by writing about some unexpected surprises in regards to victims of the newest Panda 2.5 update.

The websites mentioned in this article are from a report that Searchmetrics released recently. Searchmetrics computes a visibility score for a wide range of keywords and the companies mentioned have lost their visibility for those terms, so Searchmetrics doesn’t really know the degree of these sites has actually been harmed by the Google Panda update.

Among the latest losers, victims of Google Panda 2.5 update, are popular tech blog The Next Web, NBC’s The Today Show, Technorati, and Business Wire as well as PR Newswire. You can see the full list from the report published by Searchmetrics.

As I mentioned in the yesterday’s article, YouTube is the top winner. Other winners were Google’s Android.com and Google-partner AOL.com.

While YouTube was the top winner, the second place was taken over by TV.com from CBS Interactive. On percentage bases the site did better than YouTube.

Fox News and other mainstream news websites like Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal are some of the big winners. Motor Trend magazine was hit by Google Panda, while the magazine US Weekly rose.

A notable winner worth mentioning is HubPages which was hit by previous Panda updates in July. Now the site seems to have recovered.

 

Google Panda – Hit or not?

Google Panda update has hit hard on some websites. Some of them have slowly recovered from Panda, and some of those recovered sites hit one more time. Tough.

Barry Schwartz recently conducted a study about which type of websites were hit worst by Google Panda. He got over 200 responses to his survey, and the result showed that affiliate, e-commerce and “how to” sites were the ones that were hit worst.

The chart below illustrates the result from the survey:

Type Of Sites Hit Hardest By Google's Panda Update

Type Of Sites Hit Hardest By Google's Panda Update

(Source: http://www.seroundtable.com/author/barry-schwartz/2.html)

Google rolled out new Panda 2.5 update on September 28th. Some branded sites were clipped again, and some recovered sites hit once more. As we all know, Google owns YouTube, and surprisingly, YouTube is leading again with #1 rankings. Google’s Android.com is among the leaders together with YouTube.

Yes, Google gets to score themselves however they like, and Google properties will be over-represented by regular Google users. Basically Google can just put out something fairly average and promote it, and after collecting the end user data, improve it. This is not possible for other publishers, even for the bigger ones.

Google Panda update launches internationally

Probably most of you already know what Google Panda is? Google made two major changes to its algorithm earlier this year, and this Panda Update was rolled out earlier this year. This time the update wasn’t targeted only to spammy or scraper websites but also low quality websites that are doing shady linking practices. The purpose of the Panda Update is remove all the low quality websites from the rankings.

The Panda Update was first launched in US in late February this year, and in April to all the English language indices internationally. Now recently Google announced, that the Panda update has been rolled out internationally in all languages (except Chinese, Korean and Japanese).

I read a good article written by Vanessa Fox and published in Search Engine Land. Vanessa wrote in the article how Panda has seemed to focuse on unique value and user experience:

  • How is the content quality of the site compared to other webpages with similar content?
  • Is there more than one page focusing on the same thing?
  • Is most of the content original or copied?
  • If the content is unique, is it credible and covering the topic completely, or is it only a superficial scratch?
  • Is the website user friendly and easy to navigate?
  • Are the design and goals of the website user-focused or revenue-focused?

Because Panda is now international, webmasters and site owners internationally have to take actions in trying to prevent the update to affect their sites. Good starting point is to make sure that your site is not having these 5 deadly content sins that Cyrus Shepard mentioned in his article about beating Google’s Panda Update:

  • Heavy template footprint: Template footprint creates a low ratio of original content.
  • Empty content: Is there pages that exist only to link to other pages? Eliminate these or add some good quality content on these pages.
  • Overlapping and redundant articles: Each page of a site should talk about a specific topic, not just writing about the same topic with slightly different keywords.
  • High ad ratio: Even though it would be about Google AdWords…
  • Affiliate links and auto-generated content: Build your website and add the content yourself, don’t use automated content. Human touch is important.

If your site has suffered from lost traffic and rankings due to Panda Update, and you do the changes mentioned and avoid the 5 deadly content sins, your rankings will probably get better, but don’t expect it to happen very fast.