You may have followed the various murmurings on Twitter and beyond about a possible algorithm update from Google. Certainly the data seemed to suggest that something was happening.
It was rumoured to be the much anticipated Penguin 4.0 update, but it turns out that there has been a new roll-out of Panda, and it’s a biggie.
This time around Google has made Panda part of its core ranking algorithm, meaning that it will be paying more attention to site quality signals than ever before.
Google confirmed the update to Jennifer Slegg over at The SEM Post.
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.
This seems straight-forward, though Google’s Gary Illyes has sown some confusion with this reponse to a question on Twitter from Pete Myers of Moz.
@dr_pete what?! No no, it was just the core ranking stuff, no panda
— Gary Illyes (@methode) January 12, 2016
Jennifer published a super comprehensive guide to Panda yesterday, and has updated it to include some further pointers from Google.
A few takeaways:
Websites affected by Panda can still rank, if they have pages of outstanding quality:
“The Panda algorithm may continue to show such a site for more specific and highly-relevant queries, but its visibility will be reduced for queries where the site owner’s benefit is disproportionate to the user’s benefit.”
If you’re worried Panda then you need to compare and contrast:
“If you believe your site is affected by the Panda algorithm, in Search Console’s Search Analytics feature you can identify the queries which lead to pages that provide overly vague information, or don’t seem to satisfy the user need for a query.”
You need to stop thinking about the volume of visits, and focus on being useful:
“At the end of the day, content owners shouldn’t ask how many visitors they had on a specific day, but rather how many visitors they helped.”
Build some new paths, rather than trying to cover up your tracks:
“Instead of deleting those pages, your goal should be to create pages that don’t fall in that category: pages that provide unique value for your users who would trust your site in the future when they see it in the results.”
This puts to bed a lot of the chatter about Penguin 4.0, but proves the effectiveness of a bunch of SEO tools, which did a good job of detecting activity.
I’d seen a bunch of comments the week after Christmas, with various people suggesting that they had seen some ranking changes. But there was nothing definitive.
Dawn Anderson then raised a flag late last week, pointing to data from Algoroo, which showed a lot of dramatic movement.
More perspective on SERPs flux. Bonkers. Maybe multiple things going on by looks of it – just my thoughts tho http://pic.twitter.com/bLl4pwrDCR
— Dawn Anderson (@dawnieando) January 10, 2016
Other SEO experts started to speculate. Dan Petrovic said that it looked like “a multi-purpose update”, and one that was happening across the world.
Barry Schwartz collated a bunch of other comments from the community and some more screenshots and data, from the likes of Mozcast.
UPDATE: Google’s Gary Illyes has confirmed that Panda is part of the core algorithm, but that this part of it hasn’t been updated.
— Chris Lake (@lakey) January 13, 2016
In addition, while some sites may have experienced fluctuations recently, these have nothing to do with Panda.