If you mentioned the word ‘panda’ to most people, it would conjure up an image of cute, docile and cuddly black and white creature that does little but happily spend its days munching bamboo shoots.
They tend to forget that these creatures are wild at heart, and can occasionally bite. If you said the word to anyone involved in the field of search engine optimisation, then the picture would be far more worrying and sinister. The Panda they refer to has real teeth, and has over the course of the last 12 months taken a few chunks out of business behinds. Introduced in 2011, Google’s Panda update was intended to weed out underhand practice and dross from the search engines, and boy, wasn’t it successful?
Unfortunately many reputable website and businesses were also bitten badly.
Things have evened out more or less over time, even though the search giant has updated the algorithm regularly. The accepted practice is now that you’ll be ok as long as you play things with a straight bat. Unfortunately, that only holds good as long as the wicket remains the same: if Google keeps on changing the wicket, then no bat, however straight, will always guarantee compliance. The problem is that businesses only learn about the new changes to Google’s algorithm after they’ve happened, and by then it could be too late. Well, Google’s gone and done it again.
Panda has changed once more.
Google introduced 17 more changes to the algorithm in January, and unsurprisingly businesses are now biting their nails. But what will these new changes mean? Will be forced to constantly keep on looking over our shoulders, or can we relax and breathe a little easier?
Google has described the set of changes as ‘search quality highlights’, as they are intended to all relate to improving the way that results are delivered to users. They new changes include upgrading November’s freshness update to produce more relevant results, faster predictive action when users type search queries, and changing the way that Google interprets the date of a document. Google argues the changes will guarantee more useful results for recurring event listings and similar content. What’s different about this update is the context in which Google now views Panda. Rather than just being a part of the total process, Google is now telling us that the latest update is part of the process itself: in other words from now on Panda will be ingrained into Google’s architecture. According to Google’s blog, Inside Search, the search giant has “improved how Panda interacts with our indexing and ranking systems, making it more integrated into our pipelines.”
Google Panda was designed to penalise the rank of websites which featured low quality content. Sites that were filled with spam designed to intentionally inflate search results became less visible. Only those sites that featured useful and dynamic content prospered. Google explained via its blog that it had ‘a responsibility to encourage a healthy web ecosystem’ that enabled ‘high-quality sites to be rewarded’ for producing original, in-depth content. January’s changes, named Panda 3.2, will take matters on a step further. The processes set in place last year will now be ingrained in Google’s total process and architecture from now on.
Google also confirmed that its main aim in the near future is to continue identifying new ways to make its search service more transparent.
Daniel Nolan, managing director at theEword, summed the changes up in this way: “There have been many updates to Google Panda since its inception nearly a year ago. However, this one seems to have made it more closely connected to Google’s daily evolution – and naturally SEO professionals everywhere will be keeping a close eye on their rankings. The best advice is always to ensure that your website features genuine content optimised for search results, rather than contrived material that is no use to anyone – as Panda will continue to evolve and sniff it out.”