Most readers of this blog are unlikely to own spam websites, we know you’re a discerning lot, but believe it or not some internet marketers actually make money by creating spammy sites which then receive traffic from Google. These platforms are usually made up of a mix of thin and duplicate content, and in many cases are automatically written by computer programs resulting in terrible copy full of spelling and grammatical errors. At its core, Panda’s role is to ensure these types of sites don’t end up in the search results.
Why Is Panda 4.0 So Significant?
As we’ve already noted, in recent months Google have rolled out very small, incremental updates of the Panda algorithm, rather than releasing everything in one big lump. The fact that Matt Cutts has announced the Panda 4.0 update rather than keep it under the radar like other recent updates hints at it’s significance – Panda 4.0 affects around 7.5% of all English language searches.
To put that in perspective, there hasn’t been an update affecting more than 2% of searches since August 2011.
Following the announcement of Panda 4.0, Cutts tweeted that the update includes a new architecture to the algorithm, laying the foundation for further changes.
This means that Panda 4.0 is far beyond the scope of recent updates, with big changes in the way that low quality sites are dealt with. It may take some time for SEO experts to uncover exactly how far these changes go!
So far, a number of leading SEO practitioners, agencies and publications have published their findings on the algorithm update. Yousaf Sekander of RocketMill has found that in the UK some major ranking changes have occurred in six main industries including travel, insurance, fashion and broadband. Meanwhile Barry Schwartz posted a study on how a number of leading sites have fared. Some sites saw increases of up to 500%, while others like Ask.com and RetailMeNot saw some big drops. Ebay saw some massive ranking drops too, though it is said that this may be down to a manual action penalty, rather than as a result of Panda.
What You’ll Need to Diagnose Your Site
As you can see, Panda 4.0 has some far reaching effects, and naturally you’ll want to ensure that your site is safe. There’s a few steps you can take to check your web platform for any sign you may have been affected.
To begin, you’ll need a Google Analytics account and a Google Webmaster Account. These will need to be linked together to ensure your Webmaster Tools data can be shared with Google’s powerful reporting tool. Lucky we’ve created a handy guide for both, eh?
How to Check For A Panda 4.0 Hit
The first thing you’ll want to do is to filter your data so only Google traffic is showing. To do this in Google Analytics, go to Acquisition, then channels in the left hand menu. Click on Organic Search in the table, and above that under Primary Dimension, click on Source. You should see something similar to below:
Panda 4.0 came out on the 21st May, so using the graph, compare the traffic on the site before and after that date to see if there is any change.
The site in the screenshot seems to have fared OK, since traffic has actually risen on the day after the update. However, at the time of writing we are only a week into this Panda’s release into the wild, so it would be worth checking this again in a few weeks or even months to see if it’s had an impact - it may then be easier to determine a longer term ranking drop by adjusting the graph to show data by week or by month.
Another way to check for a Panda hit is to look at the number of referring keywords under the Search Engine Optimisation section on Google Analytics. First, navigate to this section in the left hand side bar and click on Landing Pages, then pick a set of dates after the 21st May compared to the same number of days prior to this date.
In the screenshot below, we can see that this site has actually increased in visibility and traffic following Panda 4.0. This again suggests the site has done well, and doesn’t have any content issues. The clicks and impressions increases will therefore have come at the expense of rival sites who have fared badly following the Panda update.
On the other hand, your site may not have fared so well. Running the same test on a different site shows some less favourable results.
Here the average landing page positions and impressions have dropped following the Panda 4.0 update. Checking search queries in Analytics also shows a drop, below.
Looking at this site’s keyword rankings, we can also see a couple of positions have dropped, suggesting Panda 4.0 may be to blame. If your site is in this same state, it would be best to monitor the data in the sections above for the next few weeks to see if there is any improvement. If there isn’t, you’d best get ready to pull your sleeves up and write some content!
Unsure What To Do Next?
If you think your site may have suffered at the hands of Panda 4.0 speak to our search team, who have the experience to help you get back on track!