Google’s Panda 4.2 update: 10 Things You Need to Know

July 23, 2015

Google announced today that their latest update, Panda 4.2., began a surprise rollout over the weekend.

For the uninitiated, Panda is a Quality Algorithm that has been completely integrated into Google’s main ranking algorithm.

This means that when a Panda update is made, sites with poor-quality content are often the first sites to be hit. Google says that this update will rollout throughout the next month and that only 2 to 3% of English language queries have been affected so far.

In this article, I will answer some of the most commonly asked questions about Panda and Panda 4.2, including who it will affect and how you can recover from a penalty.

1. When did the Google Panda 4.2 algorithm update get pushed out?

The algorithm started to roll out over the weekend of July 18 and 19, 2015.

2. How long will the update take to roll out?

The rollout is expected to be very slow and could take months according to Google. The initial version of the rollout is aimed at English language sites, but this is typically followed by an update that will affect other languages worldwide. At this time, Google has not announced any Panda updates besides the one aimed at English language sites.

3. Which pages on my site will it affect?

It is important to note that the Panda algorithm updates are site-wide and affect all pages and all keywords on your site.

Although the update will affect your entire website, it will most likely target certain low quality pages first. The Panda algorithm considers the entire user experience (UX) of the website, and therefore has a multi faceted affect.

Google explains that they use a Panda quality threshold to determine which pages to target; when the threshold is met you can often see a dramatic increase or decrease in traffic. If you see these swings in traffic, you know that you have either gone below or above this threshold.

Unfortunately Google does not reveal this quality score in the Google Search Console.

4. When was the last Panda update?

The last update was on September 25, 2014. According to Search Engine Land this was the 28th update (possibly even the 29th or 30th).

For those that want to follow the evolution of this update and others, Moz keeps and updates a full, detailed list of all of Google’s algorithm updates so that concerned parties can stay in the loop. Of course, the best way to prepare for an algorithm change is to ensure that your SEO profile utilizes white-hat techniques from the beginning.

5. Who will be helped by this update?

A Panda update can affect a website positively or negatively depending on the quality of the content and the user experience. Many of the webmasters that have improved their user experience and content since the last algorithm update could emerge from their penalty and see an improvement in rankings. However, those that have yet to meet Google’s new quality guidelines may see a dip in traffic.

6. What should I do if I am affected by Google’s Panda 4.2?

google-panda-4.2-updateThe best way to recover from a Panda algorithm update is to rewrite your content so that it is viewed as higher quality.

It is no secret that Google favors helpful content, but there are many other factor you need to remember when developing high-quality onsite content. Also keep in mind that a poor user experience can significantly affect your quality score. But how do you determine if you have a poor user experience?

Look for high bounce rates and poor time-on-site metrics. Review your analytics to identify the pages with the worst metrics and start there. Besides creating better content, consider the layout of your page, including the use of multimedia, images, and white space. If all else fails, compare your content to your top Google competitors and compare the length of content, the layout, and the social interaction with your content.

7. How do you know if you’ve been affected by Panda?

There are a number of typical factors that will indicate that you have been affected by Panda.

• You might see a sharp decrease in traffic (if you have gone below the Google Quality Threshold).
• You may experience a gradual decrease in traffic which will stabilize over time.
• You will have a hard time getting certain pages to rank even though you have quality backlinks pointing at the page

8. What happens if you don’t fix Panda Issues?

The one thing that you definitely do not want to do is ignore a Panda penalty. In fact, it has been shown that the penalty only gets more severe after each successive Panda update. Google is constantly improving their quality standards and ignoring this trend can only lead to more problems.

9. Why are older site more affected by Panda 4.2?

One of the biggest misconceptions about Panda is that it is only considering posted content in its quality assessment. When all is said and done, it is the user experience that is really important. If your site is old, ugly, and outdated, you’ll need to redesign your site in order to avoid a bad UX rating by Google.

10. Will Mobile friendliness be a factor in Panda 4.2

As we mentioned above, the user experience is critical to Panda. It should then follow that the mobile user experience, bounce rate, and time-on-site will almost definitely be factors here as well. Consider your mobile content, as well as if the experience a good one. How can you make your mobile user experience better?


3 more things you should know

1. Panda will not show up as a manual action, this is an algorithmic update.
2. Google will not notify you in Google Search Console if Panda 4.2 has hit you.
3. Google’s quality standards are constantly increasing, and we can help you prepare.

It may be confusing as to whether you have been affected by Panda 4.2.

At National Positions we can analyze your traffic, your web pages, your content, and your user experience to determine whether you have been affected by the new Panda update or potentially a prior version of the algorithm. There is no cost for this review and we would be happy to help you in whatever way we can.

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