It has been six weeks since Panda 4.0 rolled out, and in that time webmasters have learned a lot about what matters to the algorithm and what does not matter. The last few weeks have seen SEO experts analysing the nuclear option, pondering the importance of content from subject matter experts, and examining the effect of Phantom hits. However, we still have a lot of work to do to truly understand the impact of Panda 4.0.
Syndication, indexing and keyword hoarding
The most confusing issues are those surrounding syndication and indexing under Panda, as well as keyword hoarding. The good news is that Google has finally started to talk about Panda 4.0, firstly by explaining the issue of Panda Tremors – the peaks and troughs in traffic that some webmasters have seen since the update was rolled out on the 20th May.
Many websites have found that their traffic figures have showed peaks and troughs since the Panda 4.0 update, but these peaks and troughs have been part of a broader trend of either increasing or decreasing traffic. The trend has led to some webmasters asking whether Panda was rolled out more quickly than other updates, and whether there are several smaller tweaks being pushed. Google’s response to those questions is clear – there is not a target fix frequency for algorithm updates, but it does make smaller tweaks on a regular basis, and those tweaks could be the things that we are seeing when we look at traffic trends.
It’s easy to say that Panda targets ‘low quality content‘, but what does that actually mean? Thin content is a huge problem area, and content that is scraped, spun or keyword stuffed is an obvious candidate for ranking penalties, but there are other areas that the Panda update has started to focus on that are less obvious – areas of user engagement. If you have a website that has technical problems that makes content difficult to access, or if the website has generally poor engagement, then you will be penalised.
Google cares about engagement because it knows that its reputation is on the line if it sends mobile users to non smartphone friendly sites, or recommends authority sites that have poor content. Every time a web user hits the back button after landing on a site from a Google search, they send a clear message to Google, and with Panda 4.0, those messages are being taken very seriously.