Panda 2.0: Google Rolls Out Panda Update Internationally & Incorporates Searcher Blocking Data

Late February, Google launched a substantial algorithm change (known as “Farmer” or “Panda”) aimed at identifying low-quality pages and sites. These are pages (often seen on so-called “content farms”) with text that is relevant for a query, but may not provide the best user experience. (Google calls it a “high quality sites algorithm”.) Today, Google has rolled this change out to all English language queries and made a few minor updates (with an estimated impact to 2% of U.S. queries).

Live for All English Queries

The original algorithm update impacted only U.S. queries. As of today, this change is live for all English queries worldwide. This includes both English speaking countries (such as searches on google.co.uk, and google.com.au) and English queries in non-English countries (for instance, for a searcher using google.fr who’s chosen English-language results).

In the United States, the initial launch impacted nearly 12% of queries, so it stands to reason that the impact may be similar for English-speaking searchers across the world.

Incorporating Searcher Data About Blocked Sites

Google has always used a number of signals in determining relevant search results. Some of these are on the pages themselves (such as the text on a page), some are on other sites (such as anchor text in links to a page), and some are based on user behavior (for instance, Google gathers data about how long pages take to load by using toolbar data from users who access those pages).

In recent months, Google has launched two ways for searchers to block particular sites from their search results. The first was a Chrome extension. More recently, Google has launched a block link directly in the search results that appears once a searcher has clicked from the results to a site and then return to the search results.

When Panda launched initially, Google said that they didn’t use data about what sites searchers were blocking as a signal in the algorithm, but they did use the data as validation that the algorithm change was on target. They found an 84% overlap in sites that were negatively impacted by Panda and sites that users had blocked with the Chrome extension.

Now, they are using data about what searchers have blocked in  “high confidence situations”. Google tells me this is a secondary, rather than primary factor. If the site fits the overall pattern that this algorithm targets, searcher blocking behavior may be used as confirmation.

Impact Seen To a Wider Variety of Sites

In the initial launch, large sites were primarily affected. This makes sense as larger sites, with more pages, traffic, and links, have more signals available. With the latest update, smaller sites may see an impact. Amit Singhal, in charge of search quality at Google, notes in the blog post, “this change also goes deeper into the “long tail” of low-quality websites to return higher-quality results where the algorithm might not have been able to make an assessment before”.

Amit Singhal told me,

“We’re focused on showing users the highest quality, most relevant pages on the web. We’re cautious not to roll out changes until we’re confident that they improve the user experience, while at the same time helping the broader web ecosystem. We incorporate new signals into our algorithm only after extensive testing, once we’ve concluded that they improve quality for our users.”

What To Do If Your Site Is Impacted

When this change was launched in the United States, site owners who were impacted were vocal in their unhappiness and Google opened a thread in the Google webmaster central discussion forum so site owners could provide feedback to Google. In the latest post, they said:

“Based on our testing, we’ve found the algorithm is very accurate at detecting site quality. If you believe your site is high-quality and has been impacted by this change, we encourage you to evaluate the different aspects of your site extensively. Google’s quality guidelines provide helpful information about how to improve your site. As sites change, our algorithmic rankings will update to reflect that. In addition, you’re welcome to post in our Webmaster Help Forums. While we aren’t making any manual exceptions, we will consider this feedback as we continue to refine our algorithms.”

As I noted in my previous articles, take an objective look at the user experience of the site:

  • Can visitors easily find their way around?
  • Is it obvious what topic each page is about?
  • Is the content original or is it aggregated from other sources?
  • Do the number and placement of the ads obscure the visitor’s ability to quickly access the content?
  • When looking objectively at the site, is the primary focus the user need or the business goal?
  • Is the content on the page authoritative and valuable? Does it answer the query  better than other pages on the web?
  • If some of the pages on the site are very high quality and engaging, are other pages on the site not as high quality? (Google has stated that enough low quality content on a site can reduce the entire site’s rankings, not just the low quality pages.)

Use these findings to target improvements to your site that will enhance the overall user experience (which should also benefit overall engagement, loyalty, and conversion).

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Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Content Farms | Features: General | Google: SEO | Google: Web Search | Panda Update Must-Reads | Panda Update News | Panda Update Tips | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. She built Google Webmaster Central and went on to found software and consulting company Nine By Blue and create Blueprint Search Analytics< which she later sold. Her book, Marketing in the Age of Google, (updated edition, May 2012) provides a foundation for incorporating search strategy into organizations of all levels. Follow her on Twitter at @vanessafox.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • http://www.kaizenlog.com Infonote

    I am from Europe. I will observe the search engine referrals for a week to see how the change has impacted my site.

  • http://www.zebratechies.com Anirban Das

    Thanks for the post great information, another news coming to Bing is covering 30
    % US search market on March,2011, seems to after first Panda update…http://www.hitwise.com/us/press-center/press-releases/experian-hitwise-reports-bing-powered-share-of-s/

  • http://www.novapdf.com/ novaPDF

    Their algorithm is flawed. One example is the website of a commercial product, http://www.novapdf.com/ – we’ve seen massive drop in traffic for April 11, even if after the first panda update the traffic increased. On the other hand google gives a page rank of 8 to this website, because of its authority, and all content is unique. I wonder how many other “collateral damage” such as ours is out there.

  • http://www.canuckseo.com Jim Rudnick

    Thanks Vanessa for the “heads-up!”

    We tested early this am, and continue to test….but up here in google.ca land…so far, no changes to our client roster serps….

    That said, all things can change….but so far so good, eh!

    :-)

    Jim

  • http://www.panaceamobile.com P.M.

    I”m very curious to kow how this will impact on our website, but nontheless thanks for article.

  • Tran Viet Dung

    Thanks for the post great information,

  • Charles Wilson

    This Google update has virtually whiped out my online traffic to my website. I have been abiding by the Google guidelines for years and have worked my way to the top of the search engines for certain search phrases, just to be pulled back, due to this Panda update.

    It is almost like starting all over again, it has ruined my family, life and business, THANK YOU VERY MUCH GOOGLE FOR PLAYING GOD.

    The search results now are worse than ever in Google, for example if you search on google.co.uk for \currys easter sale\ you get this result at the top of the natural search http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=39517 , this post is talking about 10% off at Currys.co.uk 6 years a go, any one who clicks onto this page will immediately come off. I thought the idea of the panda update was to produce better search results and remove pages with not very good content.

    Can someone please explain what the hell Google are doing?

  • Charles Wilson

    I actually think it is time that another search engine should be able to compete with Google and not allow Google to dominate the online search world. I hope Bing or someone else takes a whole load of traffic away from Google and teaches them a lesson for what they have done here with this panda update.

  • Charles Wilson

    I suppose this is another way of Google forcing the hand of the small business to spend money on PPC or CPC with the natural search traffic dropping off to keep your business alive many people will have to spend money on advertising.

    Considering the econemy is so bad in the UK, this has come at a very bad time from Google to issue this panda update and reduce Internet traffic to peoples websites.

    NICE ONE GOOGLE! NOT……..

  • Darin Walker

    Policing content is something Google should NOT do. Policing RELEVANCY IS! Lets not forget that Google is using an automated system to tell everyone else NOT to use automated systems. Google is rolling out it’s value system for us. Here comes the will of God, as Google sees it!

  • billnobes

    We have seen significant collateral damage at our sites.

    For 15+ years, we’ve been producing for physicians original and award-winning content written by academic experts from medical schools around the USA. These Cyberounds.com educational courses are not accessible by the general public, that is, the programs are gated and never available to non-medical professionals. Given their unique value and perspective, we decided 10 years ago to create patient versions of our continuing medical education courses on a sister site, TheDoctorWillSeeYouNow.com. This medical-school, peer-reviewed content starts from the Cyberounds version, then diverges totally, as it needs to be wholly rewritten on a completely different level as you might expect. It is then reviewed again by academic physicians to make certain it remains accurate and truly informative.

    It is unfathomable that such a relationship to our own professional-only and authoritative content would be viewed unfavorably by the Google algorithm. This does not reflect well on the algorithm. Ten years ago, when we were one of the few sites providing the same authoritative content, we regularly ranked high on Google searches. From our end, nothing has changed. Google, however, has. Despite Google’s claims to the contrary, it appears that authoritative, in-depth content is being pushed further down and devalued in their searches. Speaking as a public health doctor, this is very unfortunate and does a great disservice to the Internet public which needs health and medical information upon which it can rely to make important decisions.

  • http://www.esizemore.com Everett

    Thank you Vanessa. I wanted to circle back around to this post. It has so many little hints in it that most of us are just figuring out (like why smaller sites weren’t affected at first – not enough data) that I’m glad I did come and re-read it.

    Having done so, I’m now very curious if you would rewrite the last paragraph. Given that fact that many of us HAVE done all that you, and others – including Google – have prescribed, and have yet to see any improvement at all, what is your advice? How much longer should we wait before moving on to another project and giving our Pandified ones up for dead? How long does it take to gather that data now that we’re only getting a few hundred visitors per day, and mostly brand searches? When will the next Panda iteration happen?

    I know you can’t answer most of those questions with any confidence, but I ask them anyway because it is frustrating to spend months reworking a site without any sign whatsoever that your efforts are being rewarded. Conversion rates up. Time spent on site up. Pages per visit up. Newsletter and RSS subscribers up. Twitter and Facebook followers up, along with clicks from both sources and clicks on the buttons. In short – our users our happy with our site (what few we can get now). Why isn’t Google?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=503121679 Steven J McLean

    What a long way Google has gone from April 11, 2011!

    At the time of writing Google has released its latest version of Panda 3.3.

    As per usual, they release very little information – we are releasing our interpretations at http://www.zhetainternational.com/en/company/blog/beating-google-panda-part-1.html

    Vanessa please let us know if you agree with us on our article!

  • http://twitter.com/bnspak Ben Spak

    Google is a business if you don’t like their product don’t use it.

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