Panda Update 3.5 Is Live: Winners & Losers

Last week, Google released a new update to its Panda algorithm that targets low-quality content. Who won and who lost? Searchmetrics has posted an analysis of that.

Our original story here reported the winners/losers list, as Searchmetrics did, showing who was estimated to have gained and lost in the new Penguin Update that was released this week by Google. Penguin targets not low-quality content but outright spam.

No one knew that there had been a Panda Update that also happened, one that in fact was likely responsible for most of the changes on the lists. This was confirmed by the head of Google’s web spam team Matt Cutts. He commented after the original story came out:

Hey Danny, there’s a pretty big flaw with this “winner/loser” data. Searchmetrics says that they’re comparing by looking at rankings from a week ago. We rolled out a Panda data refresh several days ago. Because of the one week window, the Searchmetrics data include not only drops because of the webspam algorithm update but also Panda-related drops. In fact, when our engineers looked at Searchmetrics’ list of 50 sites that dropped, we only saw 2-3 sites that were affected in any way by the webspam algorithm update. I wouldn’t take the Searchmetrics list as indicative of the sites that were affected by the webspam algorithm update.

Following up with Cutts on Twitter, he told me the Panda Update hit around April 19. The last update was Panda 3.4 on March 23, which Google had publicly shared.

The original Searchmetrics post has since been updated to show what it believes are now the Penguin Update winners and losers. The charts below reflect the original list, those who were estimated to have gained or lost from the Panda release.

The Winners

Among the winners are big brands and news sites. Spotify, The New York Observer, music site NME, Men’s Health, Poynter, The Verge, Stack Overflow and Marvel are just some of the easily recognizable names that jumped out at me.

Here’s the full list of who was judged to have gained visibility in an initial study of 50,000 keywords, for 5 million domains, to see who went up or down in the first 100 results compared to last week:

The Losers

Who was hit hardest? First the list:

Searchmetrics, going through the list, summarized the losers as mainly this way:

  • Sites using databases to aggregate information
  • Press portals and aggregators
  • Heavily-templated web sites

Only Losers Really Know If They Lost

As a reminder, lists like this aren’t perfect. The sites above may have had gains and drops for other reasons; less visibility this week because last week they were visible for different news stories, for example. Also, Google had a problem with a parked domain classifier last week that might have hit some sites which later rose back up.

It’s also worth remembering that this is a sample of search terms. The only way to really know if any update has hurt or helped you is to look at your search-driven traffic from Google, rather than particular rankings or lists like this, which have become popular after Google updates. If you’ve seen a significant increase, you’ve probably been rewarded by it. A big decrease? Then you were probably hit.

Finally, it’s really worth keeping in mind this is a list of those Searchmetrics believes are hit by the Panda Update 3.5, not by the Penguin Update. Penguin was aimed at taking out spam sites.

Related Articles

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: General | Google: Algorithm Updates | Google: SEO | Google: Web Search | Panda Update News | Panda Update Winners & Losers | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Scott Sala

    But it only affected 3% of sites.

  • Lee McCoy

    No it was 3% of searches.

  • Kamran Zia

    facebook is increasing interest in security issues read at

  • Orpheus Da Silva

    This isn’t about whos been hit or who climbed. Its about the search results, the spammy sites that are now ranking on page one in many keywords.

  • Derek Amsterdam

    There will surely be a rollout of this update.. to much crap is getting out at the moment instead of relevant websites…

  • blocker0408

    Too right, this update is a joke. some are way too cosy with google to admit it. Nothing short of a farce, but one which costs people their jobs, while people analyse the big sites.

  • Joseph Sanchez

    so SCREW GOOGLE! I am so pissed right now. I had 16 keywords ranked for my LOCAL COMPANY on page one. Now ALL of the keywords are not in top 100! what is this crap?

  • Samuel Darwin

    Google has messed up this time. See the crap here:

    Search for the term in - Make Money Online

    First rank -

    Open this website and see what crap it is. How can Google’s such a wonderfully tested algorithm show up such a wonderful website for such a hot high traffic keyword. All glory to Google ! Once again, problems in the house of Google !

    Danny, not just this keyword, there are quite a lot of popular keywords that shows either empty website or crappy website. You must write a comprehensive post regarding this !

  • Danny Sullivan

    Has your traffic also dropped overall? It’ll take a day or two to likely know this.

  • Ryan Burnsworth

    Yeah it is really crappy.
    I had one of my client’s really clean websites get deranked.
    The real crappy thing is yesterday we just got ranked on page 1 for over 30 keywords.
    This morning I checked and they all dropped by 20-40 spots.
    Wow, that is upsetting. Especially because it was a very clean site, very little links to it, no duplicate content, nada…his other sites that are a bit spammy remain in the top lol.

  • Ryan Burnsworth

    haha, I had to see that. Wow Samuel, that is some crazy stuff.

  • Tim

    Surely Google won’t ban Google sites.

  • Cheap Cars For Sale

    This sounds stupid but if Google wants to clean their SERs from spammy and crap sites, they have the money to do it manually. Many sites and honest webmasters (like me) are being harmed by these freaking updates.

  • blocker0408


    Would be nice if you have a chat with your friend Matt. Maybe you can tell him that this update is a joke and that people can see the agenda is to kill seo and drive everyone to google + and ppc. Why people won’t admit that is also a farce. Clear for all to see what’s really going on here. Attempted domination. The real manipulators are not seo, They’re google. people are really angry, really angry.

  • hipec

    Danny, you should probably tell Cutts that the SERPS are horrible right now… I mean, there’s a LOT more spam than the “evil SEOs” could ever do themselves.

  • Danny Sullivan

    I’m about halfway through that exact post. I’m using that exact example (it happens on Bing, too) along with Viagra and some others. Should be up later today.

  • Danny Sullivan

    I’m certainly going to do a follow-up. Today is being spent looking at what’s actually happened. That’s the next post that I’m currently in the middle of. There’s definitely plenty that seems off with the update.

  • daveintheuk

    Wow, no sign of Youtube in the “gainers” for a change! ;-)

  • Danny Sullivan

    Google’s actually banned and penalized its sites for everything from cloaking to buying links several times in the past.

  • Danny Sullivan

    This update was not aimed at SEOs. It was aimed at spam. SEO doesn’t equal spam.

    Having said that, there’s plenty of examples where if the goal was to wipe out spam and improve search relevancy, that doesn’t seem to have happened. That’s the current post I’m working on now. It just takes time to do really detailed examples.

  • blocker0408

     Will you agree that the update and google’s attitude these days are hardly about cleaning up the serps and there is a clear other agenda ?

  • blocker0408

     It’s bad enough that they destroy the majority of sites that have simply done what it takes to get results and are not black hat spammers. What’s almost worse is the total lack of transparency and waiting for weeks to see what they decide is the fate of your site. It’s scandalous, nothing short. It’s the behaviour of a totally arrogant company that now believes it’s untouchable. Care to disagree ?

  • blocker0408

     I beg to differ. There is a clear agenda and attack on seo generally. It goes like this Danny. Make oragnic seo so uncertain and expensive that clients see ppc as a better option. Interesting you don’t answer this.

  • Kasi Gajtkowski

    Still think it might be too soon to tell re: total crap sites ranking. I feel like this happens whenever there is an update and then it shakes out a bit.

  • Daniel Deceuster

     Honest webmasters who leave blog comments with the name “Cheap Cars For Sale” you mean?

  • blocker0408


    As you’re clearly not going to answer my above points, can you perhaps answer this.

    is the google carnage now over ? What happens to sites that got the WMT warning but have not suffered greatly  ? Does the algo change mean the lovely G has finshed trashing millions of good sites or will they just keep people in limbo indefinitely now, with the intention, as you put it, solely to “wipe out spam”. Please, seriously, get real.

  • Daniel Deceuster

    Not going to say what my website is, but my main keyword is treadmill reviews and I monitor these rankings everyday, have for over a year. They have never been as bad as they are. #4 is an article reviewing just 8 machines from 2008, none of which are available for purchase any longer. Good luck finding anything through #3. Then #5 and #6 both link to each other and are obvious members of a huge internal link scheme. #7 doesn’t even have any reviews, just “discount codes” that aren’t codes but affiliate links that don’t get any discounts. #9 is a massive chart of numbers and ratings of random machines, some of which are no longer available. No reviews and their link to more reviews returns a 404 error.

    If you want an example of SERP’s that got much, much worse, simply look up treadmill reviews. Interesting how Bing’s #1, #3 and #4 don’t show up in Google’s top ten. Clearly one of them has it right. Look them over and be the judge. Totally ridiculous. This was a webspam update all right; webspam got a serious bump up the rankings and increased in visibility, tarnishing Google’s reputation. Sorry Google, just changed my Firefox default search to Bing. Can’t take the crap anymore.

  • Daniel Deceuster

     I know for a fact this isn’t the type of conspiracy you suggest. I have talked with many people and many sites I have and they have got hit, and most were affiliate sites. Google never even allowed us to use AdWords with these as they said they were bridge pages, so how are they trying to force us into AdWords?

  • blocker0408

     That’s the only way they’ll start listening, totally agree,doing the same myself.

  • blocker0408

     They’re not immune to hitting their own, or making it look like they’re being fair. You saying this is not an attack on seo then ?

    One of the best pitches for organic seo over ppc has been – do the right work and you get long term results, a return on your investment. Now it’s impossible for an seo to say that. Google must know this. So tell me why they are doing that ?

  • Danny Sullivan

    I’m not sure what questions you think I’m not answering.

    This isn’t an attack on SEO. I guess we’ll just have to disagree on that, but it wasn’t positioned as an attack on SEO, nor has Google made public statements that SEO is bad. They’ve done the opposite. For years.

    It is supposed to be an attack on spam, which isn’t SEO. Saying spam is SEO is like saying email spam is email marketing.

    Whether it is delivering on the promise remains to be seen. There’s plenty of disturbing reports that this is missing the mark in various ways, which is what I’m writing up next and have been all day.

    The Google “carnage” is never over. There are always updates with search engines that wipe out tons of sites and people scream and have been doing so since the days when Excite was one of the big search engines. I can guarantee we’ll have further updates that create just as much uproar later this year, next year, the year after.

    Those updates will trash some good sites and some bad sites alike. What I do know is that those who benefit or see positive improvement rarely speak up about that. For every loser out there, someone wins. The winners don’t complain.

    But I think your question really is, should Google be allowed to do updates that make the relevancy of search results worse. No. No search engine should. If this is making relevancy worse, you bet, I want to document that and see it fixed.

  • Daniel Deceuster

     All I can tell you is I had a site get torched and it is a great site, not some thin affiliate garbage. We tried AdWords and they suspended us in about 3 minutes saying we were a bridge page. They clearly aren’t trying to push us to PPC as they have banned this site from doing PPC.

    I also know dozens of people with hundreds of sites that have done SEO and not gotten hit. Your theory works if all sites engaged in SEO go down. But only a few did. Your theory is Google is merely trying to identify those clearly doing SEO and punish a handful to make an example? Scare people away from SEO? Sounds a little far fetched to me.

  • blocker0408

     But do you know or can you pass an opinion on what the algo means for a site that had the WMT message but is still ok ? Do you think that if a site was going to be affected it would be concluded before the algo was rolled out ?

  • David_Rush

    I wonder which SEO company can confidently speak about its ability to get results on Google now. With this kind of reckless updates no one is safe except Google. Its hard to see any clear path now, cant make any plans. I’m in limbo right now….only watching Google make profit by destroying lives of small time publishers like me.  sigh

  • Alfred Moya

    Wow, now that is some crap SERP”s! I followed down some of these ranking Viagra sites and its all polluted. Looks like many of the sites ranking have nothing to do with Viagra. I noticed that some of them are throwing errors for a WP plugin they used to have installed. Do a search for wp-includes/pomo/config.php and you’ll find quite a few sites that seem to have been compromised which still rank for hot terms like this.

  • Alfred Moya

    That’s almost unbelievable that a site with no content would rank so high for such a popular keyword. I’m thinking they made a mistake and put this update in reverse because we’re getting more spammy results that before.

  • Kads Chowdhury

     I agree with you. Google doesn’t understand what it’s like to be a legitimate webmaster here. Google’s quality guidelines are extremely vague and can be interpreted in many ways.

    This is the last straw for me. I am basing my business on non-Google traffic, building a solid brand, getting links from relevant websites, guest blog posting, joint ventures and similar.

    Google cannot be relied on for web traffic, and the proof is this update and several others that have happened this year

  • hipec

    I just spit out coffee when I saw this Daniel… THIS SITE ranks on the first page?  …. This is most over optimization I’ve seen all year!   This is a REALLY bad update…. Matt Cutts should just Google something…. Anything…. and see that relevance has officially been thrown out the window.

    The algorithm is just displaying a giant crap shoot… I can’t believe this is the same Google… LOL…

  • blocker0408

     That’s my whole point, as stated above. Totally agree.

  • blocker0408

     No you’re missing the point. this has impacted millions of sites, not a few. Look at how many WMT unnatural links messages were sent, over a million, conservatively, so it’s far from a handful. There is now huge uncertainty around almost all links, seo is far more uncertain than ever before. Net result, why bother with seo when you can ppc. Not far fetched at all. Based on facts.

  • Kads Chowdhury

    blocker0408, I think your missing the overall issue here. Adwords PPC is just as bad as inorganic search. Hundreds of thousands of advertisers were banned at the end of 2010 through 2011, completely out of the blue.

    The issue here is GOOGLE ITSELF. They are trying to control the internet and other websites and are a completely unethical business.

    My business is my responsibility. This has been a serious lesson to me on NEVER to rely on someone for your web traffic. Google simply cannot be relied on. I have woken up to that fact.

  • Don Marks

    @ danny

    Appreciate the coverage, would like to see some dialogue from someone at google to address concerns from webmasters for
    sites that believe they were torched that are clearly not over the top black
    hat offenders, what is the road map back to redemption here.


    I still see a number of pure black hat sites that dominate
    lucrative keywords, sites that rely solely on blog spam comments for anchor
    links…those of us who dont engage in this, but had sites that may have been
    impacted could use some color from google, I’ve submitted a re-inclusion request,
    although I am not sure if this was the proper procedure if they were not
    applying site specific penalties, rather pushing an algo update, although when
    you see sites go from first page to out of the first 200 results its hard to
    imagine anything other than a manual bump downward…thx again.

  • blocker0408

     What we agree on is the arrogance they have and the farce of claiming they are seeking a level playing field ! This update, including the WMT fiasco messages, has impacted millions of small businesses, not a smaller number of mostly big brands like panda. They are screwing with people’s lives based on an agenda they try to disguise.

  • Sean Paul


  • Dan Wright

     >>For every loser out there, someone wins. The winners don’t complain.

    If I was the owner of one of the low quality, 1-3 page spam sites that have now replaced my quality site on page 1, I wouldn’t complain either but that doesn’t make it a good thing for the Internet community at large. 

    If this is truly intended to be a spam filter, the spammiest sites should not have overtaken non-spammy sites in the serps.

  • Simon Barrett

    I read this article (and many others) on the subject of Google changing the rules of engagement. Panda had SEO types soiling their underwear. This latest update seems to have had a similar effect. What you all are missing is that the man in the street doesn’t give a damn about SEO. In fact it just gets in the way of finding what you are looking for. People are looking for information, not sites selling stuff. I’d stick a link in to my article on the subject, but I will not. I am not link baiting. 

  • Sean Paul

    Danny SearchEngineLand shouldn’t take google’s side .  Google never had worse algo update than this . 60% of the main page sites are either big brands or poor quality sites. can you please ask your good friend matt , why he is trying to drive out small businesses from SERPs? 

  • Sean Paul

    yep every one  in limbo.

  • Rick Bucich

    Joseph, I see at lease three sites you control all operating in the same space under different names. If I can detect it, Google probably can as well. Something you might want to address.

  • Rick Bucich

    I’m told that site has been ranking in that spot for several weeks now. Not excusable but likely nothing to do with this update.

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