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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  • Danny Sullivan

    Sorry, but what message? I assume you got some type of message in Google Webmaster Central, perhaps for unnatural links or something else?

    That predates this. To my understanding, if you were hit by this, you’re not getting some type of new message.

    If you were going to get hit by this, you probably would have noticed some dropped rankings by now and certainly lower traffic in the next day or two. If you’re not seeing that, I think you’re probably OK.

  • Ian Patrick

    I run about 15 sites and all have been hit except 1 which due to the size of it (10k pages) was the only one with duplicate content so in theory was the most likely to be a loser but it increased traffic. The rest had no duplicate content or other black hat stuff but fell and some got decimated on google.

    Interesting points;

    1. all sites except the winner had several hundred direct traffic referels with 1 page view in the early hours last night
    2. a site reviewed by a google + user made ridiculous gains try searching for short hairstyles and look at Mediocre site but at number1 or high up for a bigish keyword just cos it was reviewed (the only site she reviewed) by ms collins
    3. SERPS seem to have settled down a bit my end but no change to analytics data as yet.


  • Graviola for Cancer

    what a horrible update. nobody wins from this update… sadly, not even google. 

  • Duke Taber

    The solution to the search quality problem is not tweaking the algorithm but stepping outside the box and looking at the new internet society with a fresh paradigm. I have seen this before with other organizations and the symptoms are the same. All of this has caused me to do an editorial on all the algorithm changes.

  • Charles Cridland

    Something isn’t right with this update. Google say that 3% of searches are affected but there’s no doubt that it’s affected far more searches than that. I’m seeing the results for 100s of searches for one website affected. Not to mention that the quality of the new search results is abysmal. 

  • Peter Sundstrom

     Going by what a lot of people are reporting, it’s seems more like 99% of search queries.

  • Dave Crader

    Google did say it was rolling out this update “in the next few days.” It’s probably not over yet.

    Danny, I’ve been wondering this for a while. Why can’t Google just value links that receive traffic through them. Wouldn’t that fix almost everything about link spam.  A back link that’s getting traffic is probably more relevant and useful than most others.

  • iBeau

    Regarding this change, has anyone noticed any direct links between WMT displaying huge increases in Pages Crawled and KB downloaded and changes in search results?

  • AnonymousSEO

    “TITANIC” it is then.
    If this is a bullshit link, then moderator please remove it. I thought it was a complimentary post. Not looking to comment poach your piece, Danny.

  • Matt Cutts

    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.

  • John Mc.

    Fixed. Happy now dude?

  • Goose That’s Loose

    3% of searches is still 90,000,000 searches per day :-)

  • Dustin J Williams

    I posted this over on the blog but I think it is something you might also want to consider. A lot of people are complaining about this update and using the search results for “make money online” as an example of why it is a bad update. But if you consider how competitive that term is and how much it could possibly be getting spammed, then it is possible that many websites that used to rank could be those that practiced the webspam techniques this update was focusing on. If we take that to the extreme and say the top 2 or 3 pages of results were actually sites that practiced those techniques then if all those sites drop, it would make sense that the top site is now a blank website. This is an extreme scenario of course but it could happen.

  • donthe


    I need to know if my site was hit by Panda or the web spam update, so that I can fix it. How do I tell which algorithm update screwed my buisiness?

    Thanks dear.

  • Danny Sullivan

    I don’t see where we took Google’s “side.” We reported there was a change. Today, in a separate story, I went through a bunch of examples to see if it was good or bad. It’s mixed. I do know that no one has any comprehensive data to say “60%” of anything are either big brands or poor quality sites. What I do know is that there are all types of sites that rank: good, bad, big and small. And lots of anecdotal data people use to prove whatever point they want to back.

  • Danny Sullivan

    No good SEO company would speak “confidently” about getting any type of results placed. A good SEO company would say that search engines are fickle creatures, review a particular client, their content, the type of industry they are in and then give a fair assessment if they believe they could increase traffic overall and ideally conversions.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Well, there are ways to fake traffic. There are also ways Google can go one better and just favor sites they know get direct traffic and use that as an additional signal. The toolbar or the URL shortener are two ways this could be done.

  • Danny Sullivan

    I think Titanic will be the name we go with.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Donthe, look back to April 19. You see a drop in Google traffic beginning that day or very soon after? Probably Panda, especially, if you didn’t recover. Drop just begin yesterday but not before? Probably the webspam algo.

  • Dustin J Williams


    I posted this over on the blog and I think it is something you might want to consider also.

    Many people are complaining about the results of this update using the search term of “make money online” as a specific example of how bad it is. But consider for a moment how competitive that search term is and how likely it is that the term “make money online” is getting spammed pretty hard by webmasters all fighting for the top position.

    If it was getting spammed pretty hard and this update is focused on removing those who are practicing spamming tactics then it makes sense that many of those sites are no longer ranked. Depending on how many sites did practice spam tactics the end result could mean that a site with no content is now ranked #1 because all the other sites which used to rank higher are now being knocked down with the webspam update. It is extreme but possible.

    Sure there are other industries and search terms that might have similar results as “make money online”. I think it would be interesting to look at how competitive each of the industries are and weigh the likeliness that those industries were targets of heavy spamming.

  • Claudio Miguel

    Hi guys, any idea why the #1 spot in my niche is now occupied by a PR0 single page site with 50k links, 99.9% of them being spammy forum profile link blasts.

    My site is an EMD who had been #1 for quite some time, is PR2 and has almost a hundred high quality articles, and from what I’ve seen today the majority of the traffic lost has been the long tail kws.

    Whatever Google intended with this algo change is just not working, or actually working the other way around.

  • darnupdate

     Same here, #1 site is a PR0 with comment spam and forum spam.  It’s really sad.  The #1 site for that SERP (not mine) was a decent company with a great site.  Social  Media and natural links.  Now a spammer knocks them off.  Meanwhile, my site that was a few spots lower gets nuked.  btw.. the sites that gained all sell fake knockoffs and are in china. 

  • Mark Asciak

    I’ve seen two sites I look after get hit pretty hard although I’m waiting until this time next week to see what eventuates as both these sites have some similarities and it may not be the algo update that has caused the drops. Personally I think these type of updates are done to scare and confuse people because the Google algorithms are nowhere near as advanced or competent as Google would have you believe…

  • Rifat Rashid Adnan

    slap from Google to web Owners which hits so hard to thousands of web
    sites including my one. Crap sites are getting good ranks and authority
    sites are losing SERP. Seems that Google is against natural search
    traffic and hopes every single site will invest on Adword to get

  • Julien Guiss

    A lot of loose in french website too…

  • Sunita Biddu

    Sad to see on losers list but the latest search results arn’t offering value to the users (as Google claims). Full of funny, spammy results for many search queries..

  • mohammed imran

    Hey look! It’s Google’s action plan for controlling the internet.

    Step 1 – Kill all SEO companies by devaluing any links from articles and blogs.

    Step 2 – Laugh hysterically as SEO companies lose clients due to drop in rankings.

    Step 3 – Encourage website owners to request reconsideration for their decline in rank.

    Step 4 – Decline the reconsideration request and point them to Adwords as a solution.

    Step 5 – Watch as site owners flock to Google adwords and pay loads of cash!


  • blocker0408

     You got it – wasting our breath, google don’t care and it’s clear that Danny, who runs this board, is way too friendly with them. It’s bad enough what they do – they are the real manipulators, but they are so disingenuous about it. Almost worse.

  • gwdlv

    Yes we got hit last night. We have ranked well for Las Vegas Web Design for over 10 years. We are based in Las Vegas, have been in business since 2000 and have never done any black hat seo. Now we are the third result on the third page.

    This really puts a hurting on our business

  • blocker0408

     Don’t waste your time, they won’t answer a question that impacts real people or explains things in any sensible way for the average small business that may have lost it’s business for no good reason.

  • Syed Noman Ali

    I won :)

  • Adam Goff

    my classmate’s sister-in-law makes $84 hourly on the laptop. She has been fired for 7 months but last month her income was $9078 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Go to this site N u t t y R i c h dot cöm

  • shashank singh

    satisfy but few,its happen so little time,but updation are affected but not fully

  • Tompkins Neil

    Our site (a family run business) established online since 2000, with no black hat or spam related links has been hit yesterday with a 50% drop in traffic.  Google need to help webmasters clarify if the drop in traffic is either the Panda update or a spam related problem.

    Our site, has relevant user written on page content and photos.  The majority of product pages are listing way down the rankings e.g page 10 when they used to be on page 1.  Some keywords are still ranking page 1 but very few.

    We experienced a very similar issue back in Nov 2011, but then two or three days later the rankings appeared back to normal with us changing nothing.
    Really need some help on this.

  • Andy Hunt

    Google doesn’t care what its like to be a legitimate webmaster  and nor should it as webmasters are not Googles customers for unpaid search, users are.   

    But you are right that Google unpaid search should not be relied on for traffic – that has always been the case as you don’t have any direct control over this.

    You don’t have any right to demand free traffic from Google – there is an advertising platform for that. If you can get traffic from unpaid sources that is a bonus. Relying on it is a seriously flawed business model

  • Rankpanel

    Probably too clean is suspicious as well. It seems it’s all about the
    natural profile: A natural profile contains some stains, it’s not
    completely clean. When looking at the best sites, you will definitely
    find crap links posting to them. Most probably this is so common now,
    that no crap at all is bad.

  • chapcoolboy

    No Matter what happens.. Many people are on the verge of selling their business and have suffered a big loss.

  • contact

    I would like to share something seen on google france
    keyterms: espionner iphone

    1st result: a single page mainly design to be an add for anothe site

    2nd result, please check this , it’s funny :
    look at the keyword stuffing on the right, box named “article”
    huge stuffing and not only that but the box is present 3 times on that page with all the keywords etc

    WOW, talk about keyword stuffing and spamming!

  • contact

    Mr danny,

    Are you hearing something from google about such crazyness?

  • SEO Catalysts

    Google gives upset,not update because there are many crappy sites  in SERP which are ranking in top 10 with blank pages or with parked domain.Why Google not banned site like this?

  • contact

    but surely this can’t be the end of it? it looks like the spammy and keyword stuffed to the extreme sites are benefiting

    i don’t get it

  • Adina

    I just typed in the name of a lady who creates beauty products, and four results on the first page are YouTube and three are Amazon. One is her own site and the other two are spam sites with no content. If I want video or Amazon I can go directly to the sites. I don’t need Google to get me there. Anything I type in I am getting really terrible results. I’m swapping to Bing – I always preferred Google but at the moment Bing are WAAAYYY better.

  • Social Networking

    Wow.  This one has some weird results.  Look at this one for example:
    “” show up in the top 10 for “online homeschool curriculum”

    If you look at the page, it makes NO sense that this beats out over 3.4 million other results. 

    There are plenty of other examples.  IT just makes NO sense.

  • parker bin

    is it really a joke.

  • Abdul Wahab Butt

    This is not about spammy sites. what about those sites which are perfectly optimize and did not ever use spammy link building campaigns???

    I did not get what rules Google sets for On-Page or Website content.. Everything is natural and user friendly but still…  2 of 8 my current projects are hit by this update.. Lol …. …  And 1 of the is really important project for me.

  • Abdul Wahab Butt

    Indirectly SEO is the other name of spam when we start Link building…  The thing is we do slow link building but still Google is able to recognize it as spam… :-)

    so its fun game…………  If they do not do this every year.. SEO industry will collapse and competition go up and up and up

  • Joseph Sanchez

    Unfortunately, my businesses operate from one location YES, does that make me a invalid business owner in google’s eyes?  What would you recommend, taking out the other websites and combining them into one?

  • Tim


  • fullcolorpanda com

    It seems I’m one of the very few webmasters here who’s happy with recent update.
    My tiny and insignificant white hat optimized business site, ranks better than ever in the results :)

  • Victor Talha

    It does seem as though there is eminent danger and a clear cut attack on the SEO and SEM realm. Nice article though. Thnx for the 411, Mr. Danny S. You’re the Mannn! ,-) 

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