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Panda 4.0 Review

Google’s Panda algorithm update was first released back in 2011, with the aim of penalizing “thin content” websites, i.e. sites with poor written content, typically saturated with ads and delivering low standards of relevancy for users.

Since 2011, Google has rolled out dozens of tweaks to Panda; however most of these have simply been minor adjustments.  Panda 4.0 is different.

Google announced the rollout of Panda 4.0 in late May, so we’ve now collected data for a full month — the following represents some of the more significant facts about Panda, and direct learnings that we’ve seen across our portfolio of keywords across thousands of websites.  Here’s a quick video from Matt Cutts highlighting their perspective on the increasing value of quality content:


Google reported that 7.5% of search queries are being affected as part of Panda 4.0. This is a major update compared to the normal modifications which affect around ~1% of search queries.

As a result, we recommend reviewing the internal links you’re adding to the landing page with regularity, and watch especially for overuse of keyword-rich anchor text.  This appears to be an area that Panda 4.0 is focused on, so review your internal linking so that your site navigation takes users to webpages which are in-turn a content-rich and relevant experience.

Probably the highest profile website to be recently impacted is eBay, which has seen a 75% drop in search engine rankings since the rollout. It appears that Panda 4.0 is targeting the landing pages of a website which rank for a keyword term: if you’re ranking for “blue widgets” you must ensure the page of your site which is ranking for this term is populated with good quality content of high relevance to the search term. This is where eBay has found itself in trouble, and three landing page features seem to stand out:

  1. Excessive use of text and display ads on the landing page
  2. Excessive use of internal links to other product pages within the main site; and
  3. Excessive use of long-tail keyword terms in the footer.

We’ve seen many sites that have been committed to investing in their site’s content with consistency gain significantly through the Panda updates.

Likewise, we’ve seen a few cases where site’s that block their CSS and Javascript were devalued through the update.  Google continues to recommend to webmasters and site owners not to block so that can view everything that contributes to a site’s layout and content.

On that note, shortly after Panda’s release – Google announced an additional feature within Webmaster Tools that allows site owners to view the results of Googlebot’s attempts to fetch their pages:


Panda was initially rolled out in 2011, targeting poor quality, thin content websites, and has been updated continuously, though most updates have been minor.  Panda 4.0 is a major upgrade of the algorithm, and affects around 7.5% of search terms.

Greater care must be taken to ensure landing pages are original, packed with relevant content and relying less on dynamically generated content, and watch out for excessive use of internal linking using keyword rich anchor text!

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Categories: Google Updates |