What the New Google Updates Mean For Marketers

By May 27, 2014 Google News, SEO No Comments

Panda 4.0 & Payday Loan Algorithm 2.0 Released

Google had a busy time last week, launching two algorithm updates within days of each other.  It is still early days, but we’re going to take a look at the impact these are having, or are likely to have, on search results.

Panda 4.0 Update

The Panda updates (initially starting in Feb 2011) target sites with low quality content.  The aim is to decrease the chances of sites with low quality content being visible in search results. This is not to be confused with the Penguin updates which were focused on ‘off-site over-optimisation’ of web pages (e.g. too many low quality links).

What Qualifies as Low Quality Content

There are a variety of sites that Google has considered in the past to have low quality content.  We are still waiting for this particular update to play out, but historically they have included:

“Thin” Content – If you resell other companies products or services, you should ensure that you do not just use those companies marketing materials on your site.  For example on a product page, if you simply repeat what the manufacturer has sent you, and this is available on other sites (especially the original manufacturers site) Google will think your page is of lesser value. They will see no point listing multiple sites with the exact same content.

Duplicate Content – The search results used to often be populated by ‘scraper sites’ that would copy content from other sites, either word for word or by combining different sources. These sites often performed well as they had huge amounts of content (albeit not their own) but as none of the content was original, they were not adding any value in Google’s eyes.  Ranking such sites highly damages Google’s image as a quality search engine, so these sites were hit hard by the original Panda and subsequent updates.

High Ad to Content Ratio – Again, looking at the user experience for traffic from its search results, Google was looking to devalue pages where the user was exposed mainly to ads rather than quality content.

The Pay Day Loan 2.0 Update

As with the Panda update, this is a continuation of a previous update.  This one is focused on verticals that are more likely to include spammy sites, for example pornography sites and Payday Loans (so you can see where the name comes from). This is focused on on-page over-optimisation, for example having lots of pages targeting the same keywords, high keyword density and low quality content. This change is unlikely to affect sites outside of ‘spammy’ verticals and is thought to target only 0.2% of search queries.

How to see if you have been impacted by either of these Updates

The easiest way to see if you have been impacted (unless you religiously watch or record your search engine rankings) is to look at your Google Analytics account.  If you noticed a sharp drop in organic traffic coming from Google last week (w/c 19th May 2014) you may have been hit by one of these updates.

Pro Tip – We recommend adding annotations to your Analytics account highlighting the various Google updates.  This will help in the future if you are looking back in time and wondering what happened on the 20th of May 2014 to impact your rankings.  Annotations are also good for remembering when other activities were carried out on the site (e.g. new site launch / home page changes).Google analytics annotations

What To Do If You’ve Been Impacted By The Panda Update

  • Look in analytics, drill down by page to see which pages have seen the drop
  • If you’re using manufacturer copy for these pages, you need to start refreshing that content. This can be a big task, so prioritise by doing your most profitable products first
  • Grab some of your content, copy and paste it into Google, and see if it is being used elsewhere. If it is, you’ll need to refresh it.
  • As you update pages, submit them in Google Webmaster Tools so they can be indexed faster. Find out more on how to get your content indexed more quickly.
  • If you host ads on your site, reconsider the volume of ads to content, per page.
  • Check the user path – is the content on your most important, or penalised, landing pages matching user intent? While ‘not provided’ is making it more difficult to see if your content matches intent, as a business you should have some idea of what your customers are looking for, and it usually isn’t ads or repetitive content.


What To Do If You’ve Been Impacted By The Pay Day Loan Update

  • Ensure your content is written as native speakers would write
  • Clean up any keyword stuffing in content and headings
  • Remove low quality pages which aren’t adding any value to users and redirect them to higher quality pages which focus on what users want.

Is This It?

Google will keep developing its algorithm so expect more updates targeting low quality sites in the future.  As this is an algorithm, rather than some kind of black list of site names, low quality sites that have been impacted can fight back and make changes to get back into the results.


Image Source: Bing daily images. http://cache.wallpaperdownloader.com/bing/img/GiantPandasBabies_20130301.jpg


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