On June 2, 2015, Gary Illyes, a Google trend analyst at SMX, announced that we should expect a Google Panda refresh coming in the next two to four weeks. Just to make things clear, an algorithm refresh is very different from an update. An algorithm refresh refers to simply refreshing the data within an existing algorithm. It will mainly affect the websites that were hit or missed by the last update and give a boost to sites who've cleaned up their link profile and content quality based on Google webmaster guidelines.
There's not much to fear because the latest Google Panda version will be used to improve data without making any changes to the algorithm.
Algorithm updates are more drastic by upgrading and expanding additional signals to catch more spammy websites and penalize them to reduce web spam. Updates change search results on a larger spectrum. An update does help websites that have cleaned or improved their content quality to enhance user experience. Crappy SEO link building practices will also remain out of style with the coming Google Panda refresh.
So far, there have been 27 Google Panda updates and refreshes. The last update was on September 25, 2014, which affected between three to five percent of search queries. Websites which were impacted most heavily by update 4.1 were mostly news sharing sites, download portals, online games, lyric databases and medical websites. Let's take a ride through history to learn about the past Google Panda updates and refreshes:
- Panda 1.0 — was launched on Feb 24, 2011. It impacted 12 percent of total search queries and it mainly targeted duplicated, shallow content. It reduced the visibility of content farms like Ezinearticles and other low quality web content.
- Panda 2.0 — Was rolled out after two months from Panda 1.0 on April 11, 2011 to all English queries. It added on a new signal to identify users’ site blocking data.
- Panda 2.1 .. 2.5 — These updates had minor changes and did not impact many queries, but they affected sites having scrap content. They were running in almost all languages.
- Panda 3.1 — This was a data refresh, which affected less than one percent of search queries.
- Panda 3.2 .. 3.9.2 — These were also minor adjustments and called data refreshes by the Googlers.
- Panda #20 .. #26 — From September 2012 through July 2013, these were all of the small changes made in updates and data refreshes.
- Panda 4.0 — A major update launched on May 19, 2014, which affected 7.5 percent of search queries, including mega sites like ebay.com.
- Panda 4.1 — Last update so far on Sept 25, 2014. It was targeted to “thin content,” unlike news websites that try to bait clicks from SERP. This affected three to five percent of search queries.
- Panda 4.2 — Now if you see the trend and have read the statement from Gary, my expectation would be small changes this time. It's likely going to be a data refresh because major changes have been covered by in the previous Google Panda 4.1 and 4.0 updates. It will be good news for sites who have cleaned up their site content, internal links, and site structures for a better user experience. Yet, the websites that simply gather content from two to three authoritative sites, merge it into one, and call it a guide with no value addition may see a fall in online traffic.
Google Panda has targeted content quality and slapped websites using duplicate, scraped, or thin content. Soon, it will be going in real time. John Mueller from Google mentioned in the below Google+ Hangout (near 25 minutes) that their team is working on working that could make a Panda and Penguin update.
Here is the transcript of what John stated in the video:
We are working on updates there. I don’t have any time frames at the moment, but I know the team is working on that. I know it is frustrating, if you’ve worked a lot on your website already to clean up these issues.
The same applies to Penguin as well. Where maybe you cleaned up a lot of web spam issues. And, you are just waiting for things to kind of open up again. That is something we are definitely working on to kind of update that data again to make it a little bit faster.
Now, with the upcoming data refresh for Google Panda, you can expect that the search engine will kill every website with poor content quality. To keep your website healthy and safe from future Panda changes, you should:
1. Use Quality Content
Continually crank out fresh, useful, and informative content for your website visitors, not for Google. It's really as simple as providing a unique perspective on a topic that interests your targeted audience. Keep making engaging posts to keep your site safe sound.
2. Build Better User Experience
Google checks the trust of websites based on overall user experience. If you have very low dwell times, high pogosticking rates, and high bounce rates, then that's a clear signal that your website offers little to no valuable information for users. This makes it nearly impossible to rank on SERPs for any related queries. Keep your content engaging and improve social shares to obtain better user experience.
3. Follow On-Page SEO Practices
On-page SEO factors are essential to keep your website safe from penalties or exclusions. Pay close attention to your website's structure, ease of navigation, boilerplate content, and internal links in accordance with general on-page guidelines. Having a well-maintained site for user experience will always get boosted by Google Panda.
Long story short, the upcoming Panda refresh could come up with good news for websites looking for a recovery. However, big brands trying to lure clicks from SERPs may see some fall after being missed in the last update. If you see some different trend on the coming Google Panda refresh or your site gets a hike in traffic after release, let us know in the comments section below.