During the past 2-3 days, Google has been rolling out 2 new major updates to their algorithm, which are predicted to affect up to 7.5% of all UK queries. The two updates have been officially announced and named as Panda 4.0 and Payday 2.0 (by Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts).
What does this mean for SEO and what does it may or may not mean for your website?
Why is it important?
Algorithm changes bring about new Google guidelines for how websites are evaluated, usually getting stricter. This is usually in reaction to spammy websites showing up more in search results. Anyone that no longer meets the new algorithm rules receives a search penalty, ranging from losing rankings to being removed from Google entirely.
To give an idea about how important this is to your website, this graph below is eBay’s organic keywords (blue line) getting penalised, losing about 5m hits per month as a result:
Straight away, most of your rankings may move up and down during a turbulent Google period. This is very normal and should be expected. Following a (roughly) 3 day period of volatility, the rankings will eventually settle and you will be able to evaluate which sites have been hit and where
The niche update – “Payday 2.0”
In June 2013, Google announced that they were releasing a targeted algorithm update to take on niche industries with notoriously spammy results, specifically mentioning payday loans and pornography – this was dubbed the payday update and is unrelated to Panda/Penguin/Hummingbird, etc.
Today, Payday 2.0 is launched, aimed at clearing up these same areas. Initial counts are estimated to be effecting around 0.2% of all queries (it doesn’t sound like much but when you take into account the billions of queries, this is quite a lot!). This shouldn’t affect your website providing there are no ties to these niche areas.
The major update “Panda 4.0”
Panda (originally called Farmer) was first launched in 2011, targeting content – thin content, link farms, high ad content sites; generally paying attention to the quality of websites and was the first major update to tackle spam. Several Panda updates have followed (after hitting 25 smaller updates, Google stopped counting).
In the last few days, Matt Cutts announced that Google have released Panda 4.0. This is a major update from Google and is expected to hit ~7% of English queries.
Who is at risk from this?
Initial signs suggest Real Estate, Technology, Insurance, Travel and Fashion are the industries most at risk, due to the nature of content and SEO in these industries. However, all websites are at risk if Google deems your site to infringe the rules.
Passive or indirect penalties occur when a lot of your links are from sites that are affected by a penalty, but your site specifically is not deemed poor. As a result of the sites sending you links being penalised, these links no longer carry the strength that they used to, and a site loses rankings.
Are you at risk?
If you focus on a content approach, any work you’ve done will never go against Google guidelines. That said, it’s worth checking, just in case there are any weaknesses in your online portfolio.
The next few days…
Are vital following a Google penalty. Initially, an update won’t be fully released for a few days; we tend to see a 3-5 day rollout with Panda updates.
If your site has been affected, we’d love to hear your comments below!