If you are new to the digital marketing world, have you ever stopped to wonder why there is such a heavy focus on quality content in the industry?
The answer is Google's Panda Update.
Panda was first introduced by Google in 2011. The search filter rewards and punishes websites based on content quality. At the time it was first rolled out, the algorithm was geared towards attacking content farms that were being used to manipulate Google rankings. Unfortunately, this first version of Panda also hurt many small businesses in favor of their larger competitors.
Since 2011, there have been several updates to the algorithm to continue providing the best quality of content in search results. These updates have attempted to level the playing field, focusing on providing the best content in search results.
And Google is at it again.
@rustybrick Yes, last weekend we began rolling out a Panda refresh that will take a few months to complete. It affects 2-3% of the queries.— Gary Illyes (@methode) July 24, 2015
This brief tweet at least provides confirmation of Panda 4.2, but it still leaves us with some questions. Here's what we know so far:
Affected Search Queries
2-3% is a relatively small number of affected queries, especially in contrast with previous updates which have affected up to 12% of English search queries. But 2-3% of queries still represents a large number when put into perspective. ComScore reports that in April there were 18.4 billion unique searches. 2-3% of that number is a massive amount of online searches, and will definitely have its affect on many websites.
What Will Panda 4.2 Be Searching For?
This is a bit of a mystery at this point. Until the changes have rolled out to more websites, it is hard to know what exactly the algorithm update will affect. It is interesting to note that Panda 4.2 has been referred to as a refresh, and not an update.
An algorithm update, according to Matt Cutts, means that larger changes are being made in search results. An algorithm refresh, on the other hand, is when data is refreshed within an existing algorithm. This means changes are less impactful.
The refresh appears to be rolling out relatively slowly. There has been speculation that it could take anywhere from 2-6 months for the algorithm to go into effect across the web.
What Should You Be Doing?
Unfortunately, there is not much you can do at this point if your website is full of low-quality, duplicate content. Once Google begins to roll out an update like this, it is already too late to apply changes that will keep your site from being affected.
But, if you have been dedicated to creating quality content on your website consistently, you have nothing to fear. Focusing on creating well written, informative content, that avoids keyword stuffing and focuses on the reader is the one sure way to avoid being negatively affected by Panda.
If you haven't been using content best practices, it may be time to perform an in depth content audit on your website, and dedicate some of your marketing efforts to rewriting your old content.
In the end, focusing on user experience will always be more beneficial then consantly trying to cater to search engine's changing algorithms. If you are doing what is right for your website user, you will typically find you have nothing to fear from search engine updates.