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Google’s Panda 4.0 Launch and How It Affects SEO

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Photo Credit: Carlos Luna via flickr

It’s official! According to Search Engine Land, Google has rolled out a new and improved update to the Panda algorithm: Panda version 4.0. After a week of hushed tones and speculation amongst SEOs, Google’s Matt Cutts announced the release on Twitter.

Back in January we talked about the wide array of Google updates thrown our way, and how those wildlife titled changes widely affected search engine optimization. The launch of Panda 4.0 marks breaking news in the industry, and it isn’t breaking alone; the Panda update is accompanied by Payday Loan 2.0 and a shocking change for eBay. What changes have been implemented and what do they mean for you? Let’s take a look at what we know thus far…

Panda 4.0 and You

Algorithm updates are sure to give webmasters a headache as they scramble to survey the damage (if any) and initiate damage control countermeasures. Algorithm updates almost always mean a shift in search engine rankings. According to Search Engine Land, ‘”Google’s Panda algorithm is designed to prevent sites with poor quality content from working their way into Google’s top search results.”

We’ve seen modest updates to the algorithm since its original release, but the release of the 4.0 update appears to be more notable than previous changes. According to Moz, it’s “major… which probably means that it is both an algorithmic update and a data refresh.” Moz goes on to point out that while Cutts’ tweet announced a May 20th rollout date, it’s likely the update started rolling out on May 19th since “most Panda updates over the past year have been multi-date roll-outs.”

Over the next few days, we’ll learn more about just what has changed in the world of SEO. But in the meantime, we’re hearing good news.

Search Engine Watch released an article today that held promising news for webmasters. The article quotes Marie Haynes of HIS Web Marketing as saying, “I think it’s too early to say what this new iteration of Panda is affecting, but I can tell you that in the case of the site that I saw big improvements on, no cleanup work had been done at all.”

Therefore, if you’ve taken our repeated advice to keep your content high quality, fresh and engaging, you’re likely to see SERP improvements as the full impact of 4.0 is felt over the next few days. This is not to say that a negative impact hasn’t been felt. We’ll get to that in just a minute.

Payday Loan 2.0 – Cracking Down On Spammy Queries

Speculation regarding an update to the Payday Loan algorithm has been circulating for a while. Search Engine Land reports that the original rollout of the algorithm specifically targeted “very spammy queries.” An update was confirmed over the weekend.

We documented the introduction of this algorithm last year in our “Timeline History of Web Copywriting” infographic. According to Search Engine Land’s article, “Google told us this specific update is an international rollout and it affects different languages to different degrees, but this impacts English queries by about 0.2% to a noticeable degree.” In essence, the upgrade to Payday Loan is cracking down even harder on spammy queries as Google flexes its muscles and continues to weed out quality from spam.

eBay Experiences an Update Shockwave

Moz documented a noticeable change in eBay’s SERP ranking as they dropped from #6 to #25 between May 19th and 20th – even before Matt Cutts announced the Panda update. At this point, the reason behind the drop is left to speculation (Moz’s report offers some viable probabilities). One thing is certain: for whatever reason, eBay has experienced some negative impact from the 4.0 implementation, specifically to their category page rankings.

What Does It All Mean For You?

It’s too soon to tell. Currently, there is a great deal of speculation surrounding these updates and their overall impact. If you’ve been around for previous algorithm releases or updates, then you know it’s time to batten down your hatches, weather the release storm and assess the damage as it appears. Search Engine Watch is even venturing the prediction that we are likely to see a Google Penguin update in the near future as Penguin 2.0 launched one year ago this week. Seeing how Google has released the Panda 4.0 and Payday Loans updates so close together, this speculation does not strike us as farfetched.

The good news is that for those who have focused on high quality, well written content while keeping their audience firmly in focus, not much appears to have changed. And with Google focusing so heavily on quality content as a rank increaser, it doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon. If you’ve invested in high quality content, keep up the good work – you’re on the right track. If not, it’s time to dig into just what awesome, quality copy is and how to attain it.

About the author


Julia McCoy

Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and bestselling author. She founded a multi-million dollar content agency, Express Writers, with nothing more than $75 at 19 years old. Today, her team has nearly 100 expert content creators on staff, and serves thousands of clients around the world. She's earned her way to the top 30 worldwide content marketers, and has a passion for sharing what she knows in her books and in her online course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia also hosts The Write Podcast on iTunes.


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    • My company deals in a very competitive market in a rather large city. Several of our competitors were affected by the Panda 4.0 update. We took a slight hit but quickly climbed back up the rankings by using solid SEO practices. Since then we’ve easily survived numerous other updates. Google has shifted now to continuous updates and moved away from infrequent major updates. It’s more essential than ever to engage in solid SEO practices to survive Google’s shift in updating protocol.

      Thanks Julia for your update.

  • Oh My God once again new algorithm, i am sure this time also many marketers are going to lose their rankings. Thanks for the share Julia 🙂

  • Hi Julia!

    Great article. Let’s see how all this pans out in the next couple of weeks. I totally agree with you that “for those who have focused on high quality, well written content while keeping their audience firmly in focus, not much appears to have changed”.

    Now it’s time to go and check whether our sites match with that standard!

    Natural Health Care & Beauty Products

  • As I know Panda is related to content spamming and penguin is related to link spamming. There are some other panda updates for content spamming why Google need Panda 4.0, how it’s different from previous panda updates?

  • So far so good over here, i’m still waiting for an update that will allow us to be protected against negative SEO…

    • I think that’s unlikely.

      Google changed their algorithm to allow negative SEO to exist, they then announced that it was possible & doubtless made billions of extra profit through Adwords because of it.

    • I have had a site drop terribly a while back and have always wondered. A company was trying to buy the site and I wouldn’t sell. It was doing very well in Google. Shortly after my site dropped off of Google pretty much altogether. In the awstats I see quite a bit of traffic coming from Russian sites and even porn sites. Are these sites harming the rankings for my site? Was this a deliberate attack? I guess I should have sold the site!

  • When a algo is tuned not to recognize the core but only some peripheral matter of a subject and is watered down by other parameter such as google invented “authority” etc. than this is a lousy algo, its, better to use bing. The are definately substantial better because they go after the definitions people actually give the things, google dont, google invent their own definition and thats wrong because I am a human and not a google robot. But they dont understand this.

  • Google need to check on sites that are top of the search engines but totally out of date.
    I put a site update on monthly and update accordingly. They need to concentrate on this side more than any other.

  • Its been good so far here in India, sites have not been affected so much with this update. There is data refresh and rank changes which are happening slowly, but old sites with good content are doing well.

  • My site is too new to have an effect on it, but a friend of mine had his site go from page 9-15 to pages 2-5 for his home page and his inner pages have been showing up throughout the 2-5 range which you could not even find for the past 2 years. He has done zero back linking since his site dropped off the grid 2 years ago. Now he feels like it gives him a little hope again. His site ranks well for a lot of keywords in bing and yahoo but doesn’t bring him anywhere the money making traffic that Google brought him before his site went off the grid. His site was in an automotive niche.

  • We’ve been seeing great numbers since this update, with client sites increasing their organic reach.

    This seems primarily to be an issue of unique content, with those who have genuine original pages seeing growth.

    This is great news for those who worked hard to create original content in response to the initial Panda release. It seems to be a reinforcement of that goal, with an improved pay-off for those who invested, and continue to invest, in the services of writers like us.

    We’re very pleased, of course. Not only does this update reward those who have worked hard to be original and invested in good content, it supports writers like us who provide these services to those who don’t have the time or ability to create great content themselves.

  • With the new algorithm is of course, we must pay attention to the content that we write in our website and keep to the right while considering SEO

  • I operate in a pretty competitive area- web design in a large city.
    Recently was watching a site that had somehow ‘infiltrated the ranks’ with very poor site quality- I was trying to figure out how it got there in the first place.
    That site is now gone baby gone…

    Roll on penguin- I think its right around the corner also.

  • HI,

    Thank you for sharing the news. Hoping the Google update does not affect to my site. Right now, I’m concentrating on writing good content for my posts. Content is king as always.


  • some of the commenters are missing the point, and posting links in the comments section. You guys don’t learn do you? I would be concerned if I was your client. Please stop link spamming. That’s the main reason google is kicking your butt in the first place.

  • Thank you for sharing the news. Hoping the Google update does not affect to my site much. I only concentrate on quality content because content is king.
    Himanshu Sethi recently posted CBSE Sample Papers for Class 10

  • I believe that much of what google does is because they now almost monopolize search. They do not have perfect search results, in spite of all the algo updates. I do believe search engine users should have a say in what is “quality content!”

    If my content is no use to users, my being number one does not guarantee much sales. Unfortunately, If I have a perfect quality article on a pagerank 0 site, it will get little traffic compared to a crappy article on a PR 5 site!

  • thanx for the new update.
    feel good to hear about this new update now hope my website wiil get good rank in google serp’s.

  • Informative article, Its seems that SEO is now dependent on high quality original content, not on backlinks now a days. Let’s see what next update will bring for webmasters?

  • Not only with Panda4.0 .. Google was trying to avoid spammer from the beginning . But every-time when they change algo , there are few loop holes exist that can use by spammers.
    Even now there are a lot in google search index..

  • Thanks for the heads up. according to my Google Stats there has been a slight improvement of some of my main sites but others are showing no change. So far so good.(for a change !!)

  • Panda 4.0 impacted to my site. All my keywords dropped. Now I need to find the best way to reduce the effect.

  • We’ve been checking several of our websites over the last few days – so far it’s been a bit of mixed results.

    We have several sites promoting “tool hire” that seem to have retained their page positioning in google, whilst a few promoting mainstream “products” for sale (in particular really well known brands of products) seem to have dropped several pages in Google’s ranking.

    All of our sites are regularly updated each month so it will be interesting to see how they “settle down” in a week or so.

  • I have been a regular reader at SPN and commenting. But this time around, I have been really very very late.
    Anyways, what I understand from the write-up is that one has to always have quality content that’s all. It can fight any type of update.

  • Anyways, what I understand from the write-up is that one has to always have quality content that’s all. It can fight any type of update.

  • Hi Dave, I read your blog post with real interest and I wondered if you could help me with a question relating to subdomain vs domain blog please? I’m search manager for a high street retailer and the current blog is hosted separately from our main website, our aim is to use this blog as both an SEO asset and for our customers. So there is an interesting trade off here from creating SEO content for search and content that our customers would want to read, such as in-house previews and celebrity fashion styles. Competitors use either sub folders and subdomain but not SEO content, so I’m interested in the pros/cons of this. Should I recommend both, one targeted for a shopper to interact with the product and company (sub domain/folder) and one for SEO target keyword content for off site link building? Would subdomain or subfolder be damaging to the crawl rate of pages on an already high volume website?