Content Marketing Blog

Panda 4.2 Q&A with Head of Strategy, Trent Paul [INSIGHT]

Last month, Google confirmed rumours that it had launched another Panda update.

Panda 4.2 is being rolled out slower than previous changes, meaning it could take several months before the impact can be properly measured. So far, its affect on search results has been limited.

But given the shockwaves previous Panda updates have sent through the world of search, website owners and marketers will be watching very closely.

Panda first appeared almost 4 years ago and remains at the forefront of Google’s effort to fight spam and reward sites that publish unique, quality content.

So, with Panda now firmly back in the news, we thought it would be a good time to speak to our Head of Strategy, Trent Paul, to get his take on Google’s most talked-about algorithm update.

Let’s start with the basics. When was the first Panda update and what is Panda designed to do?

The first Panda update hit Google’s algorithm in February of 2011. This update was the first to crack down seriously on the quality of website content. It focused on thin content (content that adds very little value to users); content farms (sites packed with content created with no purpose other than to game search engines); and duplicate content (pages where the content was the same or very similar to that on other pages on the web).

Quality feels like a human judgement. What are some of the metrics Google uses?

Google’s quality signals are now so advanced that it would be a better judge of quality content than a lot of people!! Some of the broad metrics include the length, uniqueness and readability of your content, the ad ratio on your pages and your use of rich media, such as images and video.

Google’s algorithm isn’t human, sure, but it uses data generated by humans to understand quality. A good example is how users interact with websites. If a high percentage of visitors spend just a few seconds on a particular page then maybe it’s not such a great page. Google has a huge range of signals like this that it can look at and, of course, it also has the biggest ever pool of data in human history to learn from.

Tell us a bit about the latest Panda update, Panda 4.2.

On July 18th, Google started to roll out Panda 4.2. It’s expected to take a few months to properly roll out making it one of the longest-running update roll-outs they’ve done. It will eventually affect 2% to 3% of search queries.

It’s important to note that this is more of a refresh rather than an update. From what I understand, no new signals have been introduced. It’s more a case of existing signals having been optimised.

Some industry experts that I follow have reported big gains and big losses on a small number of sites, but no strong, direct pattern has been discovered as of yet. While Google has confirmed its existence, they haven’t released any specifics about it other than that it is indeed Panda-related.

Have you seen any noticeable impact from Panda 4.2 on our customers’ sites?

As Panda 4.2 will have a very slow roll-out it is too early to tell how our customers will be impacted. The refresh focuses on quality content, and with our customers using solid content strategies and following Google’s quality guidelines, I don’t expect any major drops in rankings.

How does Panda 4.2 compare to other recent Google changes, such as Mobile-friendly and Phantom?

The biggest difference is that Panda 4.2 involves minor changes to a previous update. The Mobile-Friendly update was a complete restructure of the mobile rankings algorithm and the Phantom update… well that’s still a mystery!!

What are the most common reasons for sites being hit by Panda updates?

The most common reason would be duplicate content. When two websites have identical or very similar editorial copy, Google needs to identify who originally created it. If you are not the owner of the content, Google will simply ignore that page of your site. The more duplicate content you have, the harder you get hit.

What should business owners and marketers do to Panda-proof their sites?

Compared to other major updates, Panda is pretty easy to comply with. You need to ensure that there is no duplicate content on your site (at least not on the pages getting indexed), and you need to add plenty of high-quality, unique content.

High-quality content is not loads of 100 or 200-word blog posts. Your content needs to be longer, written to a decent standard, and where possible contain rich media, such as photos, graphics or video. Beefing up your content by embedding social posts is also good tactic, as it will improve your engagement metrics.

Where did the name Panda come from?

Panda was a huge breakthrough for Google, and they decided to recognise the engineer who made it possible. His last name was Panda. It was only used internally by Google before it was used as an industry term. Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land originally dubbed it the “Farmer Update” because of its impact on content farms.

How to use high value content Click for free download