If you run an online business you're at the mercy of a lot of things, but arguably nothing affects your success or not more than Google's 'take' on your website. Its algorithms are judge and jury when it comes to evaluating where in the grand scheme of things your website should appear in search results; and a previously successful online business can be destroyed overnight by a new Google algorithm.
That's why business owners get very nervous when they hear about new releases of Google algorithms - and guess what? There's a one being rolled out now, the 27th version of Panda, or version 4.1 as it's being referred to by the SEO community.
What is Google Panda?
Google's Panda algorithm looks at content (rather than backlinks) and is designed to lower the rank of 'thin' or 'low quality' sites (think of content-farmed / scraped sites) and reward publishers of strong, original content.
Here's what Google have to say about the latest release, via a Google+ post by Google's Pierre Far.
Earlier this week [21 September 2014] we started a slow rollout of an improved Panda algorithm, and we expect to have everything done sometime next week.
Based on user (and webmaster!) feedback, we’ve been able to discover a few more signals to help Panda identify low-quality content more precisely. This results in a greater diversity of high-quality small- and medium-sized sites ranking higher, which is nice.
Depending on the locale, around 3-5% of queries are affected.
What does Google Panda 4.1 mean for you?
So what are the implications of this latest algorithm change for you, dear reader? For most sites, there won't really be much of an impact, but some site owners will taken have a hit or received a traffic bump (with, as Far points out, small to medium sites being more likely to receive the bump, if they contain enough good content).
If you're in the 'taken a hit' camp I would advise you to take a look at an important Google blog post, called 'More guidance on building high-quality sites.' Without disclosing the maths or code involved in Google's Panda algorithm, it spells out in fairly comprehensive detail what it is in general looking to reward or penalise, by asking you a series of questions about your website. A few examples (of a much longer list) are:
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
- Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
Answer these questions honestly: this will help you identify where your site is falling down and improve its content accordingly, so that when the next version of algorithm gets rolled out, you'll have the opportunity to get some traffic back.