An Important Change To Google's Panda

Chris CrumSearch

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The Google Panda Update has been around for five years and has dominated more headlines than probably any other Google algorithm change over that time. It was so big that it transcended industry press, making headlines from more mainstream media outlets. An important change has been made with Panda, and it affects how Google utilizes it from here on out.

Has Panda improved Google's search results over the past five years in your opinion? Let us know what you think.

Webmasters and SEOs saw some big changes in Google rankings late last week. Some speculated that it was Google finally unleashing the "huge" Penguin update it has been promising (but delaying) for months. It was not. Google confirmed to inquiring minds on Twitter that it was a core update and not Penguin-related.

As of this writing, we're still waiting on Penguin. For a significant part of 2015, we heard it would likely happen before the end of the year, but it never came. Last month, Google admitted it wasn't going to happen, hinting that it would likely come in January, but even that was not set in stone.

Last week, Google Google’s Gary Illyes, who often responds to webmaster questions, including those about Penguin (even though he’s not on the actual team that works on it), said he hadn’t seen any experiment results from the upcoming update yet:

As you probably know by now, this Penguin update is supposed to go real-time, so it will continuously update without webmasters having to wait forever for a refresh if they happen to be impacted by it and need to make changes to their site to recover visibility in search results.

So this most recent update wasn't Penguin. It was a core update. On a related note, it has come out (and been confirmed by Google) that Panda is actually now part of the core update. This means that there will no longer be specifically Panda updates.

This week, Jennifer Slegg at The SEM Post released "Understanding Google Panda: Definitive Algo Guide for SEOs". This features a notable quote from Google:

"Panda is an algorithm that’s applied to sites overall and has become one of our core ranking signals. It measures the quality of a site, which you can read more about in our guidelines. Panda allows Google to take quality into account and adjust ranking accordingly."

Also noteworthy is that Slegg's guide was endorsed by Illyes, practically (for all intents and purposes) equating it to the official go-to document on the subject. No, Google didn't quite say that, but with this kind of endorsement, it seems just about as good:

"When Panda first launched (and initially known as Farmer, for those who want to go digging through the archives) was a separate spam filter," writes Slegg. "This meant that it was a filter that was applied to the search results after the core ranking algo as a completely separate piece. But now, Panda is rolled into the core ranking algo."

"This also means that core ranking algo changes, such as the one we have been seeing over the last few days that Google confirmed is NOT Penguin, could technically be Panda, although we have no confirmation of whether it is or isn’t," she adds. "But now there is a possibility of any core ranking changes could be connected to Panda."

It's interesting that Panda has made it to this stage after roughly five years of existence. From the early days, it's been a controversial update. It's affected many businesses for better or for worse (and let's be honest, we mostly just hear about the worse), but now Google feels confident enough in Panda's effectiveness to "bake" it right into the secret sauce.

Panda has always been about rewarding high quality content. Don't forget, you always have this guidance Google provided after the initial Panda roll-out to help you assess your site and how Google might view it in terms of quality.

Do you think Google baking Panda into the core algorithm is a smart move? Has Panda done its job better as time has progressed? Share your thoughts.

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.