What happened to the Google Panda update? It seems to have gone missing for about six months after Google last officially confirmed a refresh in September. Those keeping track indicate that it hasn't been updated or refreshed at all since October (the company had said it would be a slow rollout in the first place).
"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," Google's Pierre Far said announcing the September update. "This results in a greater diversity of high-quality small- and medium-sized sites ranking higher, which is nice."
Google has now kind of (vaguely) confirmed that there hasn't been another update since October. Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable asked Google's John Mueller about this in a Webmaster Central hangout, and was told, "that's possible ,yea."
Google transparency at its finest.
Schwartz also points to another comment Mueller made during the hangout: "I think both of those algorithms [Panda and Penguin] currently are not updating the data regularly. So that is something for both of them, where we kind of have to push the updates as well."
Unfortunately, when Google takes so long to update an algorithm, sites can suffer from lost traffic if they were hit by it. If they make the necessary changes that counter what got them hit in the first place, they can potentially regain search visibility. Google has waited a very long time between Penguin updates in the past, which cost a lot of sites dearly. It has historically been more forgiving with Panda, updating it more regularly. Apparently that's no longer the case.
"5.5 months for a Panda refresh is way too long," writes Schwartz. "Penguin, well we are use to that torture."
These sentiments are no doubt echoed by plenty of other webmasters.
Further illustrating the problem is that Schwartz's own site, Search Engine Roundtable, was apparently hit by Panda in September, and has yet to recover. Luckily for him, he already has a substantial following that will visit the site without needing Google to drive it there. That's not necessarily the case for a lot of Panda victims.
Search Engine Roundtable is hardly the type of site you'd expect Google's Panda update to hurt. The guy is one of the most well-known voices in the SEO industry, and frequently puts out unique content that people are interested in reading.
Schwartz did say back when his site was hit that he had sources telling him he wasn't actually hit by Panda, but based on his other blog posts, he appears to believe that it was Panda. And let's be honest. How many people do you know of are keeping a closer track on Google's Panda algorithm than him?
So if Panda is hurting sites that don't deserve to be hurt by it, maybe Google shouldn't wait so long to update it.
Image via Wikimedia Commons