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Google’s Panda 4.2 Update

Prepare the barricades! Double-check the crawlability of your site! Is your content up to scratch! Google has announced Panda 4.2 is here!

But, is anyone in the world of SEO actually worried? Not really, as it turns out.

THE NEW UPDATE DELAYED?

Perhaps no-one is overly concerned about the new Panda update due to the fact it is slowly being rolled out and few will be able to accurately attribute Panda 4.2 as the reason why there website traffic has increased or decreased. Everyone in the world of SEO is finely attuned to Google’s updates, which makes sense considering that their entire careers are based on understanding, but this update is hard to get a handle on.

So when was the last update? 10 months ago, Panda 4.1 on 25 September last year.

Why has it taken Google so long to get around to this new update? We’re not sure as of yet – Google has been unsurprisingly silent on the updates. However, it does put to rest the conflicting information from Google in regards to Panda being “live action” or periodic. After all, you don’t just announce a periodic update unless it is a periodic update.

Unless they’re trying to directly mislead us, and begin the computer takeover via search engines whilst we are bamboozled.

John Mueller (Google Switzerland) on Google Webmaster central stated:

“For technical reasons we are rolling it out a bit slower. It is not that we are trying to confuse people with this. It is really just for technical reasons.”

TIME FRAME

If you expect Google to be frantically going through every website in existence and have Panda 4.2 wrapped up in a matter of days (or hours), then you have been watching way to many sci-fi and hacker movies. Because for Google to do this job at all, let alone to do it properly, it is going to take many months.

And that’s not even beginning to take into account refinement and adjustments that will inevitably be required.

Google itself has come out publicly and stated that the update will take place over the upcoming months. This means that you may not actually be hit by the Panda update immediately, i.e. the 20th of July 2015 (the weekend the roll-out started) – but that does not give anyone a license to use bad SEO habits.

It should be noted that if you have been cruising along with poor content, it is too late to try and improve at the last minute. Google’s Panda updates have a date that tend not to count changes after their initial roll-out date. Which means if you were hoping to take advantage of the slow roll-out to indulge in dubious content until the eleventh hour, then you are in a lot of trouble.

The big question, of course, is why this discrepancy exists at all.

IMPACT

Before analyzing the impact – if any – of Panda 4.2, it should be noted that the update is still site-wide in its scope.

Now, onto potential impacts. According to Google, only 2 – 3% of English language queries have been impacted. Those who (patiently) follow Google’s updates will recall that this is a sharp downturn from the previous Panda update, Panda 4.1, or Panda Update 28, which affected 3 – 5% of English queries.

Panda 4.2 does offer a new chance for those who were mauled by Panda 4.1. The time is right for you to come back to Google, cap in hand, and show that you have reformed your abhorrent ways. Google will re-index your site, so hopefully you have improved the quality of your content.

However, even though Google has announced that 2 – 3% impact, most SEO’s (including us at Predikkta) have hardly noticed an impact at all. In cases where there has been a decline, it has been a graceful and gradual affair, which is very different from the usual plummet that often follows after an update. See the above graph for our evidence of change – and from our discussions with other online marketers, they have had similar results, if there has been a noticeable change at all.

There are numerous theories as to why this is: most websites are behaving and are thus not impacted; Google hasn’t actually properly rolled out Panda 4.2 yet, and they are buying some time by declaring a slow roll out; the nature of the slow roll out means that Panda itself is adjusting to new information; and even that the slow roll out is actually a sign that Panda will now become a continuous “live” update.

Feel free to debate your theories – but we will also be keeping an eye on changes over the next few months. After all, it is too early to determine who the big winners and losers have been.

IS SOMETHING ELSE AFOOT?

Outside of the Panda 4.2 fiasco in the SEO world, there is no doubt Google has been engaging in other algorithm updates – without bothering to inform anyone.

This wouldn’t be that much of a surprise of course – Google is a notoriously elusive and sneaky company (ironic for a business based on the open exchange of information). However, there have been some indicators that Google may have engaged in another mobile update, which will certainly cause a headache for SEOs who are trying to determine what is impacting on ranks. So the combination of unknown algorithm updates and the impact of Panda 4.2 maybe indiscernible.

Still, this is only speculation at this point – although the evidence for this is an amusing one. Google itself has lost over 55% of mobile visibility – making Google a victim of this supposed new mobile update (if it exists at all).

PANDA 4.2 IN A NUTSHELL

No-one has to our knowledge with a high degree of confidence identified impact from Panda 4.2 yet.

Why in part because of the staggered roll out Panda 4.2 looks very difficult to measure.

Also because Panda 4.2 looks subtle at this stage not like Panda 4.1 which caused some websites to take massive traffic hits.

There is nothing you can do to defeat Panda 4.2 as Google as taken its snapshot of the world wide web, likely mid-July and is working with that data.

What you can do?

Only write and publish high quality content & keep up the good work.

SHOULD I BE WORRIED?

Are you still worried that one day you’ll be caught by the (admittedly seemingly lethargic) Panda 4.2 update? Perhaps you are anxious that one day you will wake up and notice that nobody is going to your previously well-ranked website.

There are of course some people who are concerned. Obviously those engaging in black hat techniques are in trouble. There is even someone out there who believes that Wikipedia, of all the websites out there, has been affected by Panda 4.2.

However, most websites should be fine, so long as they engage in actively creating relevant and unique content that is of a very high quality, and they rely on good white hat techniques.