How Google’s Panda 4.2 Rollout is Affecting Different Web Communities

How Google’s Panda 4.2 Rollout is Affecting Different Web Communities

It hasn’t been two weeks since Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land informed us about a new Panda update that Google had started to push out. The new update, according to him, was incredibly slow.

There was a handful of sources other than Schwartz, who also reported the rollout. I remember I kept searching for more information on it and ended up finding only two or three sources beside Schwartz. But today, when I am writing this article, I can refer to a lot of online marketers, who have been adding their two cents for the last few days.

The Black Hat World

Some marketers make their hands dirty to rank their websites high. A few of them frequented a black hat forum and discussed the changes that the rollout is allegedly bringing. I followed their discussion and noticed some were amazed as their keywords were all ranking high. One guy called Donor even laid out a chart that shows six of his keywords all rank higher on the day of posting than the previous day.

I felt amazed too as the rollout was supposed to penalize those spammy guys, but was doing the exact opposite. Then I visited other threads and paid attention to the chatter that was going on there. I saw a completely different picture there.

The members didn’t look happy at all. They were saying the rollout has begun to hit their sites. One regular member called Russian425 wrote that some sites, which were coming on Page 1 earlier, moved to nowhere and some sites moved to page 8 from page 2 or 3.

And There’re More

I noticed something else too; the members were not sure whether it’s Panda that’s been hitting their sites. One registered member called CarloTav wrote:

My site has moved 4-5 positions for most keywords, I don’t think its panda.”

I personally think the confusion owes itself to the slow nature of the update. Or maybe, the initial phase of the rollout was a test run. And that’s why the algorithms have been constantly changing and, at times, offering high ranks to sites containing spammy links.

The White Hat World

The white hat marketers have so much to lose because SEO is not an one-time affair for them. But they are far from getting a solid idea of the update for it being slow. I suggest them to check their site’s age, because Google earlier hinted the older sites with Doorway Pages have spam on them.

There’s a relieving piece of information for them. Google already announced Panda 4.2 will affect only 2-3% of all search queries in English, which means the update is considerably small compared to the previous Panda updates. The first update rolled out on 24th February, 2011, and impacted more than 10% English queries. Panda 4.0 affected 7.5% of all search queries in English and 4.1 affected 3-5%.

Some web marketers opine Panda 4.2 is innocuous, as it is fairly small in size. A 2-3% impact won’t even be noticeable and will affect only a lesser percentage of search queries, meaning it’ll exempt many sites. The majority of online marketers haven’t seen any impact so far.

These are all assuring news, but the question still holds as to whether or not a web marketer can enjoy a good night sleep, putting aside all the worries that stem from the 4.2 rollout.

In my opinion, he shouldn’t or he may end up losing the game.

He can buy some time as the rollout is slow. But if it’s slow only to catch on to the new information, and if his site is not getting up to the speed, then that could spell disaster for him. Earlier, the fallout was like a landslide, quick and massive. The marketers happened to have a smooth time identifying the factors responsible for a decline in ranking and did their best to recover.

But the game may change now.

In one of his previous posts, Schwartz informed us that Panda 4.2 won’t affect all the pages of a site at once and a change in ranking (for better or for worse) will show up gradually, which means recovery won’t be an one-time solution, but a live process. Google released the last Panda update less than a year ago. If 4.2 functions like a continuous update, the search engine giant may not have to introduce a new update next year.

John Mueller from Google replied to the questions asked by webmasters in a hangout session. He said, “For technical reasons we are rolling it out a bit slower.” It’s not clear what he meant by “technical reasons,” but if it falls in line with my speculation that I outlaid in the preceding paragraph, webmasters will have a run for their money unless they work on all the qualitative aspects of their sites.

Small and Medium Sites

According to Google’s product manager Pierre Far, the update will benefit small and medium sites. He said the new update would be able to identify low-quality content with a higher level of accuracy. Hence, if a small or a medium site can put high-quality content on it, then it’d find an increase in its ranking in no time.

In his own words, “This results in a greater diversity of high-quality small- and medium-sized sites ranking higher, which is nice.” Far also suggested algorithmic changes will help identifying low-quality content, which means the update is not just a data refresh that some marketers were claiming earlier.

Online Retailers

For an online retailer, any new update by Google is a big deal because even a slight impact on search queries can change the search habit of the purchasers. And that may affect the retailers big time.

The search analytics that retailers use encompass the search patterns of buyers and potential buyers. If there’s a change in that pattern, the retailers might have to update the existing analytics.

An online retail site has too many pages. If the Panda 4.2 update affects any of them, the site may have to undergo a temporary downtime and stall its operation for some times – that’s a hideous proposition for all business owners.

As the Rollout Progresses

We’ll keep you posted on the progress. As the rollout will commence, we’d get more information on it, and share them with you. So stay tuned.

Supriyo Das

Supriyo das is a thinker and a doer. He writes on online marketing and related niche areas. When he gets breaks from work, he plays shootout games and goes for outing. To connect to him, add him on LinkedIn and Google+

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