Google officially announced the twenty-fourth update of Panda via their Twitter feed on January 22nd, 2013. This update marks the first Panda data refresh of 2013 and is said to affect 1.2% of English search queries. The last Panda update occurred on December 21st, 2012 and affected approximately 1.3% of all English search queries.
New Panda data refresh rolling out today: 1.2% of English queries affected. Background: goo.gl/8Zqy1
— A Googler (@google) January 22, 2013
For the uninitiated, Google Panda is a change to the algorithm which is responsible for ranking the search engine results of any given key phrase. It first appeared on February 24th, 2011 and affected nearly 12% of English queries. Panda’s official objective is to decrease the rankings of low-quality websites. It specifically targets irrelevant, spammy, and keyword-stuffed websites, as well as sites that use low-quality or duplicate content. This is all done in order to increase the quality of user experience.
While the goal of Panda has always been to increase high-quality websites in the search engine results, Google has been very vague about what they consider to be high-quality. Unique, engaging, and valuable content seems to fit the bill, but there is much more to it than just that. Search Engine Watch put together a great checklist for webmasters to use to avoid a Panda slap.
The webmaster community has been fairly quiet regarding the update; probably because anyone with an ounce of experience has already edited their sites to meet with Panda guidelines. Those people who continue to churn out spammy content are likely to be affected.
There were strong signs of an impending update on January 17th, 2013, which Google publicly denied – only to release an update five days later.
Google Panda is particularly interesting due to its ability to affect an entire website instead of just one page. This implies that site owners need to comb entire domains for duplicate content and ensure that everything is providing value in the eyes of “big brother” Google. Since the original release of Panda, site owners have been removing above-the-fold advertisements and irrelevant in-content keywords to avoid being penalized.
With the addition of other algorithm updates, such as the off-site focused Google Penguin, webmasters have their hands full. These updates have successfully increased the general quality of search results despite a few flaws. The end result of this update is improved user experience, which benefits users all around.