Was a Google Panda Update Released on 1st May?

Google Panda Update
Google Panda Update CREDIT: 123-RF.
Jonathan Griffin
By Jonathan Griffin, Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.

There is increasing chatter and finger-pointing that suggests a Google Panda Update has been released into the wild at the start of May. Google Panda is a search filter that stops low-quality websites \ pages from ranking highly in the SERP’s. It looks at factors related to poor quality content such as thin, duplicated, bad advert placements, or over-optimized keywords, among other things.

As with any significant update, it can take a week, sometimes several to roll out over the world, and with the update released over the weekend. Only now can we see indications in the SERP Trackers that this is a major update.

Let us take a look at the scale of the SERP movement before looking a little deeper at the chatter in the SEO community.

SERP Trackers

The most visual representation of the sheer extent of this update is via MozCast, which is currently running at 91 Degrees. This makes it the biggest Google Update since June 2012 with Panda 3.7.

MozCast MozCast May.
MozCast MozCast May. CREDIT: MOZ.

Unfortunately, the sheer size of the update is not reflected on every tracker. Sure, they all indicate something reasonably significant is going on, but not quite to the scale as MozCast. Indeed, the Rank Ranger Risk Index shows significant movement and fluctuations from mid-April which coincides with our suspicions that the update may have started around the 24th April, or at least there was some testing being carried out at that time.

Rank Risk Index May
Rank Risk Index May CREDIT: RANK RANGER.

The SERP tracker for Algoroo seems to mirror that of the Rank Ranger Risk Index and again indicates fluctuations from the 24th April. Serpmetrics and SERPs show very little activity although on the latter there is a slight movement on the 3rd May.

What the SEO Community are saying

Over at Webmasterworld the chatter about an update has been ongoing since the 1st May, but the first report of something significant was on the morning of the 3rd May GMT:

Something huge went down in the UK overnight. I don’t think it’s affected all verticals yet and it doesn’t appear to be isolated to mobile search.

Whatever it was, the end result is messy! Authority has gone out of the window.

With later that day “Spiekerrooger” providing a timeline of some of the fluctuations he has seen over the last week:

April 24th-26th looks like the April 12th-14th doorway algorithm update applied for Google Germany as well (a).

April 28/29th to May 2nd looks like Panda or sth. similar content related

This last comment is quite intriguing as it acknowledges the 24th April update that went mostly unreported. Still, it does make sense to be related to the Google Doorway update, although we cannot confirm that. That being the case, the latest update is something utterly different to the earlier one.

The comment that even if it is not Panda, that it is something related to content or over-optimization is in line with what we are seeing.

On Twitter Glenn Gabe (Digital Marketing Consultant at G-Squared Interactive) seemed to imply from an example they found was typical of a Panda update, which many appear to agree within the comments of that tweet.

Example of site suffering from Panda update.
Example of site suffering from Panda update. CREDIT: GLENN GABE.

Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Round Table, also jumped on the Panda Band Wagon with his Panda Hit website showing some improvement:

Panda Hit website showing some improvement.
Panda Hit website showing some improvement. CREDIT: BARRY SCHWARTZ.
Although, despite the apparent increase, he said that “Google Analytics doesn’t show much of a change in referrals from Google organic search over this weekend compared to the past few weekends.” Hence, the evidence is not conclusive.

Google Chimed In

So, with all the chatter in the SEO community, Google has told Search Engine Round Table that “no update happened over the weekend.”

That is not to say some algorithm change was rolled out. If not Panda, then it may be a Content Quality update, such as over-optimization, thin content, or duplicate content.

Unfortunately, until the dust settles, it will be hard to pinpoint the exact cause.

Update 6th May: See our follow-up post here, where Google reiterates that they didn’t do an update.