This Week in Google: Panda and “Pay Day Loan” Updates. Google Slapped!
By: Kristine Schachinger 05/23/2014
Google released two updates this past week. Over the weekend of May 15th it was the Pay Day Loan (Spammy Query Update) and on May 20th Panda (named after a Google programmer, not the cute bear). Both of these can have brutal effects on your website. How do you know if you were affected and what do you do if you were?
Let’s Chat Algos!
First let’s chat about what algorithm updates are in the first place. These are updates that Google makes to its search algorithm to better the search results you see. Better means more relevant to the user – or at least that is the hope.
In most cases these updates are confused with “penalties” for the damage they can do to your website. To be semantically correct, the only penalties in Google are manual actions, which you can find in your Google Webmaster Tools (provided you have installed these on your site). Google performs these manual actions on a site that is violating its guidelines.
In the case of the manual penalty, you have to ask Google to give back your (whatever they took) with a Reconsideration Request. They either do or don’t. This is not the same with “algorithmic shifting” or in layman’s terms “Update Penalties”.
The great news about an algorithmic shift is the algorithm can shift your site back once the changes that are needed are made and the algorithm returns to visit. As a company that does a lot of penalty recovery and site audits we find these to be the easiest to fix (most of the time). Make the changes you need to on your website, the algorithm “comes back around” and your analytics and Google Webmaster Tools look like this:
So now you know what happened, what do you need to know about this update?
First let’s look at the “Pay Day Loan” (Spammy Query Update)
Pay Day Loan Update
“Over the weekend we began rolling out a new algorithmic update. The update was neither Panda nor Penguin — it was the next generation of an algorithm that originally rolled out last summer for very spammy queries.”
-A Google spokesperson
This update is not widespread only affecting 0.3% of English speaking queries (searches). Though it was as high as 4% for Turkish language queries where web spam is more of an issue. (Web Spam – websites that violate Google’s Guidelines in order to gain special status in the search results ie gaming the results)
What do you need to know if you were affected?
So the name “Pay Day Loan” is a misnomer. If you are in any industry that has a lot high spam potential with spammy queries (highly valued keywords whose results fill with spam results), you could have been affected.
First you probably need to know how to know if you have been affected. This one is pretty simple. Your site disappeared from the results of those queries if your site was deemed a spam site in a set of highly valued, keyword spam queries.
To fix it, you will need to make sure your site fits the Google Quality Guidelines, make the fixes and try again. If you get no lift, hire an SEO penalty recovery subject matter expert who works with penalty recovery on a regular basis. Penalty recovery is big business, so make sure whomever you hire has a history with successful returns.
So that one is pretty simple. What about Panda?
This update was a revision of the Panda algorithm, which has actually been “baked” into the main algorithm.
Called the “kinder softer update” Panda is the algorithm that is written to help prevent poor quality content sites from appearing in the search results. Some of the common Panda issues are related to “thin content” (short uninformative content pages) or poor quality indicators (See Google’s Content Quality Guidelines) within the content.
(The history of Panda)
The interesting thing about this Panda update is not just that it is a major revision that affects up to 7% English speaking queries, but that it also seems to have a “forgiveness’ factor. This forgiveness factor means that sites were not just shifted down, but up (even sites that have been exposed to the “baked” in algorithm for a long while).
In the past, this algorithm update shifted sites downward, this is the first time we have seen it shift sites back to the positive that had been exposed to the included Panda algorithm for a long period of time (which in theory should have corrected those sites already, if they had done the corrections needed)
If you were affected by the Panda Update, you will likely have seen a large swing down in your traffic or impressions May 19-20th few days to a week to rollout, sometimes longer, but if it did not start on these dates it is not Panda 4.0)
Your graphs will look like these (again).
I think I have a Panda Penalty. What do I do?
Unless you have an SEO team that is really knowledgeable about penalty recovery (either internally or outsourced) you need to find someone (or an agency) that really understands how Google reacts to these updates and more importantly what you need to do to recover from them.
THEN DO IT IMMEDIATELY!
The longer a penalty sits on a site the harder it becomes to recover from them. You will need a site auditor who knows how to forensically exam your site and tell you how to solve your issues with actionable recommendations.
Hiring a Site Auditor.
Your site is already in jeopardy, don’t make it worse by hiring someone who will do further damage. It is a very easy thing to do when you don’t know all the ins and outs of site recovery. At the least you will have wasted your money, at the worst you will further damage your site profile and cause irreparable damage.
In our practice we work with penalty recovery all the time, so we see the effects of being told the wrong thing by someone who is either inexperienced or is not familiar with penalty recovery. Don’t make the same mistake. Also these services, while they can be reasonable, are NEVER CHEAP if done by someone who knows what they are doing.
It takes years of working with SEO and Google and knowing all its intricacies to fully how the algorithm acts, reacts and responds. This is what you are paying for when you hire someone to do a penalty audit/recovery.
When choosing an auditor make sure they are manually reviewing the data they are collecting about your site. There are many SEO Tools out there that help give site assessments and the lesser ones will use this to “guide” you. While we all use tools and we all have our favorites, the auditor who supplants their experience with a tool report is not worth the bytes it is typed in. Expertise is what you are buying here, not tool reports. You could have done that yourself.
The Good News.
Algorithmic shifts are often the easiest to recover from when you are looking at organic repositioning. Hire the right people, make the right changes, and wait for the algorithm to make a return visit. If done right, you will see the hockey stick going the right direction.
Winners & Losers.
If you were wondering, here are the Panda “winners” and “losers” this week. From Searchmetrics. (This is a partial list, for the full list go to Searchmetrics.)
Losers. These are visibility losses.
Losers : % is visibility loss
Written by: Kristine Schachinger
CEO, The Vetters