Google’s search algorithm is something that is changing constantly. New updates and changes to their algorithm help them provide better search results to users while keeping spam and poor quality content lower on the rankings. Unfortunately for web owners these changes can cause their visitor count to plummet within hours. There have been multiple updates over the past year and each one has both negatively and positively affected thousands of webmasters.

Google Panda Update
Image courtesy: The Brit_2

The last major update to Google’s algorithm was known as the Panda update and it was first released back in February of 2011. This update was a massive overhaul and it used an incredibly sophisticated learning AI that looked at the similarities between low and high quality websites and then applied that to the search results. The update was named after Navneet Panda and initially caused quite a stir amongst webmasters because many claimed that it, at first, allowed scrapers to get higher rankings as opposed to quality sites with original content.

Since the initial Panda 1.0 release back in February of 2011, there have been several additional updates to Google Panda. Below is a list with descriptions of each update:

Google Panda Updates

Panda 1.0 – Initial Panda release on February 18, 2011 and it affected around 12% of websites because of the new AI.

Panda 2.0 – After the initial release Google then rolled out Panda 2.0 which went global – much tomany webmasters despair!

Panda 2.1 (aka Panda 3.0) – since Google never really officially announced this update many know this as the 3rd major Panda update since its release so it goes by Panda 2.1 or 3.0. No one knows what exactly went into the update however many saw their monitored niches changing as well as website rankings change.

Panda 2.2 – This was a smaller change to Panda that went into effect around June 18th. While some webmasters were finally recovering and seeing improvements from the initial hit in February, others were still being de-ranked even more!

Panda 2.32.3 is actually a confirmed update from Google and it occurred on July 22nd. Google stated that this update was using some new signals for their search results filter to distinguish between high and low quality sites.

Panda 2.4 – This is simply the previous update (2.3) being applied globally to all languages. The change affected many webmasters negatively with their international sites. The 2.4 Panda update was released around August 12th.

Panda 2.5 – On September 18th another confirmed Panda update by Google.

Panda 2.5.1 – The previous 2.5 update was ‘tweaked’ by Google on October 9th however no further information was released. Many sites hit negatively by the 2.5 update did report a massive recovery though several stated that no change was seen.

Panda 2.5.2 – Another confirmed tweaking of the 2.5 update on the 13th of October. This one confirmed by Matt Cutts from Google via Twitter.

Panda 2.5.3 –This update happened around the 19th-20th of October however it is not confirmed by Google though some webmasters happily reported an increase in traffic.

Panda 3.1 – If you look back to Google 2.1 you’ll see that it was aka as 3.0 hence the reason why there is a jump in numbers between this update and the last. This was update was confirmed on November 18th 2011 and stated that there was a “minor” update to Panda that simply was a data refresh affecting less than a percent of searches.

Panda 3.2 – Google gave webmasters an early holiday gift on the 19th with a minor update. While Google never confirmed the “minor” update they did say that no “major” updates would be done until the New Year.

Panda 3.3 – This update on the 26th was another data refresh to make Panda more accurate – confirmed by Google as well.

Panda 3.4 – This is the latest Panda update and it occurred on March 23, 2012. Google stated via Twitter that this was another “refresh” and that only 1.6% of searches would be affected.

Panda 3.5 – This update took place on April 18, 2012. Initially it was thought of a new algorithm change to fight the webspam, but it turned out to be a new Panda Update.

Panda 3.6 – This update took place on April 27, 2012. It went unnoticed for a week.

Panda 3.7 – This update took place on June 8th, 2012. According to Google this refresh impacted less than 1% of search queries in the U.S. and about 1% worldwide.

Panda 3.8 – This update took place on June 25th, 2012. Google announced that it pushed out a new refresh to the Panda algorithm. This update “noticeably affects only ~1% of queries worldwide,” said Google on Twitter.

Panda 3.9 – This update took place on July 24, 2012. A googler tweeted that the new data refresh will affect 1% of the search queries.

Panda 3.9.1 or Panda 18 – Well even friends at SEL found it difficult to name this update. So the new version of Panda was named Panda 3.9.1. This update took place on August 20, 2012.

Panda 3.9.2 or Panda 4 or Panda 19 – This update took place on September 18, 2012.

Panda 20 – Finally? I don’t think so. This update took place on September 27, 2012 perhaps the major update just before the EMD update.

Panda 21 – This update took place on November 5, 2012 and is expected to hit 1.1% of English-language queries in the US and 0.4% worldwide.

Panda 22 – This update took place on November 21, 2012 impacting 0.8% of English queries.

Panda 23 – This update took place on December 21, 2012 impacting about 1.3% of English queries.

Panda 24 – This update took place on January 22, 2013 impacting about 1.2% of English queries.

Panda 25 — Although there was no official update from Google, but people have noticed that there was an update on March 15, 2013.

As you may have noticed while reading the various Panda updates a LOT of websites were both positively and negatively affected. Most of the sites negatively affected were ones that used a variety of SEO mistakes and low quality content.

So what are the SEO mistakes that have and still are hurting thousands of websites since the Panda update? Mainly over-SEO mistakes such as keyword stuffing, duplicate content, spammed links, backlinks to blacklisted sites, and no diverse anchor texts.

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is a common mistake that those new to SEO make, and even one that experienced webmasters resort to. Usually the keyword density of a website should be between 2%-5% however those trying to rank higher for a specific keyword will have the keyword density be higher than 5%.

Unfortunately if you use keywords too many times in the content the readers will catch on so webmasters use hidden text, or simply stuff the meta content with the keywords.

If you haven’t been penalized for keyword stuffing yet, then you need to alter your site because search engines will catch on and you can lose rank or even be banned from the search results completely.

Instead of stuffing a few pages and posts with too many keywords, you will need to produce more original and relevant content with the targeted keywords in optimal density levels.

Duplicate content

This is a huge and ongoing issue for many webmasters and will result in severe penalties on your website should you be found of plagiarizing or copying another site’s content. Ensuring that all of your web pages pass CopyScape is crucial to avoid any banning or penalties by Google.

Spammed Links

In an attempt to get backlinks to their sites many webmasters will use tools that will spam out thousands of comments and hope that those comments get approved on blogs. Google, however, has begun to work against this and those wishing to get backlinks should do it in a consistent and natural manner.

Rather than spam out thousands of backlinks all at once, get good high quality backlinks consistently.

Those who are guilty of over-SEO may believe that just because they have thousands of backlinks that this is a good thing, however Google and other search engines constantly stress ‘Quality over Quantity’. If you’ve spammed backlinks you may have been penalized by Google however you can slowly work to fix this by getting higher quality backlinks.

Backlinks to blacklisted sites

Another big thing that those using over-SEO commonly do is, in their spamming of links for backlinks, they associate themselves with blacklisted sites. A blacklisted site is one that has been banned from the search results for a severe infraction such as duplicate content, blackhat methods, or some other reason. Unfortunately if your site is associated with a blacklisted site you can easily be penalized for it.

No diverse anchor text

When trying to get your backlinks out there, many people who do their own SEO use the same type of anchor text over and over and over. This overuse of keywords as anchor texts can end up causing your site to not only lose rank but, as a consequence, your traffic and sales will also drop.

Not sure how to diversify your anchor texts? Fortunately there are a variety of ways to change things up a bit to avoid the harsh penalties by Google. Using misspelled keywords, using actions rather than keywords (i.e “click here!”), using your URL, or even getting out your thesaurus to find some synonyms to use are all excellent ways to create diverse anchor texts and drive more traffic to your website!

Buying or Exchanging Links

If you’ve been buying or exchanging links for the sole purpose of increasing PageRank you might have to reconsider that strategy. In the era where you can actually tell Google about the sites that are buying links, and with the Panda Update in place you will definitely get your rankings suffer or even face a ban on Google.

Instead of buying or exchanging links, you should try to make something useful which will bring links to you. Think out of the box, be creative, be smart, and you’ll get the reward, sooner than later.

Conclusion

Rule of thumb for all who practice SEO techniques and who want their site to be successful, especially since Google Panda is still consistently being updated, slow and steady wins the race. Google is constantly changing their algorithm, as you can see from the amount of recent updates, and they will continue to work hard to promote quality sites with original high quality information on them. Having patience and self motivation is the key to success here.

Rushing, using duplicate content, spamming your links to every site out there, and associating your site with blacklisted site can end your Internet Marketing career before it can begin!

Update

SEL just announced that Google launched a new algorithm which will target webspam and it’s now called the Penguin Update.

Updated October 19th, 2012.