Google and its secretive search rhythm are both mysterious by nature, but the latest Panda 4.2 refresh has raised more questions than most. After all, this is roughly the 30th version of Panda and you start to think Google can’t have many more tricks up its sleeve, more than four years since Panda 1.0 rocked the web.
But this is Google we’re talking about and topping its list of talents is knowing how to throw off webmasters and marketers alike, just as you think you’re starting to get a hold on things. But it turns out the smoke and mirrors around this particular Panda refresh may not be intentional after all.
A ‘technical issue’ is slowing Panda 4.2 down
Last Friday Google’s John Mueller held a Hangout session with webmasters to answer their questions on Panda 4.2 and search optimisation in general. Topping the list of questions from site owners is why the Panda 4.2 rollout is happening so slowly. Last month Google revealed this latest refresh will takes months to fully roll out, which signals a frustrating wait for webmasters.
Naturally, people want to know why this is happening – not only because it takes longer to know if you’ve been hit, but also much harder to diagnose problems. Here is the answer John Mueller has for us:
“This is actually pretty much a similar [Panda] update to before. For technical reasons we are rolling it out a bit slower. It is not that we are trying to confuse people with this; it is really just for technical reasons.”
Panda confirmed as a site-wide algorithm
Another question that seems to crop up with many Panda updates is whether the algorithm really is site-wide, rather than page-by-page. The confusion comes from certain pages seeing different impacts at different times, following Panda changes – something that seems to be exaggerated by the slow roll out of this particular refresh.
Here is Mueller’s response to the question:
“We do try to run it [Panda] on a site-wide basis to kind of recognise lower quality, higher quality websites. Which also means that, if your website has a lot of lower quality content and some really great content, you should make sure that maybe the lower quality content isn’t that much, or that you block it from indexing.”
So it’s been confirmed from the source that Panda is site-wide, but what John doesn’t explain is there are more than 200+ search signals used by Google and a number of factors outside of Panda can affect your ranking on a page-by-page basis, which can make Panda appear to target certain pages more than others.
How can I check if I have been hit by Panda 4.2?
The slow rollout of Panda 4.2 will make it more difficult than usual to spot any impact and you’ll have to wait a number of months to see the full effect. The best you can do right now is watch your analytics and isolate Google organic traffic data for any large swings. Remember there are always winners and losers with Google algorithm changes so the impact won’t necessarily be a negative one.