Google Update Alert: Panda 4.0

Lindsey Weedston Online Marketing, Website SEO

If you’ve been noticing more panda images than usual around the online tech and marketing circles, there’s a reason for that. Google just rolled out a full-on update to the Panda algorithm with Panda 4.0.

Google Panda is an algorithm that determines a site’s rank in search engine results based primarily on content quality. Panda is designed to reward websites with high quality content and punish low quality, spammy, and duplicate content. When the original version emerged in 2009, it devastated a long list of websites that relied on black hat, content spam techniques. A lot of small businesses that weren’t focusing much on content were also negatively affected.

Since then, Google releases small rolling updates to the algorithm every month, which is responsible for a lot of month-to-month web traffic fluctuation. It was clear that Panda 4.0 was a major update just by the fact that it was announced by Google’s Matt Cutts on Tuesday.

Matt Cutts Panda 4.0 Tweet


The announcement followed days of speculation about possible changes to one of Google’s algorithms due to a lot of fluctuation in search engine results. EBay in particular was hit hard, knocking it out of’s Top 10 list for sites with the best search traffic. It was such a major shift that Moz announced the changes on Google+, illustrating the changes with their “MozCast” feature that represents high fluctuations in search results with high temperatures.


MozCast Panda 4.0



How Will This Affect You?

This update will affect about 7.5% of all English language queries, with variations for queries in other languages. But it’s too early to say exactly how most sites will be affected. So far there have been conflicting reports, with some people announcing a marked improvement in search rankings and traffic and others reporting negative results. It’s also possible that other recent updates are interfering and making it impossible to determine Panda 4.0’s effects at this time.

Some people are speculating that this could be the “softer” Panda update that was promised earlier this year at Search Marketing Expo. Matt Cutts had announced that they were working on a new, “next generation” update that would appear gentler than the other major updates and would have a positive impact on the websites of small businesses.

Baby Pandas

They do look soft.

However, Jennifer Slegg of Search Engine Watch is confident that this is not the soft and gentle update promised in March due to the simple fact that Panda 4.0 has so far appeared to be rather dramatic and harsh. Other “soft” updates have happened in the past and drew hardly any attention from the community.

Whether this is a soft update or not, it’s going to take a couple days before most website owners are going to be able to determine how they were affected. Though there is some preliminary data on how some big name online brands were affected, small sites will have to wait to know for sure. Keep an eye on how your traffic is doing, and by next week we should start to see more concrete results as well as advice on how you can use the update to your advantage (or recover if you took a hit).