Matt Cutts, Google’s Head of Search, has announced that the Panda algorithm will be updated this week in an effort to continue to reduce the amount of spam on the Internet.

Google Panda

Since it’s launch in 2011, Panda has always been aimed at preventing websites with poor content from getting to the top of search results. Panda’s purpose was to decrease the rank of these sites and reward quality sites with higher search positions. Websites with blogs or regularly updated content saw a big increase in rankings while sites that contained a lot of advertising, duplicate content, and very little original content saw large drops.

Those of you who have an SEO strategy in place will know that Google is regularly making changes to its search algorithm so users can get the best search results. So an update to Panda is no real surprise. In fact, since 2011, Panda has had 24 different updates, but Cutts did mention that this one will be one of the most talked about Google updates in 2013 (although he did say something similar last year).

There are two major points to keep in mind about this Panda update:

Link Networks
The Panda update will be targeting more link networks this year in an attempt to reduce the amount of link spam. Google has been monitoring link networks over the past few months and is expected to take action on least two of them in the next couple weeks. So, anyone who has been using these link networks to create spurious links to their site will most likely see a drop in their search result ranking.

Website security issues that could leave a website vulnerable to attack by spammers will also be targeted by the Panda update. Unfortunately some spammers target websites by placing links on them without the webmaster’s knowledge. Google even gave an example of a university whose homepage had a link for “cheap viagra pills.” Because the link was not visible to users, it could have been up there for years without anyone noticing.  The problem is that the Google spiders that crawl the website can see that this link exists and could have penalised the university for having such a low-quality link on its homepage.

Rolling Updates
In addition the new features that the Panda update will bring, it is also worth noting that this marks a change in how Google will adjust its algorithm in the future. From now on, Panda updates will be done on a rolling basis, which means instead of one huge update that often makes for sudden changes in search rankings, the new updates will be more frequent and less obvious.

Because of this, chances are that the updates are going to be less transparent to webmasters and SEO experts, so it is important to carry out an SEO strategy that adheres to Google’s Best Practices at all times.

Matt Cutts explained this new way of updating Panda and you can listen to it in the audio file below.

And what about Google Penguin, which was launched last April? Google is working on an update for it too, which Cutts calls a “new generation of Penguin.”  Keep checking this blog for news about that as it is released.

So what should people do to prepare for the Panda update? We recommend that you continue working on SEO activities that are genuine and approved by Google. If you are carrying out any “black hat” linking techniques, we recommend you stop doing so and really start focussing on a long-term SEO strategy that doesn’t risk your site’s ranking.  Feel free to get in touch with our SEO experts if you need help.