Last weekend’s Google Panda update is rolling out so slowly and sporadically that industry experts are having a hard time getting a sense of its impact on search.
Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends analyst at Google, announced last month at the SMX Advanced conference in Seattle that the latest Panda update, which is technically more of a refresh, will roll out in the coming months. This marks Panda’s 29th update, but it’s the first one since the September 2014 update impacted many sites’ rankings.
Hallmark was one company that was hit particularly hard last time, losing 20 percent of its keywords, according to AJ Ghergich, founder of content marketing agency Ghergich & Co. When there’s a new update, Ghergich judges Panda’s rollouts based on the fluctuation of the sites that were most affected during the last update. He notes that in mid-July, before Illyes’ announcement, Hallmark went from ranking for 29,000 keywords to just 17,000.
“That’s a brutal hit,” Ghergich says. “It seems really weird to me that these sites are getting hit a little bit earlier so maybe [Google was] testing it on those sites. Google is probably not going to tell us, but there’s no doubt in my mind it’s related to this update.”
I definitely think that we’re just going to have to monitor this over the course of a few weeks to really get the fallout and see the winners and losers,” he adds.
Steve Szeliga, an SEO specialist from upstate New York, agrees that it’s too early to tell, especially since many clients have come and gone between September and now. But unlike Ghergich, he didn’t see any evidence of Panda rolling out early.
Testing link-building techniques, Szeliga spammed his own affiliate sites with back links. The sudden disappearance of one site, which had survived previous updates despite its relatively thin content, is what clued him into Google’s latest change.
“Right around the same time this supposed update rolled out, I noticed the one page in particular – I was experimenting with just the homepage – had dropped out of the search engine,” Szeliga says. “It’s not reindexed because there are other pages that are still ranking, but it’s just kind of strange that it’s this one in particular. There wasn’t a massive amount of links: maybe 1,000 dripped over two weeks.”
Comparing the results with his other tests, Szeliga noticed some inconsistencies and deduced that this particular site disappeared because of its content. In addition, he’s seen four occasions of his clients’ sites that had multiple rankings dropping down to one.
“I don’t know that it’s been noticeable; I would say it’s been volatile,” he says. “Things are dancing around now quite a bit. For one of the clients I’m working with, the site is relatively new so that’s normal for them. But just the other sites they’re competing against, there’s a lot of shuffling around.”