Technology companies tinker and fine tune their products all the time to make them better for consumers. Normally, these technical changes go unnoticed by the people who use the product. That is, unless you're talking about Google. Google search algorithms mean so much for online retailers, that even small changes can have a huge effect on revenue. Google recently updated launched the Google Panda 4.2 update and business owners should keep an eye out for a while to see if the change affects their website.
One of the reasons for the success of Google is the fact the company is constantly innovating and improving their flagship product, Google Search. It's been almost a year since the last official update to Panda. The rollout means anyone who was penalized by Panda in the last update has a chance to improve their search position if they made proper changes, and other sites may be penalized as Google changes its policy of things like doorway pages.
Google is always pretty mum about what happens with their updates, as they don't want people trying to game the system. Still, the company has given some indication that smaller content publishers and websites may be the ones to benefit the most from the update. Though Google employees initially said the update was just a data refresh, comments from Pierre Far suggest there will be some algorithmic changes.
"Based on user (and webmaster!) feedback, we've been able to discover a few more signals to help Panda identify low-quality content more precisely," said Pierre Far, according to The SEM Post. "This results in a greater diversity of high-quality small- and medium-sized sites ranking higher, which is nice.
Panda 4.2 is a relatively small update for the current edition of Google's search algorithm. Google has said that it will only affect about 2 to 3 percent of English-language searches, which is a smaller portion than previous updates. The previous refresh affected 3 to 5 percent of searchers back in September of 2014 and the last true update (the rollout of Panda itself) in May 2014 affected more than twice as many at 7.5 percent of search queries. However, one must remember that there are billions of searches each month, so affecting just 1 in 50 (2%) will lead to millions of search results with different rankings.
For businesses rely on search traffic to fuel their businesses, a drop in ranking can have a severely negative effect on traffic. A June 2013 study from Chitika Insights found that the top ranked page on Google got twice as many clicks as the second ranked link, and 15 times as many as the 10th ranked page. With so much traffic at stake, it's worth it for business owners and online retailers to pay attention to the changes to Google's algorithm.
Though Panda 4.2 is officially out, website owners need to keep checking their site for any positive or negative movement as a result of the update. Several SEO experts noted that the rollout seemed to be happening very slowly and Google addressed these concerns at a recent Q&A session on Google Hangouts.
"This [Panda rollout] is actually pretty much a similar update to before," said John Mueller, according to transcripts for the session. "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. So, it is not that we are crawling slowly. We are crawling and indexing normal, and we are using that content as well to recognize higher quality and lower quality sites. But we are rolling out this information in a little bit more slower way. Mostly for technical reasons."
Since part of the Panda 4.2 update includes new filters for web spam, many website owners wanted the rollout to be quick so they could know if there sites benefited from the update or if they need to make changes. The slow rollout means it be months before the full effects are known. So as was stated earlier, business owners will need to be diligent in checking their site analytics for a while.
For more information about changes at Google that can help business owners, read this article about updates to Google's remarketing ads.