|What the Panda 2.2 Update Means|
|Written by Brian Chang|
|Thursday, 14 July 2011 09:05|
It's been nearly four months since Google's Panda update first made its presence felt. Dubbed “Farmer” by some, it hit content farms particularly hard. With Google rolling out the third update to Panda, what do we know about this bear that can keep you from getting clobbered?
Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Land reported on the new version of Panda. He noted that Matt Cutts reported at the SMX Advanced Conference that it had been approved, but not yet rolled out, and that he started seeing hints of its influence on SEO forums on June 16. On June 20, he received confirmation from Google that the ranking changes being noted in the threads were probably due to the Panda 2.2 update.
A lot of sites that weren't previously affected by Panda are feeling its wrath now; many others that suffered under earlier Panda updates are actually doing a lot better after the change. Whether or not you've been adversely affected, these changes can be unsettling. Are we back to the days of the Google Dance?
It may look like it at first, but we're not even close. According to Danny Sullivan, what we're seeing is nothing like the old days, when Google would update its index every month or so by “suddenly dump[ing] millions of new pages it had found into its existing collection” which “caused ranking changes that could take days to settle down, hence the nickname 'Google Dance.'” We're also not seeing a full-fledged update to the algorithm, along the lines of “Florida” in 2003 and “Mayday” of last year.
So what exactly is going on? To understand that, you need to understand the nature of Panda. The nearest comparison Sullivan could make was to PageRank. Yes, PageRank – that factor that supposedly has no effect on your ranking in the search engine results pages and which Google rather wishes we'd all ignore. Panda, he says, is not itself an algorithm change; it's a ranking factor.
Before you start scratching your head, let's review how search engines work and define a few terms. Search engines send out software to examine web pages for indexing. They look at various factors on the page to determine a page's relevance for any particular search; Google looks at anywhere from 50 to 200 of these factors, depending on who you believe. They may include such information as what keywords are in the page's title, how many links point to that page, what words are in the anchor text used by the links, and so on.
Google's algorithm looks at these factors. Various factors receive different “weights” or levels of importance. For instance, the meta keyword tag isn't considered important at all, but several factors pertaining to links receive a lot of weight when the algorithm does its thing. Once the algorithm weighs the factors for a particular page as related to a search using a particular keyword, it decides where to put that web page in the SERPs.Next: What the Panda 2.2 Update Means - Panda is a Ranking Factor