How’s your traffic looking? If you’ve noticed a significant rise or dip in levels, It could be because of a recent Panda update. 

The Panda 4.1 update released on September, 23rd 2014 affected 3-5% of all queries. This was a significant update that continued the goals that Panda was designed to accomplish. Many websites complained about a loss in traffic after the update, but those websites were most likely over-optimized. 

This doesn’t come as a surprise to us, and if you’ve been reading the articles on this site, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you either. 

When Google first released Panda, it was clear they had one idea in mind: provide more relevant and useful results to their viewers. And with Panda 4.1, they’re simply continuing this process.

The Eyes of Google

With Panda, Google made a huge number of changes. We’ve written plenty of articles on those changes, so if you’d like to learn more about the update, just take a look around. Today, we’re going to be talking about what Google’s specifically done this update to change search.

Remember “old SEO?” Back in the day, the process was a simple matter of keyword research – SEO content creation – backlink building. Not so simple nowadays, eh?

Let’s talk about keyword research. Why was it important? Because the Google bots “read” the content on a website in order to determine its relevance. If you had a website on “piano composers,” Google would expect to see the phrase “piano composer” mentioned several times. By scanning the number of keywords a website had, the Google bots could determine where to place a specific site on the rankings. So webmasters who wanted to rank high for their specific keywords would over-optimize their sites. The articles were stuffed with keywords, anchor and meta tags were loaded down with the keywords or keyword phrases. Some shady SEO practices even included hiding keywords in the background of the page's code. Hiding the keywords allowed the webmaster to enter their desired keyword thousands of times without creating content to surround them. 

Although that allowed Google to put relevant websites on page #1, it didn’t really help them sort the quality levels. At this point, authority was still determined by backlinks and little else.

So Google had relevant results, but they didn’t necessarily have the best relevant results. They often displayed web pages that were unorganized, unhelpful, and hard to navigate. With no other way to grade the site for quality, it was a hit or miss method that left users feeling less than excited about the results.

But with Panda, Google’s shown just how advanced their technology has become. The Google bots no longer “scan” pages looking for keywords. Instead, they are practically capable of reading like a normal human being! This means the results that are displayed are much more likely to match what the user is looking for. This allows the user to ask a specific question and actually end up with an answer. The quality has sharpened in Google, so that means the web pages that are displayed in the number 1 position are much sharper and of higher quality. 

This is part of a process called semantics. With advanced semantics technology, the Google bots know what types of words are associated with others. If you’ve ever heard of LSI (latent semantic indexing) keywords, you’ll know about what we’re talking about.

For those who haven’t, LSI keywords are words that are naturally associated with main keywords. So if you had a website on “piano composers,” LSI keywords could be “Chopin,” “Liszt,” “Rachmaninoff,” etc. 

Now, LSI keywords have been around for a while now. But with Panda, the “eyes” of Google have become more and more advanced – more and more capable of reading the content like a human would.

Expect this process to continue.

In Panda 4.1, Google is using these “eyes” to determine whether or not websites are overly optimized. Although the majority of websites with “keyword stuffing” have been eliminated, there are still some SEO’s who are pushing the limits.

Google is not trying to eliminate the use of keywords altogether, they are still very important to the search process. They are just trying to ensure that webmasters are using the keywords in a responsible manner. They want ALL the information on the page to be useful, answer a question that could be asked, and have a high-quality standard. No more low-quality content and no more keyword stuffing. Every word that is placed on your page better has a purpose, a purpose other than just adding another instance of your favorite keyword to your site. 

These SEO’s were likely targets in Panda 4.1. That’s why even though the update wasn’t massive, it’s still having a massive effect on a select group of websites.

Did you Get Hit?

If you got hit by Panda 4.1, you’re probably wondering what you can do to fix your rankings. Well, we could give you a lot of practical tips. How many advertisements do you have on your website, are you putting too many main keywords in your content? Is your content all 500 words, or does it vary?

Instead of simply giving practical tips though, it may be more helpful to underline Google’s quality standards. Google’s looking for the best—and only the best—to put on page #1 of Google. If your website isn’t up to that standard, it’s going to get removed. It really is that simple. Even if your site does not get de-indexed from the major search engine, with lower quality content or bad SEO practices, it will most likely never be seen by the searchers. 

How can you make your website the best website in your niche? Improve the user experience? Add more social media exposure? Possibly write larger articles that answer the reader’s questions. Create an easy-to-navigate website with well-organized links. Just think about what you want when you visit a website, and then implement it in your own site. 

Although we can’t guarantee you’ll regain rankings by improving the quality of your website, we can at least guarantee the traffic that’s left will appreciate the changes. If you offer the best user experience in your niche, it’s very unlikely Google will ignore you.

Want More Panda Tips and Updates?

Although it’s been a year since Panda, Google’s not done yet. They’ll continue to update their algorithm and we’ll continue to update you. If you’d like to be notified of updates as soon as we get them, go ahead and fill out the form below.

If you’d prefer to get updates on your Facebook wall, go ahead and shoot us a “like!”

Oh yeah – one more thing. Don’t forget to run a free SEO analysis on your page. If you’re not ranking on page #1, or if you just lost your rankings, there’s a good chance our analysis will tell you exactly why that is.