When Google’s first Panda first came out in February 2011, the whole SEO world was knocked on its heels. Now Google is promising to do it again. At SXSW West, Matt Cutts announced that Google would be doing a big update in 2013. What changes can you expect on the horizon? Are you in danger? Let’s dive in.
A Look at the Last Google Panda Update
The last Google Panda update was on January 22nd. Compared to the first Panda update, this update was tiny. Only about 1.2% of English listings saw any movement at all.
Most SEO experts agree: this Google Panda update wasn’t that much different than a routine update. In fact, Matt Cutts has announced that moving forward they’ll no longer confirm Panda updates. In other words, Panda updates are just going to be rolled into regular algorithm updates.
The real change that online entrepreneurs should be paying attention to is the next Penguin update.
Spotting a Penguin from a Panda
Webmasters often mix up Penguin and Panda. They’re two completely different things.
- Google Panda was an update designed to combat low quality content. It focused on getting rid of duplicate content, spun content, template-based content and so on.
- Google Penguin was an update aiming at web spam. It attacked low quality link building techniques and penalized websites that were primarily ranking through low quality link strategies.
What to Expect in the Coming Panda Update
When Google first rolled out their Penguin update, they targeted websites that had at least 80% spammy backlinks. Even at that level, millions of websites were affected. Over the course of Penguin 2 and Penguin 3, that number has dropped significantly.
Now even websites with as little as 50% of their backlinks coming from suspicious sources are looking at heavy penalties. In the coming Penguin update, it’s likely that this number will drop even lower. Websites with as little as 30% or even 20% could face penalties.
Google will likely continue to go after link networks. On March 7, Google shut down “SAPE Links” (A Russian based Link Network) and downgraded rankings on their members’ websites across the board. BuildMyRank.com was shut down not too long ago. In the near future, Google will likely start going after bigger and bigger link networks.
Believe it or not, guest blogging may also be getting the axe. Guest blogging started out as a perfectly legitimate method of getting backlinks. Unfortunately, today guest blogging has become so overdone that it’s become no better than spam. Automated guest blogging software, $5 guest blogging services and the like have flooded the market. Google may soon bring heavy penalties on low quality guest blog posts.
What ranking factors can we expect to get a boost? Social is the most likely contender. Social signals like Twitter retweets, Facebook likes or Google +1s are likely to become more and more influential on rankings. Google is likely to not only be able to “count” likes and comments, but even be able to “read” general sentiment. In other words, Google can tell if most activity is actual engagement, customer complaints, raving compliments, “like walls” and so on.
These are some of the changes you can expect in the near future. If you’re using any kind of spammy linking strategy, now is the time to stop. Instead, switch to a community and social-oriented link building strategy. If your link profile is anywhere near the 50% mark, start using the link disavow tool to protect your link profile.