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The recently announced Google Panda algorithm update raised eyebrows for several reasons. Of course, any Google algorithm news is worthy of attention, but this specific update was unique in several ways that had SEOs and webmasters wondering what the deal was. Finally, Google has given some insight into why Panda 4.2 is so different from past algorithm updates.

There’s still not much information about why there was such a long lull between algorithm updates – over 10 months – but, Google’s John Mueller did recently provide some answers as to why the algorithm update is rolling out significantly slower than normal.

In a Google Hangout session between Mueller and webmasters, John explained the rollout is taking several months instead of the usual few days or weeks due to “technical reasons.” He also explicitly said the long rollout isn’t specifically intend to “confuse people” as some have suggested.

Both the SEM Post and Search Engine Roundtable transcribed Mueller’s comments on Panda:

This [Panda rollout] is actually pretty much a similar update to before. 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.

It is not like we are making this process slower by design, it is really an internal issue on our side.

Webmasters have expressed frustration with the long rollout because it is taking much longer than normal to see results from the algorithm, and Mueller’s comments only provide a small window into how the algorithm is functioning.

Here is the video, from the start of the conversation:

 Panda

Google has confirmed it has released a Google Panda refresh over the weekend, over 10 months after the last update to the algorithm.

The latest refresh is unique from past updates as it went virtually unnoticed by webmasters until it was announced by Barry Schwartz. This is because it is being rolled out far slower than in the past. Previous updates were rolled out usually over a period of a few days or at most a couple weeks, but Google says this latest update could potentially take months to fully roll out, even on a site-by-site basis. However, as it is a site-wide algorithm, it will not be on a page-by-page basis.

Google was not willing to provide any information about why the rollout is being done so slowly.

Unfortunately, the slow rollout does not mean you can expect to make any last minute changes to save your site. It is too late to change your fate with Panda 4.2, although it’s always good to make any improvements you know are needed.

Schwartz also noted his personal SEO news site, which was penalized by Panda 4.1, does show an increase in organic traffic since the update. That means others who were hit by the last update may see small improvements as well.

The Panda refresh is expected to impact approximately 2-3% of queries, meaning it is a relatively small update.

While the refresh may be good news to webmasters who were impacted by 4.1, most people are less pleased – particularly by the slow rollout.

It may be months before we know the impact of the refresh thanks to the slow implementation, but, considering there hasn’t been an update since October of last year, it was past time for it to happen.

April Fools’ Day is here yet again, and if you’re reading this chances are you have already encountered at least one of Google’s numerous practical jokes. The company has always been big on the prankster’s holiday, but they have taken it to a whole new level this year, unleashing gag services and webpages and nearly ever platform they have. I’m recapping all the goofs and gags so you can be sure you won’t miss out on any of the fun.

Google Thinks Backwards

Have you been to google.com today? What about com.google? That’s right, Google released a mirror-image version of their site that flips everything on the search engine. Unfortunately it only works for search, not any of Google’s other platforms and domains.

Pac-Man Comes to Town

Google Maps has brought the classic arcade game to your doorstep, by allowing you to play the game using your local streets as the maze. From desktop, you can play Pac-Man anywhere on the map you want. Mobile users however, are only able to play in a few select places. To get in on the action, you’ll have to use the clues to find the special locations.

Ingress Plays Pac-Man Too

While the Pac-Man mode in Google Maps has quickly gained attention, fewer have noted that Google’s augmented reality game, Ingress for Android and iOS, has also added some new Pac-Man features.

#ChromeSelfie

Everyone is already sharing their reactions to news and events across social media, but Chrome on mobile is making it easier than ever to let people know how you feel about what you are browsing. Whether you are excited, angry, sad, or outright confused by the latest story, you can quickly share it by opening the menu on the browser and choosing “Share a reaction.”

Screen-Shot-2015-03-30-at-12.23.29-PM

According to Google, Chrome users are losing up to 6 hours of selfie-taking time every day by having to exit the browser to open the camera app. Thankfully, they’ve streamlined the process so we can finally take selfies with optimal efficiency.

Google Panda

This one might sting for webmasters who have had unpleasant run-ins with Google’s not-so cuddly algorithm. Google Japan announced Google Panda 5 and 6, with a press conference parodying Apple’s over-the-top product releases.

Unlike previous Panda releases, this one is less of an algorithm and more Siri in a stuffed-animal panda. The product itself doesn’t seem to be directly related to the algorithm, but Matt Cutts helped out on the video so it’s safe to say it is a part of the joke.

Smartbox by Inbox

Google has revolutionized email with Gmail, and now they are reshaping how we think about our traditional mail too. Smartbox by Inbox may look like a stylish mailbox, but it has smart folders, filters, and even apps that you can bring with you anywhere you go.

Dial-Up Mode

Google Fiber users are apparently complaining their internet speeds are just too fast, leaving them with no time to take breaks, fix drinks, or take care of other small tasks. To solve this, the service provider is launching a dial-up mode.

“Loading bars used to give people an opportunity to pause and take care of the little things—like making a cup of coffee, taking a bathroom break or playing with the dog.”

The company explains it was able to reduce Fiber speeds up to 376 times “by withholding photons from the fiber strands” so that “the light-based fiber optic technology dims to a flicker of its previous capacity.”

Chromebook Self-browsing

Don’t you wish you could just put your internet browser on auto-pilot and let it take you to your destination?

chromeb00k_self-browsing

“Google’s top research scientists have calculated that the average person burns up to five calories per day by clicking on web links,” Google says. “This is absurd—these calories could be put to much better use for breathing, pranking a co-worker, or cleaning your bathtub.”

The new Chromebook self-browsing extension is already available from the Chrome Web Store.

Google Actual Cloud Platform

Quick question: where is “the cloud” you constantly hear Google and Apple talking about? If you said clouds in the sky you would have been wrong, until now.

Google is moving the cloud to the “actual cloud” with a slew of new features including a new compute zone, actual-cloud machine types, Stormboost, CloudDrops, weather dashboards, and bare-metal container support.

YouTube’s Add Music Feature

darude

YouTube now allows users to add music to any video they wish. Specifically, the video player now includes a button allowing you to override the sound on any video with Darude’s Sandstorm. There’s also an Auto-Darude option so you can easily apply the song to every video you watch. The history of Darude’s Sandstorm is long and relatively obscure, so if this one doesn’t make sense you can learn more here.

Matt Cutts’ Auto-SEO Tool

Matt Cutts got in not one, but two jokes at the expense of SEO professionals this year, which shows he is certainly putting his time on leave from Google to good use. The former head of search spam announced a new tool last night named AutoSEO, available at http://seo.ninja.

AutoSEO

AutoSEO claims to automate all your SEO efforts with an open source free platform, with a beta invite being sent out today. Of course, the joke is the tool doesn’t actually do anything.

Image source: Lin Padgham

Image source: Lin Padgham

If you thought Google might be slowing down on updating their most well-known search algorithms, the past month may have been a bit of a shocker for you. First, Google rolled out the latest update to their Panda algorithm in late September, and less than a month later they have released the first update to their Penguin algorithm in over a year.

If Penguin and Panda aren’t familiar terms to you, they are the names of two major algorithms which determine what Google’s search results will look like for a given search. They help evaluate websites and reward those who are following guidelines while punishing those who bend or break the rules.

While the Panda algorithm mostly relates to the content directly on webpages, Penguin aims to take down those who try to cheat Google by creating unnatural backlinks to try to gain higher rankings. Both often these algorithms penalize webmasters and the businesses who run these pages when there was no malicious intent.

Unfortunately, with the complex system that makes up Google’s search algorithms and their ever-changing guidelines and many business owners have been shocked to discover their site is no longer appearing in the search results after an algorithm update.

While site owners can frequently bounce back after these penalties, they can also destroy any momentum you had and lose you potential customers. That’s why it is always important to have someone who is consistently up-to-date on all of Google’s latest policy changes to make sure your site is staying within the rules.

Panda

Webmasters using “thin” or poor quality content may have seen a drop in traffic this week, as Google has announced that the release of the latest version of its Panda Update.

According to a post on Google+, the “slow rollout” began early this week and will continue into next week before being complete.

While those trying to do the bare minimum to improve rankings may have reason for concern, the new update could also be a relief to many who say they were improperly affected by previous updates as this update is intended to be more precise. As the announcement says:

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. This results in a greater diversity of high-quality small- and medium-sized sites ranking higher, which is nice.

Those who were affected by previous updates may also welcome the latest release, as it means anyone who has made the right changes since the last update finally have a chance to bounce back.

As a business owner with an eye on your company’s online marketing success, you have likely heard about Google’s search engine algorithms. You may even have a general idea of how they function and effect your business’s online presence and marketing strategies.

But, unless you spend your free time reading all the SEO blogs, you probably have some questions about some aspects of how these algorithms work. If your business does international business, one of those questions is very likely if Google’s algorithms work the same around the world.

While the algorithms largely tackle the same issues, the short answer is that they do not all work the same on an international scale.

As Barry Schwartz recently highlighted, you can find specific examples of when algorithms vary across borders by looking at the Google Panda algorithm. The algorithm was initially launched for English language Google engines in February 2011, but the rest of the globe didn’t see the algorithm roll out for quite some time. Notably, it took 17 months for Google to release Panda in Korea and Japan to target Asian languages.

However, the Google Penguin algorithm didn’t have nearly the same delay. Penguin rolled out globally and impacted sites in any language.

What’s the reason for the difference? It all boils down to purpose. The Panda algorithm focused on language and content, and those algorithms have to be customized and focused based on the wide variety of languages found around the world. Meanwhile, algorithms like Penguin target off-page technical factors like links, which raises less of an issue customization.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

With all of the different ways Google can penalize you these days, it is easy to get confused about what you need to do to fix your mistakes. Between Penguin, Panda, Unnatural Link Penalties, and Manual Penalties, there are more ways to get in trouble than ever.

Google’s increasing strictness is far from a bad thing, but it is also getting increasingly complex which makes for confusion when trying to bounce back from a mistake.

Marie Haynes knows just how confusing it can be. She has been working in SEO and writing for SEOMoz for years, but even she got confused when trying to help someone with what she thought was a Penguin-related penalty. She then saw another respected writer make the same mistake in a recent article but confusing unnatural links penalties with Panda.

It seems we need to go to the root of these issues and break down what each of these different penalties are and how they are different from each other.

The Penguin Algorithm came about last April as a algorithm change aimed at fighting webspam, which explains the initial title “The Webspam Algorithm” and it mainly targeted sites participating in link schemes and other questionable linking practices, though it also looked for indications of keyword stuffing.

The Penguin Algorithm isn’t to be confused with an Unnatural Link Penalty. The main difference is that Unnatural Links Penalties are manually taken against you rather than by an automated algorithm. They mainly place these algorithms when they believe a site is attempting to manipulate search engine results through the creation of links. The real question is what causes Google to investigate your site.

It is widely believed that filing a spam report will flag a site for manual review, but others have guessed that Google monitors more cutthroat niches such as “payday loans” or casino sites and consistently manually checks for unnatural links. Thanks to Google’s secrecy, we may never know exactly what makes Google personally examine a site.

So what is the main difference between Penguin and Unnatural Links Penalties? It really all comes down to the different way algorithms act compared to penalties taken by a living breathing person. Algorithms view all sites the same and is effective almost immediately. All sites hit by an algorithmic penalty will see the damage within the day of the algorithm update. Manual penalties on the other hand are being placed against sites at all times, and can be appealed more easily than an algorithmic penalty.

You can always recover from any of these penalties with effort, as Marie Haynes shows in her article, but you have to clean up your page and your methods. SEOs can’t get away with participating in link schemes or engaging other black hat techniques anymore, and there is no way to cheat the search engines anymore.

Resting PandaLast week the internet felt tremors that were very similar to the shock waves unleashed by Google’s Panda Updates, but something was different this time. Google didn’t announce or confirm the update, and they say they won’t confirm any updates in the future.

At this point, it is widely assumed the small shakeup last week was the Panda Update that Google’s Web Spam guru Matt Cutts said would be coming sometime soon at SMX West early on last week. But, as Search Engine Land reports, while he was talking, Cutts also said that Google’s Panda Updates would no longer be unveiled in big monthly changes. From now on, Panda’s changes will occur gradually.

The shift from big abrupt changes to a more fluid update system means that sites hit for low-quality content may not be able to diagnose their issue as easily. Site owners can’t look at their Analytics and see a big drop correlated with a confirmed update around that time period. However, Danny Goodwin says it may mean a faster recovery.

Site owners who have done their proper due diligence will no longer have to wait for the next update to roll around to see if Google has viewed their work favorably.

Google confirmed 24 of the Panda Updates, and the 25th is believed to have occurred late last week, but from now on, there won’t be any big announcements or confirmations. Just like everything else at Google, their web spam algorithms will be constantly changing over time rather than abruptly transforming.

With all of the changes Google made in the past year, it is easy to get mixed up as to what changes affected what areas of a site’s SEO information, and what was penalized by which algorithm updates. Combine that with a disavow links tool which most don’t seem to understand, and it is a wonder anyone can keep up with Google’s updates.

Pratik Dholakiya, writer for Search Engine Journal, recognized how confusing this all must be, and sought to explain which types of updates affected what, as well as all of the misconceptions surrounding these updates. He breaks them down into three basic types of updates, and each focused on different aspects of SEO.

EMD Algorithm Update – The September update targeted sites with exact match domains (EMDs), or sites named after keywords instead of brands. This change didn’t so much penalize most affected as it removed a special boost they were receiving due to the name of the website.

The only people really penalized by the update were those who had over-optimized their site around the keyword. There is also a misconception the EMD updates were Panda or Penguin related, but Matt Cutts has put that idea to rest.

 

Panda Updates – The main area the Panda updates looked at was your on-site content. Google was trying to weed out low-quality or duplicate content, and they’ve been churning out constant new versions of Panda all year.

Penguin Updates – Despite the close association with Panda, Google’s Penguin updates are actually their own beast, formerly known as the webspam algorithm update. They are targeting all of the spammy sites out there, and unless you’re a spammer, the only penalties you may have seen from these updates were from links.

If you have seen any penalties from these updates, Dholakiya explains how to help fix the problems. The Disavow Links tool can help with that, especially if you’ve seen penalties from the Penguin updates, but it isn’t a magic solution.

Not a Google Panda

Look at the most recent SEO article you can find about Google Panda. You can even look at some I’ve written. In general, the mood among those articles is not positive. Whatever positive changes for users that Panda offered, it drastically changed how SEO is run, and well, people don’t tend to react well to change.

However, in all the hubbub about the negative impact Google’s changes may have had on smaller businesses, we forgot that Google Panda did make some very important changes that made their search engine perform markedly better.

Ruth Burr, head of SEO at SEOMoz, didn’t forget this because she is a constant user of Google search. I won’t repeat her anecdote here, but she does recall a time when using Google could easily lead you to vapid, not useful websites trying to hide that their “articles” were really just ads for their own business.

The biggest point she raises is very true. Google’s goals are not to “foster small or local business growth in the U.S. and abroad.” While there are ways for local or small businesses to take advantage of search engines, Google’s main aim is to simply provide the best search engine performance possible. There’s little denying Panda wasn’t a step in the right direction in that regard.

If you aren’t convinced of Panda’s positive features, or just want to see more pictures of cute pandas, check out Burr’s article. She makes some strong points.