It has been 267 days since the last Panda update. That’s 8 months and 25 days.
Where’s My Panda Update?
Obviously I’m a bit annoyed that there hasn’t been a Panda update in so long because I have a handful of clients who might (fingers crossed) benefit from having it deployed. They were hit and they’ve done a great deal of work cleaning up their sites so that they might get back into Google’s good graces.
I’m not whining about it (much). That’s the way the cookie crumbles and that’s what you get when you rely on Google for a material amount of your traffic.
Google shouldn’t be concerned about specific sites caught in limbo based on their updates. The truth, hard as it is to admit, is that very few sites are irreplaceable.
You could argue that Panda is punitive and that not providing an avenue to recovery is cruel and unusual punishment. But if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.
Do You Even Algorithm, Google?
Why haven’t we seen a Panda update in so long? It seemed to be one of Google’s critical components in ensuring quality search results, launched in reaction to a rising tide of complaints from high-profile (though often biased) individuals.
Nine months is a long time. I’m certain there are sites in Panda jail right now that shouldn’t be and other sites that may be completely new or have risen dramatically in that time that deserve to be Pandalized.
In an age of agile development and the two week sprint cycle, nine months is an eternity. Heck, we’ve minted brand new spanking humans in that span of time!
Fewer Panda updates equal lower quality search results.
Google should want to roll out Panda updates because without them search results get worse. Bad actors creep into the results and reformed sites that could improve results continue to be demoted.
The Panda Problem
Does the lack of Panda updates point to a problem with Panda itself? Yes and no.
My impression is that Panda continues to be a very resource intensive update. I have always maintained that Panda aggregates individual document scores on a site.
The aggregate score determines whether you are below or above the Panda cut line.
As Panda evolved I believe the cut line has become dynamic based on the vertical and authority of a site. This would ensure that sites that might look thin to Google but are actually liked by users avoid Panda jail. This is akin to ensuring the content equivalent of McDonald’s is still represented in search results.
But think about what that implies. Google would need to crawl, score and compute every site across the entire web index. That’s no small task. In May John Mueller related that Google was working to make these updates faster. But he said something very similar about Penguin back in September of 2014.
I get that it’s a big task. But this is Google we’re talking about.
Search Quality Priorities
I don’t doubt that Google is working on making Panda and Penguin faster. But it’s clearly not a priority. If it was, well … we’d have seen an update by now.
Because we’ve seen other updates. There’s been Mobilegeddon (the Y2K of updates) a Doorway Page Update, The Quality Update and the Colossus Update just the other day. And there’s a drum beat of advancements and work to leverage entities for both algorithmic ranking and search display.
As the industry’s punching bag, Matt was able to bring our collective ire and pain to the Googleplex.
We keep hearing that these updates are coming soon. That they’ll be here in a month or a few weeks. There are only so many times you can hear this before you start to roll your eyes and silently say ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’
What’s more, if Panda still improves search quality then the lack of an update means search quality is declining. Other updates may have helped stem the tide but search quality isn’t optimized.
You can quickly find a SERP that has a thin content site ranking well. (In fact, I encourage you to find and post links to those results in the comments.)
Perhaps Google wants to move away from Panda and instead develop other search quality signals that better handle this type of content. That would be fine, yet it’s obvious that Panda is still in effect. So logically that means other signals aren’t strong enough yet.
At the end of the day it’s not about my own personal angst or yours. It’s not about personal stories of Panda woe as heartbreaking as some of them may be. This is about search quality and putting your money (resources) where your mouth is.
You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
It’s been nearly nine months since the last Panda update. If Panda improves search quality then the prolonged delay means search quality is declining.