Google Update Week: Google Panda 4.0 and Payday Loan 2.0

What a busy week it has been in the search marketing industry. After several months of little noise surrounding new updates, with Google having decided many months ago not to share information about each and every tweak they make to their algorithm, we had two big ones roll out in the past week.

First Update: Payday Loan Algorithm 2.0

Over the weekend, we saw something that Head of Webspam at Google Matt Cutts mentioned on a couple of occasions earlier this year – an update that the industry is referring to as the Google Payday Loan Algorithm 2.0 Update (I dare you to say that one 10 times quickly without stumbling the words).

This update is pretty much an attack on industries that Google considers spammy. What does that mean? It’s focused on industries that have had a higher share of ranking sites doing so by blackhat and other questionable techniques. Payday Loans were specifically called out by Cutts a few months ago, and industry thought leaders had already posited that an initial push happened last summer to target the porn and payday loan markets.

Based on initial feedback from the industry, this update appears to have impacted several markets exclusively. Unfortunately, the specific impact on SERPs is hard to nail down, because two days later we had the…

Second Update: Google Panda 4.0

Not too long ago, Google indicated that Panda was now part of the standard algorithm. Updates were no longer made public, as was typical with standard overall algorithm tweaks that they roll out pretty much every day of the week throughout the year.

Then on Monday, Matt Cutts himself tweeted the following message:

Matt Cutts Tweet: Google Panda 4.0 Rolling Out

Game on – this must be a pretty significant update to Google Panda, or else they wouldn’t have commented nor would Matt have referred to it as 4.0. That suggests it is a big change.

Again, there is a myriad of commentary from the webmaster community. Some say their sites are taking hits, while others claim to see increases of up to 130% in organic traffic (congrats to the latter).

One area where it appears there has been a pretty serious hit is in ecommerce. For years, ecommerce sites have struggled with duplicate content issues on sites that use dynamic parameters to serve up content. Dynamic parameters, while very useful for allowing the site to be personalized to the user’s needs, can lead to multiple URLs displaying the same content or shopping results. There’s also the issue of having universal product descriptions that appear on some or many etail websites, leading to duplicate content across several domains.

There are even reports that eBay itself has seen some keywords drop from the first SERP since Monday. I’ve included an analysis about why they were hit below, courtesy of Larry Kim. Basically, they have a lot of thin content and doorway page issues, which coupled with the ecommerce issues mentioned above, stacked up to put a rather serious lick on them.

One more area I’d be remiss to omit is news sites, especially tech news sites. It looks like many of these have taken hits, including well known properties such as examiner.com (who was also hit hard in a previous update), globalpost.com, csmonitor.com, and more.

On the other hand, online reference sites and directories seem to have fared well for national and local queries, respectively. Among the top sites doing better since Monday are yourdictionary.com, myrecipes.com, wikimedia.org, findthebest.com, emedicinehealth.com, and wmagazine.com, to name a few. You can find a full list of winners and losers via the Search Metrics link provided at the end of this blog post.

We are still seeing this all shake out, but most of our client sites are seeing flat to improved numbers so far. Keep focusing on generating quality, shareable content, managing duplicates and canonicals, and don’t forget about the links. I anticipate we’ll see the next big push of Google Penguin any day now, likely in the month of June if I have to guess when it’s coming.

It is still early, so I will leave it at that. Take time to review the following related materials from around the web. They provide much of the background information I used to build this post.


Google Begins Rolling Out Panda 4.0 Now (Search Engine Land)

Google Launches Two Algorithm Updates Including New Panda (WebProNews)

Google Panda 4.0 Now Rolling Out; A New Panda Algorithm (Search Engine Roundtable)

Google Launches Panda 4.0 (Search Engine Watch)

Panda Update 4.0: Winners and Losers – Google USA (Search Metrics)

PANDA 4.0: BIGGEST LOSING SECTORS (RocketMill)

Panda 4.0 Discussion (Inbound.org)

Panda 4.0: Why eBay Just Lost 80% of its Organic Rankings (Wordstream / Larry Kim)

Evolution In Action; Google’s New Panda 4.0 Rollout (Forbes)