• So Is Google Panda Still Fit For Purpose

    It is now a good 6 weeks or more since the Gary Illyse made the comment that there would be a Google Panda refresh within 2 to 4 weeks, albeit a statement he may have wished he hadn’t made. Since then, those with websites that have been hit by previous updates have been waiting patiently (well some maybe have been a bit less patient) for the refresh that still has not come.

    It has raised the question how can something that was originally supposed to be eventually included within the normal algorithm and at worst be a monthly update, take so long to prepare and release, especially as we were informed this would be a refresh of the previous version and not an brand new one. After all, the web moves way to fast to only have a quality control update every 10 months or so, in a world where Google aims to have news information live within seconds, where site speed is critical to rankings.

    In my opinion there can only be 2 theories for this and yet each theory has contradictory evidence to show that they are unlikely.

    First Theory: Is This The End Of Panda?

    That Google panda is now out of date and no longer fit for purpose. The reason it hasn’t been pushed for so long as the spam team no longer see this as the current solution for quality and quite frankly have worked on other priorities in their eyes. An example could a more aggressive approach to how the visitor decides what is spam and what is not, by using analytical data to decide the actual quality of a page, such as bounce rates and time on site. The theory for this announced refresh is the increased pressure from those still being punished from last year’s roll out and are fully aware at sometime they need to separate Panda from the existing index for a clean break. This is currently proving harder than predicted. There have been comments from Google that webmasters should not be trying to fix their sites for Panda and they should be just working on making the best websites they can.

    Why This Theory Shouldn’t Be True

    Google have always been a progressive company leading the way with technology and ideas. If Panda was out of date it is likely they would announce it as being so rather that announcing a refresh, but to be aware that other spam control were in place.

    Second Theory: They Are Working To Include It Into The Algo

    That this will not be a push update, that there is serious work in the background to bring Panda into the normal algorithm and we will see updates as and when Google spiders our websites. They will first implement this without any changes on how data interpreted and so that is why this is deemed as a refresh and not an update. It just will happen automatically rather as a manual push. This could explain the wait and complications.

    Again: Why This Can’t be True.

    There have been comments from senior Google personnel that Panda cannot be incorporated to the algorithm, probably because of the immense amount of date it needs at one time to make an accurate judgement.

    So Where Do We Go From Here

    So we end up waiting and guessing to what the issues could be. We have not being seeing much of the to and fro of rankings and with the exception of 404 data being processed, not much spidering of websites either, nothing yet to show that Panda really is on its way.

    So Could There Be a Third Reason For Such Delays?

    Well this one does seem to be a bit too farfetched to believed from such a large corporation and its all to do with a Holiday. Late last year Matt Cutts (previously head of the spam team) announced he was going on a longer than normal vacation, which became longer to the point he still hasn’t returned. Just prior to the Google Panda update announcement from Gary, another piece of news was released, that there would be a new head of the spam team at Google and although Matt was still a Google employee, when he returned (or if) it would be in a different role. So is it possible that any Panda update was put on hold until its head of department returned from vacation? At that time not knowing how long that really would be? And now do we have a situation where someone else has to take up the role and are now playing catch up? This scenario would place a huge amount of responsibility on just one employee and would seem almost unbelievable.

    Whatever the reason, we have a scenario where many good webmaster have been punished for site quality based on a period of time late last year. These websites could have improved 10 times over, but still will be not receiving the visibility they deserve. All spam control since then, has been dealt with through the normal algorithm and other typical updates, if this is good enough why have Panda?

    Trust Issues

    Keeping webmasters in the dark to changes like this creates distrust and conspiracy theories. Sometimes in order to kill the minority spammers, it has to take down a majority of good webmasters, who although may have poor quality sites, are just not educated in what Google expects yet and would have got there with time.

    If Google can’t manage Panda, then it does seen unfair that webmasters are judged by it.