Did Panda 4.0 Target Individual Pages?

Written by Nick Stamoulis

Back in mid-May Google rolled out Panda 4.0 and it really shook up the search results. According to Search Engine Land, “Panda 4.0 must be a major update to the actual algorithm versus just a data refresh. Meaning, Google has made changes to how Panda identifies sites and has released a new version of the algorithm today.” Many site were affected, for better or worse, and for several days the SERPs were all over the place. One of our clients watched their site bounce around from page one to page two for almost a week as the SERPs readjusted to the new world order, before finally settling back down to where they had been before the update.

We had a site owner come to us who felt Panda had impacted them. A quick look at their analytics revealed that some of their service pages were indeed losing traffic after the update rolled out.

Panda 4.0

Looking a little deeper it appeared that several service pages (but not all) followed the same downward trend as the first graph above. In their Webmaster Tools account impressions data and clicks also took a drop after Panda 4.0 went live. Looking at the search query data, the biggest losses were from keywords that tied back into those service pages that were apparently flagged by Panda 4.0.

However, traffic to their homepage held steady over the same time period. And this site has not undergone any major content tweaks/changes in over a year, which means it’s sailed through Panda 3.0 (July 2013) with no issues. So if nothing changed on the site and it seems that only some service pages were hit and not the whole site what exactly is going on? After reviewing their content I didn’t feel as if it was thin/spammy, and it certainly wasn’t a doorway page. It’s a service page explaining what their company does! What gives Google?

At the same time Panda 4.0 was rolling out, Google also refreshed the payday loan update. “This algorithm specifically targets “very spammy queries” and is unrelated to the Panda or Penguin algorithms.” Was this site targeting “very spammy queries” and that is why they got whacked? Perhaps it wasn’t Panda targeting individual sites but rather the payday loan update hitting those service pages?

However, the original Payday Loan Algorithm launched just in June 2013 and the site sailed through that as well. Looking at their Google Webmaster Tools account, they weren’t overly relying on a small set of keywords (and I don’t feel like their service pages are based on spammy queries) so why are these pages suddenly getting dinged?

As of right now we are still waiting for all the details of Panda 4.0 to come out. There is even some speculation that another update went live at the same time, Google just hasn’t confirmed it. Google has been levying partial manual action penalties against individual pages on sites for some time now (alerting site owners in their Webmaster Tools accounts), so is it that far-fetched to assume that the algorithm could have also been tweaked to target individual pages?

 

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