Was a Google Panda Update Released on 1st May?

There are signs that Google released a Google Panda Update on the 1st May with many SERP trackers showing massive movements, and SEO chatter a buzz.

There are increasing chatter and finger pointing that suggests a Google Panda Update has been released into the wild at the start of May. Google Panda is a search filter that stops low-quality websites \ pages from ranking highly in the SERP’s. It looks at factors related to poor quality content such as thin, duplicated, bad advert placements or over-optimized keywords among other things.

As with any major update, it can take a week, sometimes several to roll out over the world and with the update released over the weekend it is only now that some indications that this is a major update is being revealed in the SERP trackers.

Let us take a look at the scale of the SERP movement before looking a little deeper at the chatter in the SEO community.

SERP Trackers

The most visual representation of the sheer extent of this update is via MozCast, which is currently running at 91 Degrees. This makes it the biggest Google Update since June 2012 with Panda 3.7.

MozCast May 2015.
MozCast MozCast May. © Moz.

Unfortunately, the sheer size of the update is not mirrored with every tracker. Sure, they all indicate something fairly significant is going on, but not quite to the scale as MozCast. Certainly, the Rank Ranger Risk Index shows significant movement and fluctuations from mid-April which coincides with our suspicions that the update may have started around the 24th April, or at least there was some testing being carried out at that time.

Rank Risk Index May.
Rank Risk Index May © Rank Ranger.

The SERP tracker for Algoroo seems to mirror that of the Rank Ranger Risk Index and again indicates fluctuations from the 24th April. Serpmetrics and SERPs show very little activity although on the latter there is a slight movement on the 3rd May.

What the SEO Community are saying

Over at Webmasterworld the chatter about an update has been ongoing since the 1st May, but the first report of something major was on the morning of the 3rd May GMT:

Something huge went down in the UK overnight. I don’t think it’s affected all verticals yet and it doesn’t appear to be isolated to mobile search.

Whatever it was, the end result is messy! Authority has gone out of the window.

With later that day “Spiekerrooger” providing a timeline of some of the fluctuations he has seen over the last week:

April 24th-26th looks like the April 12th-14th doorway algorithm update applied for Google Germany as well (a).

April 28/29th to May 2nd looks like Panda or sth. similar content related

This last comment is quite intriguing as it acknowledges the 24th April update that went largely unreported, but it does make sense to be related to the Google Doorway update although we cannot confirm that. That being the case, the latest update is something completely different to the earlier one.

The comment that even if it is not Panda, that it is something related to content or over-optimization is in line with what we are seeing.

On Twitter Glenn Gabe (Digital Marketing Consultant at G-Squared Interactive) seemed to imply from an example they found was typical of a Panda update, which many appear to agree with in the comments of that tweet.

Example of site suffering from Panda update.
Example of site suffering from Panda update. © Glenn Gabe.

Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Round Table, also jumped on the Panda Band Wagon with his own Panda Hit website showing some improvement:

Panda Hit website showing some improvement.
Panda Hit website showing some improvement. © Barry Schwartz.

Although, despite the apparent increase, he said that “Google Analytics doesn’t show much of a change in referrals from Google organic search over this weekend compared to the past few weekends,” so the evidence there is not conclusive.

Google Chimed In

So, with all the chatter in the SEO community, Google apparently has told Search Engine Round Table that

no update happened over the weekend.

Of course, that is not to say some algorithm change was rolled out, and what we have read more widely is true and with the confusion that it may be a Panda Penalty, then it looks like the update was related to Content Quality in some way, such as over optimization, thin or duplicate content.

Unfortunately, at this time until the dust settles it will be hard to pinpoint the exact cause.

Update 6th May: See our follow-up post here, where Google reiterates that they didn’t do an update.

Jonathan Griffin. Editor @ The Webmaster

Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.

Jonathan Griffin is The Webmaster's Editor & CEO, managing day-to-day editorial operations across all our publications. Jonathan writes about Development, Hosting, and SEO topics for The Webmaster and The Search Review with more than nine years of experience. Jonathan also manages his own SEO consultancy, offering SEO developer services. He is an expert on site-structure, strategy, Schema, AMP, and technical SEO. You can find Jonathan on Twitter as @thewebmastercom.

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