Google’s latest algorithm release, Panda 4.0, and what it means for you

Posted on June 3, 2014


It has been just over two weeks since Google released the latest version of its Panda update, Panda 4.0, and as with every update from Google, it has caused a swathe of discussions, rumours and misunderstandings from people trying to guess what it means. Is SEO dead? Is Google out to get me? Should I even bother with my website anymore?

Is Google out to get me?

However, before we start to look at the whys and wherefores, we should first answer one of those important questions – is Google out to get me? It’s what some business owners seem to think the constant updates are all about. They’re trying to perfect ways to stop my website appearing in the search results, so I should stop trying and SEO, after all, is dead.

Google is not out to get you. It doesn’t make its money by looking for business websites and removing them from its index. In fact, if it weren’t for business websites like yours, Google wouldn’t make any money at all. It needs you as much as you need it. Business websites and Google form a symbiosis with each other. If businesses didn’t use Google Places, Google+, YouTube and, of course, AdWords, the Californian web giant wouldn’t make the billions of dollars it makes every year – and Google does like making billions of dollars.

Penalising websites

So, why does it seem so dedicated to penalising websites? It’s quite simple, think about it this way. If you went to a supermarket for your shopping, and you couldn’t find anything you were looking for, anywhere, no matter how hard you looked – would you shop there again? If you walked down the bread aisle and couldn’t see any bread, and were instead greeted with adverts about bread, press releases about bread and products which looked like bread, but weren’t actually bread, would you make this your regular shop?

No, you wouldn’t. That’s what Google is trying to avoid. It makes its money so long as people continue to use it. If people migrate to Yahoo! or Bing, Google will lose money – and it wouldn’t be very happy about that. In order to stop people using alternative search engines, Google does its absolute best to ensure people using it find exactly what they’re looking for which, if your website is well-made with great content, could be you.

For instance, if you’re searching Google for a plumber in Chester, you’d expect to find a plumber, hopefully located in or near Chester. You wouldn’t, for instance, like to find listings for eBay selling plumbing tools, or press release websites about plumbing services, or plumbers based in London who have just optimised their website for every location throughout the UK, or other search engines or directories that offer no information at all. No, you’d want a plumber in Chester… and that’s what Google is trying to make sure you find.

Panda 4.0

This latest update to the King of Search’s algorithm, Panda 4.0, was merely another tweak of Google’s way of cleaning its index of websites which shouldn’t be ranking where they are. I mentioned eBay earlier, and eBay was actually one of the websites which suffered in this last update, losing many of the first page placements it previously enjoyed. Other big losers were the press release websites (such as, of which there are millions, as they have been used by companies to promote their websites for years and often contain repetitive or duplicate content, offering nothing for the end user.

Is SEO dead?

All of this means, in a nutshell, that while SEO is not dead, the way many companies still practice it is in direct opposition to what Google Panda is trying to eliminate. Sites with wafer thin content, duplicate content, syndicated content and keyword-stuffed content are being filtered from Google left, right and centre. You don’t have to fear Panda (it is a cuddly creature after all), but you do have to understand it, know what it’s looking for and, above all, ensure your digital marketing company knows what it’s doing as well.

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 20 years’ experience in these fields.
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