One of my fears was that Google would announce a big algorithm update while I was offline for Rosh Hashanah and they did just that – although the update was not Google Penguin, it was Google Panda related.
This one, Pierre Far has the privilege of announcing on his Google+ page. He wrote:
Panda update rolling out
Earlier this week, we started a slow rollout of an improved Panda algorithm, and we expect to have everything done sometime next week.
Based on user (and webmaster!) feedback, we’ve been able to discover a few more signals to help Panda identify low-quality content more precisely. This results in a greater diversity of high-quality small- and medium-sized sites ranking higher, which is nice.
Depending on the locale, around 3-5% of queries are affected.
So the rollout began likely on Wednesday or Tuesday of last week. On Wednesday, I actually was thinking something was going on and asked some folks I know who track this closely on Twitter but was pretty much shot down by them. So I let it slide. 🙁
Anyway, Panda began rolling out and I suspect by now, it is fully rolled out. This is code named Panda 4.1, the previous official major Panda release was Panda 4.0 on May 20, 2014. Since then, Panda has continued to refresh fairly often on a monthly cycle and will continue to do that even with Panda 4.1.
This update, Panda 4.1, impacts 3-5% of search queries, so it is a pretty major one. But Pierre Far from Google said this is friendly to smaller sites, “greater diversity of high-quality small- and medium-sized sites ranking higher,” he said. Is that true? Well, time will tell but many are not too confident.
Pierre also said the reason they are announcing it is because it is not a simple refresh but they added more signals to the algorithm. Pierre explained Google added a “few more signals to help Panda identify low-quality content more precisely.”
I am a bit concerned this site was hit by Panda 4.1. Here is my traffic for the past few weeks, notice the huge decline from the previous two weekends to this one. It may be that I was offline, posting stale content, on Thursday and Friday but I rarely post new content on weekends (Saturday and Sunday).
This shows a ~30% drop in organic Google traffic from the previous weekends to this past weekend. The rest of the week is actually normal traffic, including the days I was offline for a Friday and Thursday with content that is not ground breaking.
There is a lot of analysis going on, which I will dig deeper into after the dust settles over this week. But if you want to dig now, here are those threads listed below.
Forum discussion at Google+, Google Webmaster Help, WebmasterWorld, DigitalPoint Forums and Blackhat World.