For many website owners, Google Panda has been the single biggest problem to have ever faced their business, for others it was a blessing that enabled their high quality website to finally rise above the rest. Either way, if you’re involved in digital marketing you will be well aware of the big Panda, which has been causing fear across the internet since February 2011.

Now comes the announcement from Matt Cutts, head of webspam at Google, that Panda updates will now be rolled into their ongoing refreshes, which happen once or twice each day.

Since its initial release the algorithm has been updated 23 times, with a number of data refreshes and panda style changes thrown into the mix. These updates have occurred approximately every 4-6 weeks, initially targeting big items that the initial algorithm released, with gradual improvement from there onwards as the big brains at Google worked to improve their algorithms and achieve the seemingly impossible feat of using maths to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Anyone working in ethical SEO will know that if a website was hit by Panda back in 2011, identifying the problem was a 5 second job. It was down to the duplicate content on every page, the keyword stuffed homepage, or something else that would stand out to even the most techno-phobic visitor. Moving forwards into 2012, the problems became harder to spot, with Panda related ranking drops possibly due to things like a few duplicate pages or a bit too much advertising above the fold, and then came 2013, where January’s Panda #24 had many SEOs stumped. As the refinements in the algorithm became smaller and smaller, it became nearly impossible to determine what (if anything) had caused a site to be hit.

The news that Panda will become part of the real-time algorithm has an upside and a downside:

– The positive side is that we can be fairly sure that the big Panda hits are now done. Inclusion in the real-time algorithm signals that Google are pretty much done with Panda and will just make minor tweaks as required.

– The negative side is that there won’t be an announcement saying “there’s been a new Panda update”. If your site does drop in rankings, you’re going to have an even harder time than before to work out why.

Hopefully these two will balance each other out. You might struggle to diagnose a problem, but the problem will be so small that it won’t really matter too much. However, it is an interesting development and signals what may be the end of a monthly cycle of panic for everyone working in online marketing, and the businesses who use our services. There is even a suggestion that the Panda update which hit last week will be the very last.

So can we all take a big sigh of relief?

Well, not really. As part of the same announcement, Cutts revealed that Google are working on a new update for their Penguin algorithm, an update which has been described as “significant”. When Google says “significant”, they mean it’s probably going to hurt. Stay tuned.

Polaris is an SEO agency in London. For information on our services please browse our website or call us on 0203 475 6799.

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