Another Google algorithm update – actually two – have been released within about 48 hours of each other.

After Google initially denied any changes to the Google search algorithm formula over the weekend, Search Engine Land reported yesterday that over the weekend – probably Saturday – Google rolled out an algorithm change code named Payday Loan. This is the second rollout of this particular search formula update. It was initially introduced last summer.

The Payday Loan update targets very spammy keyword phrases – the best example being the phrase “payday loans” itself, but many types of obvious spam phrases are also targeted in this change, such as “make money online,” “work at home for big money,” etc. Other types of phrases that contain the words “cheap,” “easy,” and “free” are also usually targeted.

Not only did Google update Payday Loan, they also updated and rolled out Google Panda 4.0. The Google Panda initiative is a ranking signal change and filter; it is not an update to the actual search formula itself. There are approximately 500 ranking signals within the algorithm. Panda was initially implemented on February 24, 2011, and it penalized and de-indexed thousands of well-known sites, including large ones owned by Demand Media. These included, and more. Google Panda 4.0 was rolled out yesterday, probably around mid-morning.

Google has now officially confirmed both updates.

The Google Panda ranking signal change impacts the following web site elements and content:

  • Penalizes and de-indexes large, unmonitored “content farms,” such as article distribution hubs, directories and sites that do not have human editorial control
  • Penalizes sites with weak, thin, poorly written and deliberate duplicate content across multiple pages
  • Penalizes and de-indexes sites that publish advertorials, which are thinly disguised ads posing as informational articles
  • Examines and assesses ranking penalties for poor Google Analytics metrics such as bounce rate, time on site, number of pages visited – what Google refers to as “engagement” metrics
  • Penalizes sites that have excessive, heavy advertising schemes around all four corners of web pages that obscures content
  • Penalizes sites that have out of date and old web design elements that are not CSS friendly and meet responsive design elements

Sites that have been “Panda slapped,” as it is known in the SEO industry, should concentrate on patterns in content pages that have not been updated in many months, is generally less than 300 words long and does not contain useful, unique, informational text for the web visitor. These pages will have significant drops in traffic, and if there are many pages, the entire site visitor traffic metric will be significantly impacted.

The only sites that will be impacted by the Payday Loan update are those that are targeted at people seeking easy money, “get rich quick” schemes and other deceptive sites that promise free, cheap or easy services or products. Sites that are impacted are only penalized with these types of keywords. Google Analytics users can drill down to these phrases and see if the traffic for these phrases has drastically decreased.

Recovery techniques:

For sites hit by the payday loan algorithm change, they must completely purge the content and offer high quality, useful content for the products and services they seek to sell. Sites that are designed primarily to make money fast on dubious internet money making schemes will not recover.

Google Panda recovery is dependent upon re-analyzing specific pages, or groups of pages that got hit and determining a new keyword strategy and a fairly major overhaul of the content to reflect updated, new and useful information for the web visitor.

Heavy ads and advertorials should be eliminated or greatly reduced and replaced with useful content. Web site templates that have outdated design features should be overhauled and done with HTML5 and responsive web design features to allow for a better visitor experience and easier site navigation.

Panda recovery typically takes months to register on sites that have been penalized.

Please feel free to pass this update onto any parties you think may be interested in knowing more about Google’s search engine formula changes. Consider attending a Search Engine Academy SEO workshop to learn more about Google and how to devise your SEO strategy to rank better, consistently.