Google Panda 4.0 Algorithm Update: What You Need to Know

Google Panda 4.0 update Rosetta

Executive Summary 

Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, announced via Twitter on May 20 that Google had begun rolling out an algorithm update named Panda 4.0, the first major update to the content-focused algorithm since late 2011. 

As was the case with this most recent update, past Panda algorithm updates have been an effort to target websites with low-quality content:

  • Panda, initially released February 24, 2011, penalized sites known as “content farms” for featuring content written solely for search engine rankings
  • There have been 25 updates to the original algorithm and only the 14th that was announced by Google, but the latest Panda update is the first that Google has named (4.0). Matt Cutts also noted that it was a major update to the algorithm, bringing a new architectural scheme and laying the groundwork for future iterations.


Google’s previous algorithm updates named Panda have been designed to prevent websites with low-quality content from securing top positions in Google’s search results. Google indicated to Search Engine Land that this update impacts different languages to different degrees and will impact ~7.5% of English-language search. In all, the 25 updates have impacted an estimated 45% of all English-language queries in the past 3 years.

Timeline of Major Panda Algorithm Updates:

  • February 24, 2011 – Panda 1.0
  • April 11, 2011 – Panda 2.0
  • October 19, 2011 – Panda 3.0
  • May 20, 2014 – Panda 4.0


Historically, Panda does not target individual pages; instead, it focuses on entire domains that have a large number of pages with little content (also known as “thin content”), duplicate content (scraped from other websites or duplicated within the same website), forums with pages for new user threads, and other content-specific factors by lowering aggregate rankings.

Searchmetrics compiled a preliminary analysis of visibility (rankings) and aggregated the results to measure the impact and try to identify “winners” and “losers” of the recent update. Some notable results include:



* was originally identified as being negatively impacted due to Panda 4.0; however, data-driven research has shown that ranking declines may have occurred prior to the implementation of the updated algorithm.5  


Google has shown that they are working to improve the quality of search results by better analyzing the value of website content with the Panda algorithm (as well as other algorithms, such as Penguin ), and is focused on removing pages and websites that attempt to artificially inflate their rankings through link schemes and Payday Loan Algorithm,7 focused on queries that are often spammed.

To earn and maintain top rankings for keywords, Rosetta recommends adherence to SEO best practices:

  • Building a well-organized website that is easy for crawlers to navigate and understand your website
  • Creating compelling content that is informative and engaging with people that it is intended to reach 
  • Building a strong backlink portfolio through white hat techniques
  • Avoiding services that promise or guarantee ranking increases

By adhering to best practices, as well as monitoring performance and managing their SEO strategy to continually improve their website for people, website owners can look forward to positive impacts from algorithm updates, such as Panda, in the future.


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