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Google Panda 4.0 and Payday Loan 2.0 Algorithms– Implications for SEO

Google Panda 4.0

Recently Matt Cutts announced on Twitter that Google had released its Google Panda 4.0 algorithm. This is a major algorithm update and not just a data refresh, which means that Google has probably made significant changes to how Panda identifies websites from now on.

Google Panda 4.0

Google Panda History

Google Panda had been designed to prevent sites with poor quality content from showing up on Google’s top search results and provide searchers with the best results possible.

The last confirmed Panda update was on January 22, 2013 and had affected about 1.2% of English queries. This time it is affecting approximately 7.5% of English queries and different languages to varying extents.

Panda 4.0 is considered to be a softer, gentler algorithm change that worked well for only some sites. Google plans to lay the groundwork for future changes in this direction.

Matts Cutts twitter

Sites that have been affected by this update

A study of this list by Search metrics reveals that one of the biggest casualties was eBay, which lost a huge amount of traffic from Google. Another was

In a recent blog, Barry Schwartz said that even press release sites like PRweb, Newswire, Business Wire and PRLog seem to have lost significant ranking through Google.

Drop in traffic for PRweb

From the above image, we see that PRweb had a significant drop in traffic: 71%.

The winners’ list shows that small business sites have found favor with Google after the Panda update, and many of them have seen an incredible increase in traffic to their websites. Sites that had lost their footing in rankings despite having good quality content because of the Panda 3.0 update benefitted from Panda 4.0.

How does this affect SEO?

Until now, we have observed evident changes like:

  • Rank difference: There would be a considerable difference in the rankings on Google.
  • Loss/gain of traffic to the site: Some of the sites lost almost 50%-75% traffic overnight while some gained substantially.

How to overcome the Google Panda 4.0 effect

Listed below are some solutions to counter the impact of Google Panda 4.0:

  • Have unique and fresh content on your website. Keep in mind that content needs to be generated for users and not search engines.
  • Exclude keyword hoarding. Do not target all the keywords to one page. Use a combination of long tail/conversational and generic keywords.
  • Remove duplicate content.
  • Do not use keyword stuffed title tags. Keep it natural.
  • Do not overuse keyword rich internal links and keyword rich footer links.
  • Removing doorway pages and cloaking.
  • Avoid risky affiliate marketing setups

Please remember recovery can take awhile if you have been hit.

Google Payday Loan Algorithm 2.0

Along with the Panda update, Google rolled out its Payday Loan algorithm 2.0 that targets ‘very spammy queries’. This is the second version of the Payday Loan algorithm, which is used to combat specific search queries like payday loans that tend to have a high number of extremely spammy results. This algorithm is not related to the Google Panda or Penguin updates.

Payday Loan algorithm 2.0 is a continuation of Google’s quest to clean up search queries. The algorithm was rolled out worldwide, affecting different languages to different degrees. It has affected 0.2% of English queries. An advantage is that general queries are likely to receive better search results while preventing the appearance of low quality sites.

Recently, spam results started to reappear in payday loans’ Google SERP’s:

Spam results on payday loans' Google SERP

Google Payday Loan Algorithm 3.0

Google Payday Loan algorithm 3.0 was released on June 12, 2014. At SMX Advanced Matt Cutts announced that this would target terms like [payday loans], [casinos] and other forms of highly spammy queries. Payday Loan algorithm 2.0, had been rolled out a week earlier targeted spammy sites.

However, Matt did not shed much light on the difference between spammy sites and spammy queries.

Payday Loan History

The search engine’s original Payday Loan algorithm was first released on June 11, 2013. It impacted roughly 0.3% of US queries and around 4% of Turkish queries, where the volume of webspam is said to be higher.

Last year, it was noticed that for the search term ‘Payday loans’, a completely different set of results were appearing on the SERPs each day. The Payday loan companies were using domains that consisted of slightly outdated specific search queries. These queries were likely to have a high number of extremely spammy results. In order to keep the best Payday loan companies on top of the SERPs, Google released the Payday Loan algorithm.

How does this affect SEO?

  • Removal of the sites from Google SERPs that have spammy content on their site
  • Loss of rankings on Google SERPs
  • Decrease in traffic to the website

How to overcome the Payday Loan effect

  • Avoid optimizing for any terms that would be considered ‘spammy queries’
  • Do not use spammy methods – like cloaking, hacked sites/hacked content, leveraging Google+ accounts and leveraging expired domains – to promote your website
  • Have original, quality content on the website
  • Do not stuff keywords during optimization. Target 2-3 Keywords for a page. You can use conversational or long tail keywords.
  • Keep the title and description as natural as possible.

Have anything to add to this? Post your comments below.

Contributed by Susanna Varghese, Junior SEO Analyst

Team Position2

June 20, 2014

By Team Position2