Fewer phone calls to your business. A significant drop in website traffic in Analytics. Lost rankings.
Is Google at it again?
Yesterday afternoon, Google confirmed two updates to its search algorithm—Panda 4.0 and Payday Loan 2.0. While most SEO experts are still in the dark as to the exact implications of the updates or even the timeframes, if you’ve experienced a significant loss in search engine rankings and traffic around May 16th or 19th, it’s possible you’ve been “penalized” by these latest algorithm updates.
Alternatively, if your website traffic is up, it’s possible you’re benefiting from your competitors getting penalized with the latest algorithm updates. So get out of here and stay golden, Ponyboy. Actually you can stay if you want. I might make another reference to The Outsiders if that’s something you’re into.
How Can I Tell if My Site Has Been Penalized by Payday Loan 2.0?
Google’s Payday Loan algorithm was originally launched in June 2013 to target spammy queries like “pay day loans” and pornographic search queries. How does targeting these spammy queries improve Google’s search results exactly?
Search Engine Land reported that, “While at SMX Advanced, Matt Cutts explained this goes after unique link schemes, many of which are illegal.”
Payday Loan 2.0 is really no different, targeting “very spammy queries” and impacting about 0.2% of English queries (though the rollout of this particularly update was international).
Unless you or your SEO company have been link scheming, it’s unlikely your business has been impacted by Payday Loan 2.0. What constitutes a link scheme? According to Google,
“Any links intended to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site, or outgoing links from your site. Manipulating these links may affect the quality of our search results, and as such is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.”
How Can I Tell if My Site Has Been Penalized by Panda 4.0?
While the Payday Loan update targets spammy queries, the Google’s infamous Panda update was first introduced in February 2011 to prevent sites with low quality content from ranking well in search results. Note that this is not a link-based penalty.
While Google does a data refresh of Panda almost monthly, most SEOs speculate this is a change to the actual Panda algorithm. Cutts previewed a Panda update while at Search Marketing Expo back in March 2014, saying that his team was working on a “next generation” Panda update that would have a direct impact on helping small businesses perform better in search results (I jokingly called this update Google Kitten at the time.).
Google warned about thin and scraped content back in January, so if you or your SEO company is guilty of adding low quality content, it’s possible your site could be impacted by the latest Panda update. If you only have high quality content on your site, you’re probably Panda safe.
Good Signs You’ve Been Impacted by a Google Algorithm Update
Low traffic is not always an indicator of a Google algorithm penalty. First, you need to specifically look at your organic search traffic from Google—this is where you would see a sharp drop if you were penalized by an algorithm update. Next, you’ll want to make sure the dates of your traffic drop line up with the speculated dates of the algorithm release—in this case, May 16ish and May 19ish.
If you don’t have a Google Webmaster Tools account yet for your website, get on it. You’ll want to check this account frequently to make sure you haven’t received any penalty notifications from Google.
If you have software that tracks your organic rankings, you should compare your traffic reports in Google Analytics to your organic rank reports so that you can identify instances where traffic has dropped and so has your organic ranking.
Minor fluctuations in rankings happen all the time – and might be noted without significant action taken. However, if you have a keyword where you’ve suddenly gone from the number two organic spot to page four, your site might have been flagged by Google and action is probably required.
About The Author: Lexie serves as Blue Corona's Content Marketing Manager. She's also the author of our soon-to-be famous, and someday to be written white paper, "Horse Hat SEO: Giddy-Up Your Google Rankings."
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