Complete list of Panda updates and other notable changes to Google's search result algorithms for 2011.
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|#||Date||Update||Update type||Noticeable effect|
|16||Dec 1, 2011||December 10-Pack||Ranking signals||No estimate given|
|15||Nov 18, 2011||Panda — 3.1 (#9)||Data refresh||1% of searches|
|14||Nov 14, 2011||November 10-Pack||Ranking signals||No estimate given|
|13||Nov 3, 2011||Freshness Update||First launch||6% - 10% of searches|
|12||Oct 18, 2011||Query Encryption||New feature||None|
|11||Oct 5, 2011||Panda — Flux incl 3 (#8)||Ranking signals||2% of searches|
|10||Sep 28, 2011||Panda — 2.5 (#7)||Unclear||No estimate given|
|9||Aug 12, 2011||Panda — 2.4 (#6)||Ranking signals||6% - 9% of searches|
|8||Jul 23, 2011||Panda — 2.3 (#5)||Ranking signals||No estimate given|
|7||Jun 21, 2011||Panda — 2.2 (#4)||Ranking signals||No estimate given|
|6||Jun 2, 2011||Schema.org||New feature||No estimate given|
|5||May 9, 2011||Panda — 2.1 (#3)||Unclear||No estimate given|
|4||Apr 11, 2011||Panda — 2.0 (#2)||Ranking signals||2% of US searches|
|3||Mar 30, 2011||The +1 Button||New feature||-|
|2||Feb 24, 2011||Panda — 1.0 (#1)||First launch||11.8% of US searches|
|1||Jan 28, 2011||Attribution Update||First launch||0.5% of searches|
With this new list of 10 recent updates, Google announced a new series of monthly blog posts describing noteworthy changes to search algorithms and feature enhancements. The series, which piloted on their Official Search Blog with their November 10-pack post, highlights recent changes not big enough to warrant their own blog posts. Notable changes announced include:
Google announced a data-refresh to the Panda algorithm via Twitter.
In a move towards more transparency regarding changes to their algorithms, 10 made it to Google's official blog for the first time. According to the announcement, Google "...decided to publish these descriptions in part because these specific changes are less susceptible to gaming". Details were slim on the changes, but this search quality highlights post was the first of what would become a monthly peek into Google's algorithm changes.
On November 3rd 2011, Google announced a significant improvement to their algorithm designed to determine when to return the most up-to-date, or freshest search results possible. This update helped deliver high-quality, up-to-the-minute results for recent or recurring events, trending hot topics, and any other type of frequently updated information on the Web, and impacted up to 35% of results for these types of searches.
Unlike this Freshness Update, the 2010 Caffeine Update that helped return more up-to-the-minute results was not an algorithm improvement; instead, it was an infrastructure change to their index to help Google crawl and index web pages and a greater rate.
To better protect the privacy and security of its users, Google announced they would be encrypting search queries by routing signed in accounts to the SSL version of Google, at https://www.google.com.
The downside to the new default query encryption was that Google's keyword referral data would now be missing for a sizeable chunk of Web traffic. What this means is: keywords that searchers use in Google—when they're signed into their Google account—to find your website in organic search results would now display as not provided in Google Analytics. This was devastating news for search marketers and site owners interested in seeing valuable search referral history.
The catch—that many speculate was the real reason for Google's switch to encrypted search—was that keyword referral data was still being made available for clicks made on Google's paid search results, AKA Adwords.
On October 5th, Google's Matt Cutts announced via twitter to "...expect some Panda-related flux in the next few weeks, but will have less impact than previous updates (~2%)."
Fluctuations in search rankings were reported on at least October 3rd, October 9th (Panda 2.5.1), October 13th (Panda 2.5.2), and October 19th (Panda 2.5.3), Panda 2.5.2 being the most significant.
Panda 2.5.2 was originally thought to be a minor update, but should have—and was, later—considered to be Panda 3.0, because of its significant effect on many search rankings. It appears that there may have been several other Panda algorithm changes or refreshes as well during this period.
Originally, Google made no announcement of Panda 2.5, but it's believed that the update was made on September 27 or 28, 2011. It was unclear as to whether this was an algorithm change or a data-refresh only.
Almost 6 months after Panda was first launched in the US, Google announced that the filter was rolled out Internationally, in most languages.
Panda 2.3 was another minor update, incorporating some new signals to help differentiate between higher- and lower-quality websites.
On June 21 2011, Google confirmed an update to their Panda algorithm, which occurred some time around the June 16th.
With the confirmation of the Panda update, Google's Matt Cutts noted that Panda is not a constantly running algorithm. Instead, Google manually runs it as a filter every few weeks against Google's entire index of pages to weed out low quality websites.
In a joint initiative by Google, Bing, and Yahoo!, Schema.org was launched to
create and support a common set of schemas for structured data markup on web pages. Information on the Web can be structured using semantic formats such as Schema.org (and earlier formats, including Microformats and RDFa) to help make content more machine-readable, by describing the relationships between types of data, such as people, place, and things.
Schema.org and other structured data formats are part of what is commonly referred to as the Semantic Web, the next, interconnected, incarnation on the World Wide Web.
Originally thought to be a major update, Panda's third incarnation turned out to be nothing more than small tweaks to the algorithm, and was dubbed 2.1 by the search industry, instead of Panda 3.
Google made no announcement of Panda 2.1, but confirmed the minor changes, stating that it impacted far fewer rankings than the first two Panda updates.
Less than 2 months after Panda's first release, this new update to the Panda filter expanded its effects beyond the original U.S. search results to include all worldwide English search results.
Google's Panda Update aims to lower the rankings of websites with low quality and thin content, therefore helping higher quality sites in the search results.
Panda is not a penalty; web publishers will not receive notification from Google through Webmaster Tools or any other means when their site is affected. Panda filters websites that trigger various low-quality flags from its search results. The Panda filter is periodically run, and any site caught in it must wait until its next update for a chance to be free.
One sign that a website has been hit by Panda is a sudden, substantial drop in traffic on or near the date of a confirmed Panda update.
Panda was originally named Farmer by Danny Sullivan of Search engine Land, because of it's apparent targeting of content farms, or websites with weak content and high ad-to-content ratios. Eventually, Google adopted the name 'Panda' for the unprecedentedly sophisticated machine-learning algorithm, after one of its key engineers, Navneet Panda.
In an effort to further fight webspam, Google made algorithm improvements to help penalize sites that scrape content from other websites, and publish it as their own. By penalizing content farms, scraper sites, and other thin content sites, Google aimed to boost search visibility of original content sources.
As Google's algorithms improve, search-friendly website rankings do as well. Learn about Springboard SEO's search engine optimization methodology.