Weekly SEO Recap: Google Panda 4.2

Joost's weekly SEO recapFirst things first: I type this as I’m getting ready for a holiday, so the next weekly SEO recap will be on August 21st. Luckily, Google released Panda this week, so I can cover it now. And there’s more, including a statement by Google about the new top level domains. Let’s dive in:

Google Panda 4.2

Google has rolled out Panda 4.2. There are several posts out there, like on SearchEngineLandTheSEMPost and Search Engine Roundtable, covering it. Let me try to explain the most important details about this update in layman’s terms.

Panda 4.2 is not an update, but a refresh

Technically, Panda 4.2 is not an update: Google didn’t introduce new signals, it just reapplied the same signals on new data. This needs some explaining for most people, so let me try: Google Panda is the result of a very deep analysis of Google’s index. One that it can’t run continuously, like it does its normal ranking, but a calculation that takes months. So this is what we call a “data refresh”: it has run the analysis on a new set of data.

Because Panda needs to be “refreshed”, it has a very negative side effect, especially as these updates don’t exactly run often. The previous update was 10 months ago. If you were hit then and have been improving your site since, this was your first chance to “get out” of Panda. If you think that’s harsh, you’re not alone. Many SEOs out there take issue with this but I’m guessing that’s not going to help them. If you get hit now, you should be aware that recovery is going to take several months, probably up to 10 or 12, even if you get it right the first time.

The fact that Panda needs refreshes also means that making changes now won’t do you any good in terms of staying out of Panda. It has a cut-off date and it won’t see anything after that. That being said, now is always as good a time as any to start improving your site.

Panda 4.2 is a slow Panda

The quote from Google’s spokesperson says it all:

“This past weekend we began a Panda update that will rollout over the coming months”

You read that right. This Panda rollout will not take hours. Not days. Not even weeks. It will take months. This is probably why nobody noticed the update as it began rolling out. This slow roll-out will also make it virtually impossible to correctly assess a win or loss as a definite Panda issue.

If you want to read more, I think Jen’s coverage over at theSEMpost was the most extensive.

Don’t want to be hit by the Panda? Don’t be bamboo!

If you’re afraid of being hit by Panda, and want us to make sure you’re not going to be a candidate, order a website review. We’ve seen many Panda victims over the years and we know we can help. Both when you’re hit or when we think you’re bamboo (also known as: a likely victim).

New TLD’s and Google

Other things happened besides Panda this week, and a few warrant being mentioned. The most important thing for many (aspiring) domainers out there was this post by John Mueller on Google’s webmaster blog. It details how Google deals with new top level domains. In short: like it would with any other domain. This bit is very important:

Keywords in a TLD do not give any advantage or disadvantage in search.

Another important bit is whether Google would treat new domains like .london and .amsterdam as local TLD’s or as “global” TLD’s, aka they can rank anywhere in the world. The answer is clear:

Even if they look region-specific, we will treat them as gTLDs. This is consistent with our handling of regional TLDs like .eu and .asia.

Of course, Google wouldn’t be Google if they didn’t add an exception to that straight away:

There may be exceptions at some point down the line, as we see how they’re used in practice.

Sigh. So. They’re global, for now. Over time, they might become local.

My opinion on the new TLD’s

You didn’t ask, but I’ll give you my opinion anyway. I like the concept. I would have liked 3-5 new TLD’s. A number that would work and that maybe people could remember. The gigantic amount of new TLD’s now is pure nonsense in my opinion. Would I use it for a transactional site? Probably not for a while longer. If trust is one of your main issues, and let’s face it, with eCommerce it still is, using a TLD that some of your users might have never heard of is not a good idea. The same goes for getting links to domains like that. It’s going to be harder.

Another problem I see with the new TLD’s is that they won’t work nicely as an email address for quite a while. Of course, you can receive email just fine. Email validation in forms will be broken for at least another decade or so, which means that it will tell you your new hipster email address is invalid when it isn’t.

Overall, I think what the new TLD’s do more than anything, is strengthen the value of .com domains. If you have a nice short and rememberable .com, I think you’ll be stronger in the long run.

Featured snippets and how to get them

This post on SEL by Eric Enge should be required reading material for anyone playing in SEO. This quote, from the end of his article, explains best why you should know about this:

… getting a featured snippet for key pages on your site is a good thing. The business value depends on identifying common questions that a potential customer might ask related to your market space.

I’m thinking of some experiments for our own site right now, but they’ll have to wait. It’s time for my holiday first. Did you notice the banner with my sleek summer outfit? If not, check out the Yoast SEO Premium sale we have. If you’ve been pondering buying it, now’s the best time to do so.

That’s it, see you next month!

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This post first appeared as Weekly SEO Recap: Google Panda 4.2 on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!