November 21st, 2014

Google Is At It Again: Panda and Pigeon Updates

by Rachel Nell

It should come as no surprise that Google has us on our toes when it comes to updates for their algorithms. From Hummingbird and Penguin, to Panda and Pigeon, Google is constantly refining their algorithms to provide websites the best opportunities to perform well in organic search rank. Sometimes these updates make a positive impact, while other times they leave us frustrated and scratching our heads. It’s important to pay attention when Google rolls out another change, and to understand how it can affect online presence. Panda 4.1 and Pigeon are Google’s most recent updates. Read on to find out what they bring to the organic search table, and if your business can expect to see any sudden changes in rank.

Panda 4.1

The latest version of Panda was launched on September 25th of this year. Since its creation, Panda’s focus is spotting websites with low-quality content. After its newest release, multiple companies saw a 90% loss in their organic search rank. Panda 4.1 is looking for poor content mistakes that business owners don’t realize they are making. This includes content that is “thin,”duplicated or machine generated. Thin content refers to web pages lacking content, if any. Duplication is actually copying content from other websites, especially in high volume. And machine generated content is content created instantly by spinning article programs. The problem with machine generated content is that it frequently produces low quality content. Sometimes it’s even unreadable! Google believes this type of content creation is unethical, and rightfully so! Panda 4.1 will penalize a website when it discovers any of these techniques being used.

Because Panda is pushing poor content quality websites back, small and medium sized businesses are steadily coming forward in search rank. Businesses with niche content are faring much better than those with websites that display a wide range of broad information. Websites that try to talk about hundreds of topics are commonly chaotic and unorganized, due to the various results and audiences they generate. Businesses with clear-cut websites are more likely to answer a searcher’s query better. In addition to niche websites, Panda is also favoring businesses that provide a content-rich, positive user experience for their target audience. Websites with on-page optimization and good website format boosts their relationship with Panda as well. What can we take from Panda 4.1? Help your website evolve from just having content, to having content that performs—it’s that simple!


Google’s Pigeon was born this past July. Pigeon is a new algorithm that analyzes and rates local search results more closely to traditional web ranking factors. Google declared that this update will improve small business rankings for location and distance. According to Search Engine Land’s case study, Pigeon’s algorithm awards higher rankings to businesses located closer to cities. Any business 20 miles or more outside a city’s center might see a negative drop in search rank. Another noticeable detail about Pigeon is within the first two weeks of its launch, Google was only displaying three local search results per query. That’s a major difference compared to when they showed seven to ten before the update happened. Since then, Google has tweaked its algorithm and seven local searches are featured once again.

Pigeon is also interpreting the strength of business domains. Large, well known brand names are now looked at as a source of trusted content. They send a prominent signal to Pigeon that their brand deserves higher rankings. Backlinking used to be the solution for smaller brands, but now that alone won’t change much. Pigeon directs its attention to internal linking and how it builds page authority. When pages internally link to other pages within a website, it builds page authority. Pigeon is looking for links within sub pages that link back to a main service page- and vice versa. An example of this would be when a sub-page, “Botox” internally links back to the main service page, “Injectables.” Internal linking builds relationships between common pages and assists Pigeon with page authority. Page authority is the probability of how a specific web page will be found on a search engine. Depending on the relevance of information and internal links, business owners can manually set a page’s priority. The higher the priority, the higher the chances are for a web page to show up in search results. As a general rule, website homepages are given the highest priority, followed by main service pages. So what can we take from Pigeon? Companies within city limits may be getting a higher rank, but that should not distress business owners from building in suburbia. Google is constantly changing its algorithms and this factor may not be as pressing in the future. Business owners should also take a look at their web pages and decide where internal linking would be beneficial, and if certain pages need to tweaked in priority.

It’s important to stay up to date with Google’s algorithmic changes, and to understand the “why” behind them. If these updates are ignored, businesses place their search rank at risk for penalties and low rankings. Sage Island SEO specialists stay current on Google’s updates, so we always optimize and measure the performance web pages create. If you’re wondering if your SEO tactics are up to speed, Sage Island can help. Contact us to find out how we can improve your search engine rank today.


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