The Panda 4.1 update rolled out in September 2014, and it’s the 28th run of the filter. New signals were introduced to allow for more precise detection of thin content. Moreover, it’s believed that it enabled several high-quality but small-sized sites to perform well in the SERPs.
In a now unavailable Google+ post, the developers announced that Panda 4.1 has new signals to help the filter detect low-quality content more accurately. The improvements were gathered from user and webmaster feedback. It targeted the usual suspects such as keyword stuffing and security warnings.
The most prominent enhancement was in devaluing affiliate marketing sites that only operated to direct users to their partner websites. These were pages that ranked well for competitive search terms even though they had thin content and merely served to drive visitors to their e-commerce associates.
Typically, their landing pages only showed a small paragraph at the beginning. After that section, the list of links to their partner websites is listed and takes up most of the content. Panda 4.1 targeted this type of affiliate site since it doesn’t provide valuable information for users and simply acted as a gateway for other domains. Another factor that led to a penalty was showing affiliate links first to visitors instead of actual content.
The filter continued to fight against content farms. These are websites that had several articles, usually, in a how-to format, that doesn’t provide useful and in-depth knowledge for users. Most of these pages were also unorganized and attempted to trick readers by incorporating ads and affiliate links throughout the content.
Other factors that Panda 4.1 targeted were:
Broken or blank pages in top organic listings
Too many pop-up ads
What Were Its Effects
Panda 4.1 was a pretty significant update with an estimated impact on about three to five percent of queries. It mainly affected informational websites that had touched on a vast array of topics. It’s crucial to note that the previous version, Panda 4.0, gave more weight to domains that focused on a specialized field or area of study rather than those that talked about anything under the sun.
This update appears to have continued what 4.0 started months prior. Websites that offered general information articles such as Answers.com and HowStuffWorks.com suffered a massive hit on their organic traffic and rankings. One factor that may have led to this drop is that there’s no set standard for content quality since there are a lot of contributors.
On the other hand, niche content sites benefited greatly after Panda 4.1. Local business domains that gave users a content-rich experience revolving around their products, services and other related topics to their brand also moved up in the SERPs.
As mentioned time and again, Google puts user experience above anything else. The search engine will continue to add more signals as searcher preferences, and practices evolve. Moreover, shady webmasters also come up with cunning tactics in an attempt to game the system and manipulate their way to the top of the SERPs.
These are the three major areas that you should focus on to boost the performance of your website: