Towards the end of July 2013, Google rolled out a softer version of the Panda algorithm designed to take into account the authority of a website and ensure that sites producing generally good quality content didn’t get huge reductions in rankings like with the old Panda algorithm.
It helped a lot of sites (such as car classified sites in the UK) recover well. It also gave a huge boost to many major media sites in the US, a boost that Google has now taken away with the new version of the softer Panda algorithm which was announced in March at SMX.
Matt specifically said this is aimed at helping small businesses that may be impacted by the Panda algorithm. There was no date given on its release, but he made it clear; this will be a bigger update that will make Panda less of an impact on certain sites.
The original quote from Matt Cutts about the July 2013 softer Panda algorithm is below:
“We are looking at Panda and seeing if we can find some additional signals, and we think we’ve got some to help refine things for sites that are kind of in the border zone, the gray area a little bit, And so if we can soften the affect a little bit, for those sites, that we believe have got some additional signals of quality, that will help sites that were previously affected – to some degree.”
This quote is typically vague but at the time it sounded like it was designed to help sites rather than hurt them, it’s possible that the media sites had so much authority that they benefited far more than Google intended and this latest update is bringing them back down to the usual level. The media sites could of course have lost rankings because loads of other sites have recovered and jumped above them, but looking at the charts from Searchmetrics below, the losses seem too big for this to be the reason.
Edit 02/08/18: We’ve seen some very similar patterns with multiple updates since, particularly in the “core” algorithm updates that have been rolling out after Panda. Looking back at this, it seems pretty obvious that some of the algorithm updates that look like they’re targeting freshness of content have a lot in common with Panda. We don’t think it’s a coincidence that Googlers are at pains to deflect Panda chat into chatter around “core algorithm updates” when Panda is part of the core algorithm.