September 25th's release of Panda 4.1 impacted 3-5% of search queries with the aim of eradicating "low quality" content from the web. While the original Panda update was intended to relieve Google search listings of "content farms" - websites that contain numerous pages of low quality content, or content that had been aggregated from other sites - Google believes their current algorithm tweaks will allow smaller websites with better quality content to be placed better in search results.
While SEO specialists took on the task of deciphering Panda 4.1, the changes applied to Google's algorithm were query-specific - meaning that they only applied to certain terms that users input into Google searches. As a result, finding order in results has been virtually impossible. However, certain patterns have emerged from the websites impacted by the changes, and once again it appears Google is attacking websites with limited quality content, or content aggregated from other websites.
What represents a site with 'quality' content? Well, first a site must offer a website visitor some form of value through unique content which has not been copied or reworded from another website. This is determined through user behavior - for example, a site where visitors leave almost immediately after they have arrived might be deemed to have inferior content. When these types of events establish the norm for a website, Google modifies SERPs and may completely remove a site from their rankings.
So what should be done to comply with Panda 4.1? Rather than having lots of pages with a limited amount of content on each page, it may prove more beneficial to create fewer pages from the content available. Pages that Google deems to have "shallow” content will continually drop down the rankings until they disappear. As a result of Panda 4.1, some websites saw a 90-95% decrease in the search engine reach - which of course would be devastating for any site.
The types of site impacted to date have included sites that drive users to partner websites (such as directories and ecommerce sites) and which use a high number of specific keywords. This has been particularly true where web pages don't offer much content in comparison to the number of links to partner sites. Sites that contain pages with no content at all or have broken links have also suffered. Sites with content other than that which it purports to be, and those with pop-up ads, have also been hit.
Sites with a lot of content on lots of different topics have not fared well either, essentially because there are numerous websites that feature 'niche' content on the topics broader sites might be covering. As a result, sites on a specific topic with lots of quality information on that topic have fared very well indeed.
Business websites that provide little information beyond a company's contact details have suffered because of Panda 4.1. Providing more information to customers on products and services would now appear to be a must. Sites that have done well under Panda 4.1 essentially have something of quality for visitors to read or view - whatever type of site it is.
While some issues appear to be new, the staples of the original Panda update still predominate. Links from authoritative sites are still important, and sites with adverts "above the fold" (meaning above the lower part of a computer monitor or screen) have difficulties, while ad-free sites have prospered more. Pages need to be complete - meta-tags and descriptions should not be missing. Spelling should be correct and grammar should also be correct. Hastily written sites have not done well under Panda 4.1.