Just when you’re feeling competent again after an unsettling barrage of holiday delights, Google has swooped in and stirred up chaos, confusion and concern for webmasters everywhere.
Like most people, you were obviously watching your accounting firm’s website with bated breath as you awaited an update to Panda. When updates came through on the second weekend in January, you naturally assumed it had arrived and would, you hoped, reset your site’s Panda score and resolve any damage from the algorithm’s original sweep.
No such luck. As it turns out, the weekend’s action was actually a major core ranking algorithm update that had not been announced, but has since been confirmed. At the same time, we learned that Panda is now incorporated into the core ranking algorithm, baked in permanently. (This seems to have gone into effect late last year, but the news has only emerged now.) The long-expected pure Panda update is still to come.
These developments led, quite naturally, to a flurry of confusion and questions. While some have been answered, many more are still floating out there. Here’s a brief summary of the issues that may be troubling you, along with what answers exist at this point.
Since Panda is now baked in, does it run in real time? The answer is a definite no. Gary Illyes of Google has clearly stated that Panda still does not run in real time.
Does Panda update when the core algorithm ranking is refreshed? Again, no. Google’s John Mueller specifically addresses that question in a Webmaster Central Office Hours Hangout (at 28 minutes). Gary’s response to a question on Twitter also supports the fact that the weekend update did not involve Panda: “The recent ranking fluctuations you noticed have absolutely nothing to do with Panda or other animals.”
So when will Panda be updated? There’s no clear answer here. Any time now…. The good news is that in the same Hangout, John says (around the 30-minute mark) that Panda updates should be coming “a little faster, a little bit more regular[ly]” now that it’s a part of the core algorithm.
Unfortunately those are the only solid facts we’ve gotten so far, leaving a host of important questions yet to be answered:
- Is the entire Panda algorithm included in the core ranking algorithm or are some elements independent?
- Does Panda run together with the core ranking algorithm or separately, with results included in the core?
- Do the answers to the above questions affect webmasters or not? Do they need to do anything different to appease a fully baked Panda?
- What about the major update over the weekend? Which sites did it affect and which signals did it include?
Confusion still abounds but sooner or later it should all be cleared up, and when it is, we’ll update you here. In the meantime, let’s blame Google for any untoward page ranking changes your accounting firm suffers. Or maybe pin it on El Niño.