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Google Updates: Panda 2.1

In our previous Google Updates posts, we’ve taken a look at some pretty major changes, most of which were focused on increasing the quality of content and the result returned in the search engine rankings.

The original Panda update focused on “content farm” sites like Associated Content, which allowed writers to write whatever they wanted (including low-quality stuff).  Then, the content farm would take all of the content, optimize it for the search engines, and get great rankings out of it.

Panda 2.0 aimed to improve the quality of search results by including data about sites users blocked.  It also attempted to improve the results of long-tail keywords (key phrases made of 3 or more keywords and not searched as commonly as many other keywords).

Feel free to follow those links and learn a little more about those Google updates, but be sure to stay tuned to this series to keep up with what happened the rest of the year.

That’s a Nice Review, but What about Panda 2.1?

Panda 2.1 was originally feared by some to really be Panda 3.0.  What this means in layman’s terms is that many SEO experts believed Panda 2.1 would have a much larger impact on the search results than it ended up having in reality.

Officially released on May 9, 2011, Google claimed Panda 2.1 would impact far fewer search results than either 2.0 or the original Panda update.  Google never officially stated what this update would actually do.

What Results did User Reports Show?

Google is notorious for taking an official stance, and then having data observed by a variety of users totally contradict what it announced.

Interestingly, Google’s own algorithm is so complicated in nature that often Google engineers don’t have control over the final website rankings.  In Panda 2.1, for example, user “tedster” at this Webmasterworld.com thread noted a Google search reported a web page was removed, when it fact it was not.

User “crobb305” noted a 70% recovery level in traffic he had lost as a result of the update.  You talk about scary!  He also observed drops of particular pages of about 300 to 400 positions, then a gain of 300 to 400 positions, followed by a drop.

User “maxumer” stated he had an 80% drop on all traffic over a period of several days.  To him, it appeared to have the effect of one of Google’s penalties.  But, at the same time, he hadn’t broken any of Google’s big no-no’s – buying and selling links, farming content, or scraping content.  He also saw his keywords appear on page on of Google’s ranking on one browser, but in completely different rankings on other browsers.

What Does all of This Add up To?

In one word, “CHAOS!”  For the most part, the update didn’t seem to have a large impact on most websites.  But, on the other hand, many more users than the 3 mentioned here noted dramatic changes in their own rankings!

What’s really going on?  Does Google even know?  Does it have some sort of hidden agenda, like it seemingly always does?

What changes would you like to see in Google for 2012?