Panda 4.0: Observations After the Fallout

By Rebecca Stewart, Organic Search team

Now that the dust kicked up by Panda 4.0 has settled, we’re pleased to announce that nearly all of our clients have escaped unscathed. I can’t say we’re surprised, but it does mark the first time since we revamped our SEO program to focus on content that we’ve had enough time to make substantial progress on our clients’ content needs to prepare for a Google milestone update (the last Panda announcement being back in March).

Having a hunch about performance is one thing, but when I started to notice a trend of clients focused on product-level content out-performing their counterparts, I went straight to the numbers.


I analyzed three client profiles that I knew had reliable analytics tracking in place for a full year. The clients can be separated into the following groups:

  1. Group A.      Clients in our program that are having strictly product-level content written and implemented on a regular monthly basis
  2. Group B.      Clients in our program that are focusing only on category- and subcategory-level pages, and are implementing on a regular monthly basis
  3. Group C.      Clients that we know aren’t implementing any optimized content to their site

For each client, I pulled the traffic, revenue and transactions for one month before Panda 4.0 (April 19, 2014 – May 19, 2014) and one month after Panda 4.0 (May 20, 2014 – June 19, 2014), and compared it to the same timeframes in 2013 (adjusted by one day to account for weekly trends).

From there, I combined the numbers from each group and compared the year-over-year increase or decreases for pre- and post-Panda 4.0. We’d expect, if Panda had no impact on the site, that the year-over-year increase/decrease would remain the same.


The clients that have been focusing strictly on product-level content (Group A) saw the biggest improvement in organic traffic performance in Google — an increase of almost 25 percentage points post-Panda. Category-content-only sites (Group B) saw the second biggest improvement (16.14 percentage points) and, not surprisingly, sites posting no content (Group C) saw the least improvement post-Panda (11.03 points).


The next chart may surprise some people. Even though Group B was writing more content than Group C, the absolute change in Group C was actually more impressive. However, I would point out that Group C’s average revenue remains down 30% over last year, even with that slight bump. In addition, 2.5% isn’t that much in terms of revenue, as it’s influenced by AOV. It’s also important to look at transactions in addition to revenue (third chart).


ECI_BlogPost_Rebecca_3Takeaways: sites that regularly published original, optimized content for their products saw a greater increase in organic traffic post-Panda than those that posted only category content or didn’t write content at all. Interestingly, sites that were writing only category content were the only group to see a decrease in transactions and revenue post-Panda, although, overall performance did remain up over the previous year. This could be the result of optimizing for keywords that may have lower purchase intent and higher competition, thereby pitting our small-business clients against bigger companies with larger inventories or lower pricing. Finally, I was surprised to see an increase in metrics across the board pre- and post-Panda for the group that didn’t write any content. However, I think the important thing to note there is that they were still down 30% year-over-year in performance for all three metrics (meaning, don’t neglect your site content).

For business owners, make sure you’re putting your energy in the right areas for content creation. Category pages are certainly important in driving traffic for the high-volume keywords, but remember that with those high-volume keywords come two things: higher competition and lower purchase intent. If you’re looking to start growing your revenue, I would highly recommend ensuring your product pages provide the most unique, insightful content you can offer shoppers. After all, you are the expert of your products. Leverage that knowledge to improve optimization (and user experience, as an added bonus), and you just might be the next Panda winner.

Rebecca has been with EXCLUSIVE for more than seven years, and is currently the Director of Organic Search. She majored in Marketing at Bentley University, with a concentration in Global Studies. Her favorite part of her job is analyzing data to make successful site recommendations. She enjoys cooking (and especially eating), good food and drink, working out, shopping, golf, and travel.