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Panda 3.5 (*Update* – “Penguin”) – What Changed from 3.4, and How to Recover

Published by | 12 Comments

4/26 Edit – Google has confirmed that this update is going to be called “Penguin.” Matt Cutts even tweeted this photo:

Brace for impact. As I write this, Google is rolling out the latest rendition of its Panda algorithm — Panda 3.5 (Editor’s note: Now being called “Penguin”). Here’s Google’s official announcement:

In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at webspam. The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines. We’ve always targeted webspam in our rankings, and this algorithm represents another improvement in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content.

It seems to be up for debate right now as to whether this is an update of Google’s Panda algorithm (ie, Panda 3.5) or whether it’s a standalone update. Either way, In this post my goal is to provide an in-depth analysis on the following:

  • What Google’s saying in its announcement
  • How Panda 3.5 is affecting search results
  • How to recover from Panda 3.5
  • Other possible repercussions of Google’s latest algorithm change
  • My analysis on Google’s real purpose for rolling out this algorithm change

What Google’s Saying

Let’s break down Google’s announcement and dive into the details of what they’re trying to accomplish with Panda 3.5.
The opposite of “white hat” SEO is something called “black hat webspam” (we say “webspam” to distinguish it from email spam). In the pursuit of higher rankings or traffic, a few sites use techniques that don’t benefit users, where the intent is to look for shortcuts or loopholes that would rank pages higher than they deserve to be to be ranked. We see all sorts of webspam techniques every day, from keyword stuffing to link schemes that attempt to propel sites higher in rankings.
Google is aware that it’s easy to increase rankings by amassing lots of inbound links and loading up your website with keyword terms and LSI (related) terms for desired keyword rankings.
The goal of many of our ranking changes is to help searchers find sites that provide a great user experience and fulfill their information needs. We also want the “good guys” making great sites for users, not just algorithms, to see their effort rewarded.
Google wants high-quality, information-rich, user-friendly websites to appear in its search results. It doesn’t consider keyword-stuffed websites to be a quality source of information for its users. Additionally, Google wants to stop rewarding sites with high rankings that got there by manipulating its algorithm with crappy inbound links.
Google gives the following screenshot as an example of keyword stuffing:
Keyword stuffing

Google's example of keyword stuffing

I’ve seen this type of thing many times, and I’m disgusted whenever I see it. People use software to spit out this garbage and then either publish it on another website with a link back to their money site, or they put it below the fold of the page they want to get ranked in the search engines. The goal is to get as many keywords and related keywords (ie, LSI keywords) on the page as possible in order to prove to Google that the page is relevant and should rank well for the target keyword.
Google follows up with this screenshot:
Link Spam

Google's example of link spam

This example is clearly a page from a blog network. Blog networks are popular and effective link building tactics, but Google doesn’t like them. In this example, the content isn’t even well-written — it’s clearly spun by computer software.
The change will go live for all languages at the same time. For context, the initial Panda change affected about 12% of queries to a significant degree; this algorithm affects about 3.1% of queries in English to a degree that a regular user might notice.
Google said that Panda 3.4 would affect 1.2% of queries, but it clearly affected way more than that; it rocked the SEO industry. If they say Panda 3.5 affects 3.1% of queries, then this update could have a much bigger impact than Panda 3.4 did. This would be the biggest update since Panda 1.0 itself.

How Panda 3.5 is Affecting Search Results

Search results for various queries appear to have changed, but they don’t appear to be better. In fact, they appear to be much worse. Let’s take a look at a few examples:

Search term: “new shoes”

  • Rank 1: A Youtube video for the song “new shoes” by Paolo Nutini. – who? I don’t know who Paolo Nutini is, and props if you do. Furthermore, I’m looking for new shoes and Google gave me a video as the top search result? C’mon, man.
  • Rank 2: An intro to marketing class. – WTF? What the hell does this have to do with new shoes?
Search term: “make money online”
  • Rank 1: – Seriously? This site is blank. As in, zero (0) posts. It’s ranking #1 for a search term with 110,000 global exact searches/month, and it’s blank.
  • Rank 2-5: Nothing useful, littered with Adsense ads.
  • Rank 6: – What? This is a forum directory with barely any posts. Nothing related to making money online or even remotely useful here.
  • Rank 7: – This is a list builder site. The owner is just trying to get folks to give up their email address so he can build his email list.
Search term: “raw dog food”
  • Rank 2: A book on Amazon. – A book about raw dog food? Is Google just getting into bed with Amazon here or does Google really think I’m looking for a book?
  • Rank 5: – I can’t find anything about raw dog food on this site. It’s not even mentioned on the homepage. I’m clueless as to why Google is ranking it #5 for this term.

How to Recover from Google Panda 3.5

As I discussed in a previous blog post, Google is targeting inbound link profiles with all their recent Panda updates (3.3, 3.4 and 3.5). If you’ve been victimized by this latest algorithm change, it’s due to one of the following factors:

  1. Too many inbound links with exact-match anchor text.
  2. Too many inbound links from “webspam” content.
  3. Not enough “trust” links, such as links from Facebook, Twitter, and social bookmarking sites. These are also known as social signals.
You have two recovery options: Delete or dilute.
  1. Delete most or all of your inbound links with exact match anchor text.
  2. Dilute your existing link profile with a new link building campaign aimed at building plenty of LSI keywords, naked URLs, brand anchors and junk/universal anchors. (For more information on what each of these are, please read my previous post, in which I go into detail about each one.
***Shameless plug alert*** If you’d like, we offer link building packages aimed at diluting your existing inbound link profile in order to help you recover from Panda 3.3, 3.4 or 3.5. Whether you’re a small business or an agency with clients of your own, we can help you out.

Other Possible Repercussions of Panda 3.5

Google has made it clear that it doesn’t like “webspam” and it doesn’t like the sites that host it (the publishers) or the ones that use it to their benefit (the advertisers). Does this mean that it’s now possible to “tank” your competitors by throwing lots of crappy, spun content up at various blog networks that link to your competitor’s website? Is Google making Negative SEO a reality?

I’ve already seen various reports that Negative SEO is working. I really hope Google hasn’t made it possible to tank competitors with nasty links. If so, I expect SEO companies to morph into SEO mercenaries, torpedoing their clients’ competitors down, one by one.

What’s the Real Purpose Behind Panda 3.3, 3.4 and 3.5?

Google’s real purpose behind Panda 3.4 through 3.5 is simple: to make money. Small businesses and webmasters that have long held solid, page 1 rankings for their money keywords are suddenly and abruptly seeing their rankings decline, which is leading to decreased sales and hard-hit bottom lines. Many of these are businesses that enjoyed high-quality, high-converting organic search traffic that they were able to procure by paying a small fee to an SEO company to keep them ranked highly.

Google realized an opportunity: If they could make it more difficult for small businesses to rank well, while at the same time smacking down hundreds of thousands of businesses in the rankings, they could incite a panic-induced stampede to Google’s Adwords pay-per-click auction in an attempt to compensate for lost organic search traffic. This is exactly the effect that Google has had on the industry. Small SEO companies are closing up shop. Small businesses are panicking and fleeing to Google Adwords. At the same time, the influx of new bidders in Adwords is increasing the average cost per click for keywords across every niche, putting more money in Google’s pockets and stripping away profit margins from bidders (small companies).

This is a smart business move by Google, but it’s a far cry from making the search world a better place, as they claim to be doing. Search results are worse, or just plain different; not better. Small businesses that long enjoyed prosperity are begging to give Google money to get their brand back at the top of search results (albeit, in the “Sponsored” section). Google is flexing its control over the search industry in a way that’s going to suck more money out of small, private businesses and put more money in its own coffers.


I hope this guide has been helpful for you, whether you’re just trying to learn more about Google Panda 3.5 or whether you’ve been negatively affected by it. Feel free to reach out or leave a comment!

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Jayson DeMers

Jayson DeMers is the Founder & CEO of AudienceBloom. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.

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    • avatar


      Thanks for your comment — I believe it’s still up for debate as to whether this is Panda 3.5 or simply an algorithm update. When the dust settles, if Google declines it was Panda-related, I’ll adjust the post accordingly.

  1. avatar


    Hi Jason,

    Your explanation regarding: What’s the Real Purpose Behind Panda 3.3, 3.4 and 3.5? is ABSOLUTELY RIGHT! 100%

    Greedy, greedy people… That’s what they are… Nowadays they are very worried because Facebook is growing financially much easier than them and plus now Yahoo and Microsoft combined their search campaigns… Based on the quality search results it shows only one thing: Sergei and Larry don’t give a shit about the quality… It is all about the money of these 3% of serious players who were hit by this update…They completely forgot about what they have advised all Webmasters even a year ago…Now they do it just for the MONEY… This update is all about MONEY and they know it….

    • avatar


      Thanks for your thoughts, Anthony. Google is just doing what big companies do best — make money. You can’t really blame them, honestly. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Time to buy up Google stock!

  2. avatar


    I see social signals becoming much more important over time. Links from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, etc. will play a larger role in Google’s algorithm in a few years.

  3. avatar

    seo friend

    Hey Jayson,
    Thanks for this latest update regarding Google panda or whatever every one called like Google Algorithm, Can you please explain me about this blog funda, i m little bit confuse with it; when i put 3 links in Blog post how effect this thing in our ranking or seo result.

    One more thing Please tell me this panda is already released after that how to increase website traffic with using this all updates for blog or website.

    What about the Future SEO???
    Is PPC is good for ranking and Traffic??

    Wait for your positive answer.

    • avatar


      Can you please clarify your first question?

      Regarding the future of SEO, I believe social signals will increase in importance.

      PPC is good for traffic, but it’s expensive. And it doesn’t help with your rankings at all — the two are completely separate.

  4. avatar


    Hi Jayson,
    Viewed your post. Good work man!
    This is really shit from Google. I think as orkut was finished people will stop relying on Google as well, If they don’t stop these types of idiotic updates. Can you explain more in details what to do with Link Exchanges I think that they wont work much now.

    • avatar


      Hi Allena,

      Link exchanges don’t work because they’re reciprocal links. When Google sees that website A links to website B, but website B also links to website A, then Google neutralizes the value of both links. You need quality one-way backlinks if you want them for SEO ranking power.

  5. avatar


    Hi Jayson
    Thank you for your post. It helped me to recover me from something pain. I have linked my website using article posting, directory submitting and linking some keywords for individual search results for individual page. All I linked for a important keyword page has disappeared from google. Do I need to remove all these links manually or is there any idea to recover them.

  6. avatar


    Jason, great insight. I agree with you 100%, we have been a page one ranked company for over 10 years and we are no longer in the top five. As you pointed out in your example, we have been replace by garbage sites that have nothing to do with our business. This is biggest con job I’ve ever seen by Google to get people to use there AdWords product.

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