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Google Panda Update 2.5: my explanation

Some webmasters (me included) were hit by a latest Panda update, which has the code name “Panda Update 2.5″. This update come out of nowhere on September 28th, and for me it was clear that it was (yet) another Google update, but I needed some days in order to guess the factors that were triggering this update.

Well, after carefully reading a lot of personal experiences and industry reports (such as this one from SearchMetrics) I think that I’ve found a pattern of the affected websites, and this is usability-related.

More affected were the following websites:

  • websites with a low pageviews per user average;
  • websites with a high bounce rate;
  • websites with a short time-on-site metrics.

More favoured were the following websites:

  • websites with a high number of pageviews;
  • websites with low bounce rate;
  • websites with nice time-on-site metrics.

If you scan the Alexa data related to the websites listed by SearchMetrics blog, you can see that the affected websites are all struggling with these parameters: bounce rate, pageviews per user and time-on-site, while the most favoured websites are displaying, all, strong data. However, some losers display good numbers.

For example ActressArchives.com is cited with 62% positions loss after Panda 2.5. In Alexa, the usage parameters are quite good: ~6 pageviews per user, ~50% bounce rate and ~29 minutes on site. This is much better than PerezHilton.com or TMZ.com, but PerezHilton has a very nice bounce rate: 39%. And PerezHilton is cited on the winners’ list. So, it seems that the bounce rate was the essential metrics to be taking into account.

[However, I suspect that Alexa's data on ActressArchives.com are erroneous. On Google AdPlanner they are much different: 3,9 pageviews per user and only 3 minutes time on site.]

If confirmed, it is a clear sign that Google started to melt the search data with data gathered from its other products: Analytics, Chrome, Plus etc. Since not all the webmasters are using Google Analytics, I suspect that the Chrome browser’s usage statistics are the main factor that triggered this Panda 2.5 update. But I am also sure that Google will release very soon an update to this update, simply because it’s quite stupid to link the relevance of a search with the users’ behaviour. That’s why we are seeing now a lot of excellent, unique websites that are hit by this … failed Panda Update 2.5, so don’t despair. I’m very confident that the Panda 2.6 update will come in 3-4 weeks and will repair the damage.

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