Google kicked off 2011 with a bang, launching its “Panda” or “Farmer” algorithm update in late February, which has had online marketers scrambling ever since to master the new search engine landscape.

As if that wasn’t enough to shake up the SEO world, Google Panda isn’t a one-time update. Since Google has updated Panda about once a month since it launched in February, and with 2.3 out of the box for more than three weeks now, don’t be surprised if the latest Google Panda update launches before you’re done reading this article.

In that sense, marketers may be tempted to think that Panda 2.3 isn’t such a big deal. After all, it’s only “one of the roughly 500 changes we make to our ranking algorithms each year,” as a Google rep told Search Engine Land.

So why is this particular update getting so much attention? We asked CAP’s friend and SEO expert, Scott Polk, co-founder of ObsidianEdge, to shed some light on why Panda 2.3 is different, and what affiliates should know about how their sites may be affected.

Content quality
Panda made such huge waves earlier this year because it was seen as a direct attack on “content farms”, or sites that achieved high search rankings by using relatively worthless (or even worse, plagiarized) content.

That’s only continued under 2.3’s updates. “Some previously low-ranking sites that were caught in previous versions have now came out of the filter and others are now thrown further into it and not ranking,” Scott explains.

So if you know of a site that’s still been able to skate by with poor content, the message is clear: Those days will be ending soon.

Link Building
“In my opinion, link building has always been a goal of the Panda updates — to filter out thin and/or low-quality websites that have been used simply for cheap link building,” Scott continues. “This practice does not have the same value it used to … Panda is one of the major reasons.”

See the pattern developing? Google’s mission seems to be to filter out sites that have achieved SEO success with poor quality content, and with questionable links.

And this isn’t a bad thing. It’s better for Internet users, who now get better, more relevant results to their searches. And it’s good for webmasters and affiliates, who have a greater incentive to make sure their content and links are of high-quality.

After all, poor quality content and links won’t just hurt your search engine rankings — they’re going to hurt your overall reputation at some point, and that isn’t going to help you sustain your online profits in the long term.

Feeling the heat?
Have you experienced any negative effects of Panda 2.3 update? Do you think that it’s changed Google’s algorithm much since the original Panda upgrade back in February? We’d love to hear your thoughts — sound off in the comments and let us know what’s happening.

Get more of Scott Polk’s SEO advice by checking out CAP’s recent free webinar, “How to Utilize Social Media in Organic Link Building”.

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