Did Google Just Release Panda 3.9?

Rumors of the potential release of Google Panda 3.9 are sweeping across the SEO world this week, but hard data on the subject is tough to come by. Whether it’s actually an update, or a refresh, the uproar over this unconfirmed update sheds a lot of light on Google’s role as Internet overlord and scapegoat.

Who’s Calling the Update?

Rumors of Panda 3.9 started on this forum thread at WebmasterWorld that’s been running since the end of June.  The thread started out last month with this very typical SEO lament:

A lot of my keyword SERPs dropped a page today – totally out of the blue. They have been going up and up in SERPs steadily all this year with no panda or penguin impacts. I haven’t changed anything on my home page and no new spammy links, so I *guess* it’s a google algorithm change?! I doubt its a penalty as the drop would have been even more severe.

Posters continue in this highly speculative manner until a couple days ago when a poster going by the name of reseller posted up this cheeky comment:

I think Google is pushing a new Panda 3.9 data refresh 😉

That quote seems to be the basis for most of the reporting on this subject, including this article titled, Google Panda Update 3.9 On July 12th? on TechGau.org. But even the posting’s author, Gautham A S, doesn’t seem all that convinced. He ends the article with this tepid endorsement:

There is no conformation from Google that there has been a refresh of the Panda algorithm, but we at techgau.org seem to think so.

Though it’s not necessarily to be expected, so far there’s been no word on any refreshes, reindexing or updates from Google through the typical sources; Matt Cutts’ blog and Twitter.

It should be noted that a couple of refreshes known as Panda 3.8 rolled out about two weeks ago. Google normally waits around six weeks between refreshes and updates.

Google as Boogeyman

Whether there was an update, this episode is a nice encapsulation of the current state of SEO. Webmasters are quick to blame any drop in page rankings on a phantom Panda update. These folks are quick to blame Panda and rarely take responsibility for their own actions.

Have you ever seen an SEO forum posting where the author fessed up to actually using low quality content and spammy links?

Has anyone ever put up posting titled, “My competitors just knocked me out of the rankings because they’re kicking my butt with awesome content”?

If they’re out there, there aren’t many of them.

We’ll certainly acknowledge that SEO is an inexact science and Google is a capricious master. Hey, maybe there was an update. On the other hand, it might be time for some of these forum posters to quit blaming every page ranking drop on Panda and slow down the rumor mill a bit.

Do you think that Panda 3.9 exists? Share your thoughts on our SEO Forum.