Latest Google Panda update the first to roll out this year

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The first of Google's search engine updates for 2013 has now been rolled out.

The Panda refresh was announced on the firm's official Twitter account - with the search engine giant suggesting that following the latest changes to the algorithm, around 1.2% of English queries would be affected.

According to Search Engine Land, this is now update number 24 of the Google Panda algorithm.

The most recent Panda update prior to this one was in the build up to Christmas, on December 21 2012, with the changes impacting around 1.3% of queries.

With its second anniversary due in February of this year,  Panda is one of Google's algorithms designed to cut down on low quality websites, and downrank firms that use illicit forms of Internet marketing, such as stealing or duplicating content in the hope of higher page rankings.

Since the introduction of Panda, Google has targeted spammy, irrelevant, keyword-stuffed sites, content farms and serial plagiarists.

Sites that feature poor quality content, duplicated content that is already existent elsewhere on the Internet, or stuff considered by Google as spam, should see their ranks dropped.

What was particularly interesting about Panda was its ability to penalise an entire site: not just specific pages. That made it imperative for online businesses to triple-check every word on their site to ensure it was unique.

If Panda finds web pages with above-the-fold ads, poor or low-volume content, or irrelevant keyword inclusions, even if it these just feature on one page out of hundreds, the whole site could be delisted.

With SEO predominantly focused on getting sites to a high position in the first page of Google, the firm has used Panda to try o iron out results that have unfairly got to the top of the listing, in favour of those following best practise techniques.

Google followed Panda with the Penguin search engine update later in 2012 - this focussed on unnatural link profiles which tricked Google's spiders into thinking they were genuine citations.

Together, the two updates have seen a marked improvement in the general quality of the results - regular refreshes allow Google to continuously improve the user experience by weeding out webspam, content farms and poor sites.

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