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Gary has just confirmed (again) that the weekend update had no Panda in it. Or Penguin. The mystery deepens...The update was confirmed as a core algorithm update, but Panda and Penguin were not part of it. In this context, the lack of Panda changes has been the cause of some confusion. Here's Jennifer Slegg's report...
Google confirmed on Tuesday that the recent changes in the search results that webmasters have noticed since late last week are not Penguin related. So then the next assumption many made was that it must be Panda.
While Google had previously confirmed the changes were Core related, many wondered if that meant it had to be Panda. But Gary Illyes from Google confirmed that while the changes are Core – and Panda is now part of that Core – that these specific fluctuations we have been seeing are NOT Panda.
joined:Dec 17, 2015
What if the update was giving a heavier score to one of the signals thus lowering the weight of Panda or Penguin. Then that could explain while it wasn't an animal update, plenty of people's sites rise based on other factors.frankleeceo, I was originally in agreement with your thoughts, but I've come to think that Pandalized sites couldn't rise that far without a re-computation of Panda itself, so I've revised this part of my post responding to your comment.
In particular in the USA publisher websites with pieces of content that rank with brand keywords and entities have witnessed heavy losses in visibility. Brands, on the other hand, have seen a boost in rankings.The article notes in particular losses for sites "with old URLs that ranked for brand keywords and entities".
Top winner according to our most recent Suite data is gq.com. On gq.com the biggest winning URL is a comprehensive article about NFL star Tom Brady
User intent instead of contentThese results are where I'll speculate most and guess that RankBrain may have had a lot to do with it. RankBrain is the newest major component of the Google algorithm, and I've been expecting to see it come along in a big way.
One group of winners is particularly suprising for SEOs: educational games. Domains such as brainpop.com and mathplayground.com with landing pages such as this:
From a classical SEO perspective, these rankings can hardly be explained. There is only one possible explanation: user intent. If someone is searching for "how to write a sentence" and finds a game such as this, then the user intention is fulfilled.
What Exactly Does RankBrain Do?
From emailing with Google, I gather RankBrain is mainly used as a way to interpret the searches that people submit to find pages that might not have the exact words that were searched for.