Rumours of an update to Google Panda have been confirmed by the search engine.

Pierre Far, a webmaster trends analyst at Google, states that a subtle roll-out of what sections of the SEO media have dubbed Panda 4.1 began earlier last week.

This marks the 27th time that Google has tweaked the Panda update since announcing its launch in February 2011. The change reportedly affected around 12% of search results, but the number of queries affected by Panda 4.1 is thought to be between 3% and 5%.

Low-key release 

Google has kept to previous form by deciding against drumming up the launch of the update and left it up to Far to make the announcement on Thursday (September 26) via his Google+ page.  

It was here that he claimed Panda would be getting even better at identifying low-quality content and providing an SEO boost to small and medium-sites with good material. A brief overview of May 2014’s Panda 4.0 read across similar lines and the thought of these sites ranking higher has been described as a “nice” addition by Far.

In the new post he insisted that only a small proportion of queries, around 3-5%, had been reached by the change, but that websites in certain areas may have been more affected than others.

Far also said that he hoped the full list of changes will be completed by the end of the week, meaning a speedier implementation could be on show from today through until Sunday.

The analysts’ view

While the search community awaits for a more in-depth picture to emerge, SEO platform Searchmetrics was one of the first companies to run an analysis on Panda 4.1.

In a reverse of Google’s own take on the update, the company immediately saw evidence of prominent US publishers such as (104%), (32%), (39%) and (+285%) receive a boost in SEO visibility. There was also a surprise inclusion for controversial online media download hub, which saw a 162% uptick.

Searchmetrics also provided a list of the biggest Panda 4.1 losers, including the main site for Microsoft’s office365 software (-70%) and (-67%) – the site for OK! celebrity gossip magazine. But with US service directory placing top on -79% visibility, there is a sense that even harsher penalties could be dealt out.