Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s search spam announced at Search Marketing Expo that his team are working on the “next generation” Panda update. A lot of search engine marketers at this point would sigh and say to themselves “not again”, but this update may prove to be the softest one released yet. Cutts has explained that this new Panda update should have a direct and positive effect on helping small businesses do better in the search engine results pages.

One Googler on Matt’s team is working to specifically develop ways of helping small websites and businesses with the SERPs. You can read up on our blog about SEO for niche businesses here.

Matt Cutts hasn’t mentioned when they plan on releasing this new update, rather they are still working on it. It’s probably not far off from being launched though; say 2 or 3 months.

This isn’t the first time that Google have released a softer Panda update – they released softer update to the Panda algorithm in July of last year – if the reports from around the time are accurate. With that, only 18% recovered fully with that last softer Panda update.

The original Google Panda was a change to Google’s search results ranking algorithm that was first released in February 2011. The change aimed to lower the rank of “low-quality sites” or “thin sites”, and return high-quality sites back to the top of search results. At the time, it was reported that there was a rise in rankings of news websites and social networking sites, and a drop in rankings for sites containing large amount of advertising – much to the annoyance of many small businesses.

Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable wrote that Cutts would also like to give a boost to sites using SSL:

At SMX West Matt Cutts gave the attendees a few tidbits, one of those items was that making your site secure, encrypted, i.e. SSL enabled, is an important trend for 2014.

At the end of the session, I asked Matt if this means Google is looking to give sites that enable SSL a ranking boost. Matt Cutts shrugged his shoulders and explained that if it was his choice, he would make it so. But he said, it is far from happening and there are people at Google that do not want this to happen.

How the Panda and SSL updates will play out remains to be seen; but it will probably be seamless as Google goes about their constant redevelopment as cleanly as possibly. What this does show though is that you cannot rest on your laurels when it comes to the world of Google. It’s also clear that Google want to do all they can to help the smaller guys, as if they’re saying “you can rank too!”.

If you yourself are a small business you should really read our blog about how to harness blog posting for local SEO