Six Months of Google Updates
SEO Lessons from the First Six Months of 2012
2012 has been a busy year for the search engines, especially for search giant Google. We have seen two larger, named updates from Google, as well as a number of smaller ones, each improving the way we optimize our websites for better longevity and better quality.
In January, Google blurred the lines between features and algorithm updates a bit more with the introduction of relevant site links, rich snippets, and 28 other changes that improved the search results through better results and more information.
Search+ Your World was announced on January 10. With Google’s push to become a stronger contender in the competitive and Facebook-dominated social scene, they integrated your Google+ profile with your search results. This provided more personalized results, and for those who didn’t like them, they introduced a more prominent button that allows you to toggle personalization on and off.
There was also a data update applied to 2011’s Panda, making it version 3.2.
February saw Panda 3.3 rolled out, in addition to over 50 more minor updates that increased the freshness of the index, phased out old parts of the algorithm, and improved speed.
Venice was bigger news in February. The Venice update came without a strict roll-out date, but is responsible for more aggressively localized organic results and better integration of local search data with organic data.
Another 50 or so minor updates came through in March, with updates to how anchor text is used in site ranking, image search updates, and updates to how queries with local intent are interpreted. Panda 3.4 was also confirmed, which affected an estimated 1.6% of search results.
Google had to correct a data error that was causing ranking shuffles after webmasters had reported strange movement in their sites’ performance. The error had accidentally caused some domains to be treated as parked domains (and, therefore, devalued), but was quickly resolved.
Panda 3.5 rolled out pretty quietly in April, having made minor updates to the algorithm. The impact was difficult to measure, but the update appeared to have been a routine update without much new influence on search results. Panda 3.6 came just a week after this update, with similar small impact.
The rather notorious Penguin update also came through in April. Penguin was the long-speculated over-optimization penalty update. Sites that were keyword stuffing and using a number of other webspam tactics were devalued. Approximately 3.1% of English-language queries were impacted by the Penguin update.
52 updates were made to the algorithm in April, many of them related to Penguin and Panda, improving the webspam filters. Google also improved their ability to handle paginated sites, and increased their “base index” by 15%.
The Knowledge Graph was the big change in May. With the Knowledge Graph, Google made big strides in the way of semantic search. Now, when you search for certain keywords, there is a display right in the search results with information about certain people, places, and things. Knowledge panels are being rolled out on more and more types of searches over time, and provide quick access to commonly searched information.
The first update for Penguin also came through in May, making it 1.1. With this update, it was confirmed that Penguin data is being processed outside of the main search index, similarly to the way Panda data is processed.
We also saw 39 more smaller updates in May, mostly related to Penguin, Google News updates, and changes to how titles and snippets are rewritten.
Two more Panda updates, 3.7 and 3.8, were rolled out in June. One was a pure data refresh, and the other influenced about 1% of search queries.
What We Learned
As has become so obvious over the last few years, there is no secret “SEO Sauce” that will improve your rankings over night. Any attempt to game the system with purchased junk links, spun content, or spammy tactics will eventually get sniffed out and get your site dropped from the search giant’s index lickety split. The barrage of Panda and Penguin updates that update their data and improve the algorithm make it painfully obvious that the white-hat SEO tortoise will always outrun his black-hatted hare competitor, if not at first.
Traditional SEO, quality content, and relationship building are tried and true SEO tactics that work and produce long-term results. Maintaining white-hat methods will keep your website ranking over time and insulate it from Google’s algorithm changes as they attempt to weed out webspam and produce better results for searchers.
If you are looking for a white-hat SEO company to help your site improve its organic ratings, please contact Neon Rain Interactive today. We offer comprehensive web services, including web app development, custom website design, and search engine optimization.