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Google Algorithm Changes This Year: The Ones You Might Have Missed

Google make algorithm changes every year and can be a nightmare for SEO marketers. Google can make up to 600 algorithm changes a year, and understanding these updates and knowing which date they came in on can really help SEO. The dates of the updates can be used by marketers to explain why there are any surprising changes in their search traffic and website ranking.

So here are a few of the algorithm updates for 2012 that you might have missed.

Page Layout: Top Heavy

On the 9th October for the first time Google officially confirmed (via Twitter) changes to their page layout algorithm. This algorithm change targeted pages with too many advertisements above the fold in their latest attempt to cut down on spam.

The update focuses on penalizing pages that are top heavy with ads. The update comes from users complaining about sites bogged down with top heavy adverts make it hard to find the actual content they were looking for when clicking on a site. Users are unhappy with the experience and want to see the content they were looking for straight away without having to scroll past various ads.

Sites with a lack of content above the fold will be affected as they are not providing the user with a very good experience and may not rank as high from now on.

Third Penguin Update

The Penguin update numbering was updated on the 5th October. Google launched their latest data refresh of its Penguin algorithm to again cut down on spam. This is the third Penguin update Google have done and will affect multiple languages across searches.

The update will only be minor though after the initial suggestion that it could be greater. The update will affect 0.3% of English language queries compared to a 3.1% from the first Penguin update back on the 24th April. Google also announced that the update may also have minor affect on a small percentage of other language queries such as Spanish, French, and Italian.

When the Penguin updates launched back in April, they had an initial focus on cutting down overall web spam. It appears now that the updates have had a greater impact on websites with too many low quality inbound links.

65 Updates for August/September 2012

On the 4th October Google announced the list of updates they had made for the August/September period. Google’s updates focused on improving their search quality with a host of new features.

Their 65 updates in this period included expanding the Knowledge Graph globally in English, updating how they calculate page quality, updates to how they determine local results, and many more. Their updates looked at how they can help their users find more top quality content from trusted sources from a list of their projects including quality, ranking, user content, and answers.

If you would like to find out more of their updates for the August/September period click here.

Exact-Match Domain [EMD]

Google announced on the 27th September that they will have an exact-match domain update. Google’s algorithm update has reduced low quality exact-match domains showing up highly in search results for their users. The change affects 0.6% English-US queries to a noticeable degree.

This update arrives as Google look at why exact domain matches ranks really well, but should not. Sites that ranked well in the search results based on an exact-match domain may no longer rank as high in Google’s search result. This can make it hard for SEO marketers to improve search, as content now has to have a certain level of quality content in order to rank higher rather than just creating links.

It’s also hard because Google defines quality, and this can make the updates appear unpredictable or even malicious.

Google’s main goal is to create the best possible experience for their users. These changes will have a certain effect on websites search which SEO marketers need to be aware of to ensure they get the best possible SEO for their company/client. Google’s updates such as Panda aimed at stopping low quality content and Penguin aimed at spam control are really changing the way SEO works and marketers need to constantly strive for innovation in how they operate.

Do you think Google’s updates are good for users? Or gradually making SEO near impossible?

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  1. Mandy says:

    I think the Google algorithm updates are designed to be good for users but, like everything, it’s never going to be perfect. Not every search result is going to make the end user 100% happy… with that said yes Google is making it difficult for SEO peeps, however that just keeps us on our toes. The term SEO no longer stands for backlinks and keywords… I think Google will constantly change their algorithm for the “end user” which will of course will continue making our job more difficult. Thanks for the article!

    • Absolutely. I hope I didn’t sound like I was complaining. Increasingly, SEO is about producing genuinely interesting content. This has got to be more fun than the alternative!

  2. Donna B. says:

    This is really terrible for me. I have 5 blogs, which I rarely update, but the main one is my only portfolio for my cartoons. Two of my sites have dropped to 5% and 10% of what they were. Obviously image/cartoon sites like mine have been totally downgraded as low quality, yet Google is so desperate for new images – which rank far higher in popularity, even though I’ve never seen Google admit this anywhere – that they scrape my cartoons within a couple of minutes, and then come back an hour or two later to get the text content!

    Image-makers and creators are at huge risk.

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