Google, the main search engine used worldwide lists its search results according to different algorithms. There are several elements that ensure a specific web page a higher rank among results, including page rank, keyword frequency and placement on the page and other elements. However Google also changes its search algorithms several times during each year. Most of these changes are minor but some updates can significantly change a web page’s ranking and subsequently its traffic. Understanding these changes and adapting web pages accordingly will ensure constant traffic and income for webmasters.
Google Panda is a change of Google’s search results ranking algorithm. It was first released in February 2011 with the purpose of reducing the ranking of low quality sites and increasing the ranking of high quality ones. For example sites containing large amounts of advertising had their ranking reduced. Panda also affected websites which were low-value add for users, had copy content from other websites or sites that weren’t really useful. As Google announced the first version of Panda affected almost 12% of all search results. After several updates in 2011 Google released new versions of Panda in 2012 also. Some of their purposes were to eliminate a link evaluation signal and to improve the ranking of local search results. The third Panda update for 2012 was predicted to affect 1.6% of all quires. Although the percent seems small, considering that Google has 88 billion monthly quires, 1.4 billion searches will be effected each month. The most recent version released in September 2012 had an even greater impact: 2.4% of queries were affected.
Penguin is the official name Google has given to the web spam algorithm first released in April 2012. The goal of any algorithm update is to improve search results. The Penguin is an over-optimization penalty, which adjusted a number of spam factors including keyword stuffing. It means that websites with an excessive number of keywords had their rankings affected. The update is estimated to have affected 3.1% of English queries.
In May 2012 Google released the first update to its Penguin algorithm. It was designed to work as a penalty for sites that are violating Google’s quality guidelines, however Google predicted the impact will be less than one-tenth of a percent of English-language searches. The next Penguin update was released in October 2012, mainly impacting websites with too many low-quality inbound links. This time the expected impact is 0.3% of English language queries.
With every Google update some websites are affected, losing their ranking. The purpose of these updates is to ensure users access to high quality pages but how it affects webmasters is a different problem. Often the immediate affect is lost income, lost sales and lost jobs. Companies need to figure out what needs to be done and act quickly to minimize their losses. Unfortunately finding a quick solution is not easy, especially because Google doesn’t make public the details of the changes it operated. In some cases a certain website shouldn’t even supposed to be affected by penalties, but it still is. The owners of such pages can file complaints through a feedback form, but there are no guaranties for a positive outcome.
The first step towards a solution is to understand which exact update affected your website. Yet, that isn’t simple, considering that Google can operate more than one update every day and traffic drops can occur without being directly related to an update. Updates might take several days to roll out to all data centers, so the day of traffic loss doesn’t has to be the same with the day of an update release. Considering the complexity of the problem and the severe consequences it can have, webmasters are recommended to ask for a SEO audit for penalties. Only a SEO expert can identify the problem and operate necessary changes to help companies survive permanent updates.
If you have been affected by one of the Google updates, contact Hilda Mateiu, a San Diego based SEO expert, for efficient SEO audit and useful advises.