As 2012 comes to a close, I’d like to cover some of the changes Google has made on its search algorithm this year and how it effects your company’s website and how it effects search engine optimization as a whole. Google had over thirty official algorithm updates in 2012. Most of them were updates to existing algorithm changes but the four I’d like to point out were huge, so huge it will change the face of SEO forever. Before I begin, I’d like to warn all of the spammers out there, this may bring up some painful memories.
#1 – Penguin Update
At the time of this post Penguin has had over a dozen updates, but it officially rolled out in April. Penguin was Google’s first webspam update, otherwise known as the “over-optimization” penalty. The Penguin update was designed to target a large number of spam factors. Some of which included abnormal link placement, keyword stuffing, and spammy anchor text. Its estimated impact was around 3.1% of all English search queries. This algorithm change single handedly put many blackhat SEO’s out of business. We at Web Design Studios on the other hand embraced it since we didn’t participate in these link schemes to begin with.
#2 – Exact-Match Domain (EMD) Update
Google announced in September its change in the way they rank exact-match domains. In the past (and still now to some extent) if you wanted to rank for a specific term, just buy the said term domain name. Why? Because chances are that website’s content would be relevant to that term. But when SEO’s started noticing EMD’s powerful effects on rankings, they were quick to exploit it. Next thing you know when you do a search for plastic surgery in Beverly Hills (just an example) you would get a site like beverly-hills-plastic-surgery.com ranking in or near the top spot. Now this site might have some value to searchers but chances are it’s just a spam site designed to rank, not provide value. Over time and many search results similar to this, Google launched its large-scale devaluation of exact match domains. According to SEOmoz’s MozCast, it’s effects were over 10%. However, Google’s official number was around 0.6% of queries.
#3 – Search, plus Your World
In its expansion of the Google Authorship algorithm change, Google announced in January a huge shift in its personalization of search results, Search plus Your World. Following Bing’s integration of Facebook data into its SERP’s, Google is now pushing its Google Plus data and user profiles into search results. So, when you’re signed into Google, your search results will include photos, posts, and much more from you and your friends’ likes (or +1′s in this case). This is designed to give searchers a more personalized experience and has greatly effected the way website owners pursue their SEO strategy. Now, users get different search results based on whether they’re signed in or not. So, if you spent all your time trying to rank for a specific keyword, this was bad news. So, for better or worse, this has forced people and companies to be more active on social media, most importantly, Google+.
#4 – Ads Above The Fold
In January Google updated their web page layout algorithm improvements to devalue websites with too many ads above the “fold” (the section of the page you see before you scroll down). Many SEO’s thought a similar version of this was introduced in last year’s Panda update, but Google decided to give it its own official update this year. As a fellow Google searcher, I’m happy they did this update. I hate it when I get to a site and have trouble finding the content I came there for only to swim through a sea of ads. Before this, a lot of search marketers thought Google would never do an update like this because it would hurt their bottom line. Well, to the surprise of many, they did. But don’t worry, they made up for it in other ways, like Google Shopping, where all of the results are paid inclusions.