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Google Algorithm Changes – Jan-Feb’12

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Google at its best focuses on assisting people for better ‘searching’ and to achieve this, Google regularly updates its search engine algorithm. Google changes its algorithm frequently for at least up to 500 times a year. With both minor and major changes involved, these changes significantly affect the way web pages rank in the search engine. The algorithm changes mostly filter the spammers away and makes web a place for only quality websites. The recent Google algorithm changes that happened between Jan’12-Feb’12 are listed here. Knowing and understanding these updates enables every search marketer to explore the reasons for changes in organic traffic and rankings, and improves their quality and approach as well.

January 30-Pack – Jan 5th 2012

Google announced 30 changes in this algorithm update.  Some of the key updates include more relevant site linking, improvements in the quality of the image search landing pages, richer snippets and related query improvements.

“Megasitelinks”

This is the name Google has given for its algorithm change in selecting sitelinks. Through this update, it is possible to show region specific sitelinks that can be controlled with location setting.

Improvements in Image Search

Google not only focus on giving relevant images for searches, but they also make sure that the source pages of the images are of good quality. It applies the spam detection algorithm from main search results to offer only quality images in searches.

Rich Snippet with Byline Dates

Google started providing accurate Byline dates in the search snippets.

These are the major updates; however there are totally thirty changes listed in this algorithm and you can read all about it on Google’s blog here – 30 search quality highlights.

Search plus Your World – January 10th 2012

Google search engine is no more restricted with content search; it also deals with people, personal stuff and relationships done by integrating Social Search with its results from the web. For this, Google is introducing three new features – Personal results, Profiles in Search and People and Pages.

Personal Results

If you are looking for some information about something say “best hotels in Los Angeles”, along with impersonal content about best hotels in Los Angeles from the web, you also get personalized views from your friends. You can also find beautiful private photos in your search page related to your search query from Google+ and Picasa. You have the option of viewing only your personal results by choosing the ‘personal links’ link under the search box.

Profiles in Search

Finding the person you are looking for is not an easy job with millions of profiles online. Search plus Your World makes this job very easy with the help of Google instant. You can find ‘Add to Circles’ button in the search page when you are signed in to your Google+ account and instantly add them to your circles.

People and Pages

Sharing your views with prominent people on a specific subject is made easy with Search plus Your World. If you search for a topic like music, you can see celebrities discussing this topic on Google+ listed on the right-hand side of the search results page. You can connect with them through interesting conversations and discover new people with different views and ideas.

Amit Singhal from Google has told that Search plus Your World will be available in next few days for Google+ users searching on www.google.com in English.

Jan 18th – 2012 – Google Panda Algorithm Update – Panda 3.2

Google Panda algorithm update is one of the major update that has been influencing searches from the beginning of Feb 2011 till date. The initial update hit all low quality websites that were content farms. This update made a lot of websites lose their rankings and traffic. Panda Update 3.2 is only a minor update with no new ranking signals. This is confirmed by SEO Round Table.

Why Panda?

Google aims to give best results for search queries and there were low quality websites that out ranked good authority sites. So, by ranking these low quality sites in the searches, Google was unable to give a good user experience. The initial Panda roll that happened on Feb 24th 2011 targeted on content farm sites with low quality content and thus, the most affected sites were article directory websites. Since then, Google has been rolling out Panda algorithm updates every 3 to 7 weeks. Have a look at this Panda Update schedule given by Search Engine Land.

  • Panda Update 1.0: Feb. 24, 2011
  • Panda Update 2.0: April 11, 2011 (about 7 week gap)
  • Panda Update 2.1: May 10, 2011 (about 4 week gap)
  • Panda Update 2.2: June 16, 2011 (about 5 week gap)
  • Panda Update 2.3: July 23, 2011 (about 5 week gap)
  • Panda Update 2.4: August 12, 2011 (about 3 week gap)
  • Panda Update 2.5: September 28, 2011 (about 7 week gap)
  • Panda Update 3.0 : ~October 19, 2011 (about 3 week gap)
  • Panda Update 3.1 : November 18, 2011 (about 3 week gap)
  • Panda Update 3.2 : ~January 18, 2012 (about 2 month gap)

Google Page Layout Algorithm – January 19th 2012

What is the use of having excellent content when it is buried under ads? Google heard complaints from users that they require to scroll down a page filled with ads to see the content they are searching for.  So, Google’s page layout algorithm stresses on having more content than ads above the fold. If you click a website and in the first glance see lot of ads, this is not a good user experience and websites like these will either be penalized or never go forward. Google agrees that it’s common to place ads above the fold and it works out really well with good monetization. However, there is a limit for this. Google accepts including ads above the fold to a normal degree and sites loaded with ads above the fold are affected.  You can use Google’s Browser Size tool to check the percentage of content and ads at the top fold in different screen resolutions. If your site has dropped in ranking and traffic this time, probably you are hit with this algorithm change. So reducing ads above the fold is the only option. Matt Cutts in Google webmaster blog said penalty on a site will not be released immediately; it will take several weeks based on the number of pages on your site and efficiency of Google bot to crawl the content.

January Search Update – February 3rd 2012

Google announced 17 search quality highlights including fresher search results, improved date detection, auto complete spelling corrections, faster auto complete, better spelling full-page replacement, better spelling corrections for rare queries, blending of news results, cross language refinements, improved image search quality, improved scrolling for image search, more relevant related searches, automatically disabling Google instant based on the speed of your computer, and most importantly integrating Panda into the main search index.

Conclusion

After going through the recent algorithm updates and history of google updates, it’s very clear that Google is very specific in offering its users the best search experience.  So, every webmaster should be very cautious in providing the best for users without compromising quality whatever it is. This not only improves your website, but keeps yourself consistently successful.