Google in 2012 – Pandas, Penguins and Search+

That averages out at approximately 1.6 every day! 2012 has been, without a doubt, one of the most challenging years …

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That averages out at approximately 1.6 every day! 2012 has been, without a doubt, one of the most challenging years for SEO in recent memory.

What’s that coming over the hill?!

Google Panda was originally launched in early 2011 but continued to be updated frequently throughout 2012 – getting updated roughly every month.

Google Panda was launched to combat poor quality websites. Some of the core Google Panda metrics include:

  • Unique content
  • Too many on-page ads
  • Too many on-page links
  • Poor quality design
  • Keyword stuffed content

By utilising countless human testers, Google was able to create an algorithm based on the common attributes of websites deemed poor or spammy.

This affected websites in two ways. Firstly, if your website matched too many of these factors it could be downranked.  Furthermore, if your website had links from lots of websites that got affected, your rankings would also be affected.

Throughout much of 2011 and 2012, many people were continuing to feel the effects of Panda updates. In total there were no fewer than 13 Panda updates:

  1. Panda 3.2 – 18th January 2012
  2. Panda 3.3 – 27th February 2012
  3. Panda 3.4 – 23rd March 2012
  4. Panda 3.5 – 19th April 2012
  5. Panda 3.6 – 27th April 2012
  6. Panda 3.7 – 8th June 2012
  7. Panda 3.8 – 25th June 2012
  8. Panda 3.9 – 24th July 2012
  9. Panda 3.9.1 – 20th August 2012
  10. Panda Update 20 – 27th September 2012
  11. Panda Update 21 – 5th November 2012
  12. Panda Update 22 – 21st November 2012
  13. Panda Update 23 – 21st December 2012

Here comes a new challenger!

Enter Google Penguin. With the strength of a hundred hadoukens, Google released its first Penguin algorithm update in April 2012.

Whereas Panda focused on your website and its content, Penguin looked at the links your website had and any spam techniques that may have been used to artificially increase your back link profile.

Although Google is making steps to change this, traditionally a website’s back link profile was one of the most important ranking factors. Simply put, the number of links you had helped you to rank better.

Additionally, the anchor text you had for your back links would also play an important part in ranking for specific words. Google Penguin largely laid rest to websites that relied too heavily on overly optimised back links from poor quality websites.

Although not as prolific as Panda (ironic considering the difficulties faced by pandas copulating), Penguin’s impact was felt throughout the Internet.

  1. Penguin Update 1 – 24th April 2012
  2. Penguin Update 2 – 25th May 2012
  3. Penguin Update 3 – 5th October 2012

Is it a bird? Is it a bear?

But animals weren’t the only things to affect the rankings in 2012. Some of the more significant algorithm updates of last year include:

Search + Your World – 10th January 2012
A significant move to personalisation of search results – have a friend that liked an article related to your search query? It will get shown above other results. This ties in with Google’s push of Google+ and authorship.

Page Layout – 19th January 2012
Too many ads before the fold and the content on your website? This is now a poor quality signal for ranking well.

Venice – 27th February 2012
Venice was a push to more integrated localised search results.  Places listings became more common for several search queries.

Knowledge Graph – 16th May 2012
You will probably have seen this before but without knowing the specific name for it.  Knowledge panels are now common place for many search queries – they gather data from varying sources and is displayed on the right of a search result.

Seven Result Search Pages – 14th August 2012
For some search results, there were no longer ten websites listed on the first page. Instead, seven results are now shown.

Exact Match Domains – 27th September 2012
Google announced a reduced value in having exact match domains – utilising specific keywords in the domain name. However, the impact seems to be somewhat limited and many exact match domains were unaffected.

Google has been very busy in 2012. Many websites felt the affect of its updates with shifting rankings. There were some that won and some that lost. And whilst we cannot predict the future of Google, we can nonetheless work towards improving our websites, offering excellent content and engaging more directly with our customers online.

There’s no reason that a well thought out digital marketing strategy can’t make full use of the quality guidelines that Google continues to provide in order to make a website continue to rank well, provide useful information to visitors and an enjoyable user experience.

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