The updates which Google release for their algorithms, Panda and Penguin, are often considered a cause for some alarm for SEO agencies and businesses that source much of their business online.
The effects of the update can range from the barely noticeable to the utterly catastrophic. Especially, if Google suddenly decides they’re not fans of your particular choices in SEO practices.
Matt Cutts, head of search quality at Google, gave some indications of what the extent of the changes would for early 2013.
The Panda algorithm, as it was unofficially dubbed by media, was first released I mid-2011. It’s an algorithm which specifically targets low quality websites or what we would call “thin sites”. It’s distinct in that it ranks entire website rather than just individual pages and introduced the famous “over-optimisation” penalty.
The algorithm is updated, or rather experiences a data refresh, almost each month and typically affects about 1.3% of search results. Arriving a bit late, the next will be at the end of this week (15 March 2013). Cutts’ hasn’t indicated that there will not be any major upsets to the rankings.
Often considered the more chaotic of the two famous algorithms, Penguin initial release in mid-2012 affected as much as 3% of search results. All of its ranking factors are aimed at targeting websites that didn’t conform to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, otherwise known as black-hat SEO. It attempts to adopt a human perspective when determining site quality,
Matt Cutts warned that the coming update will be quite substantial. The search quality team at Google are working on something which should quite a wide effect on search results and the rankings of even well-established websites.
A link network is a website which houses various links on its domain in exchange for payment. Google has repeatedly voiced their disdain for them, taking large link networks off its index for quite some time. Now even networks that were considered high quality are being dropped.
These updates are often considered an attack on small websites which haven’t gained the credibly to earn Google Trust or get reputable websites to link to them. Some would say this contravenes the very principle of SEO, which was to equalise websites so the amount of money a company has wouldn’t affect it performance in the ranks but rather relevance would.