SEO - Google Backtracks on recent Algorithm Changes
There has been a lot of chatter about changes that Google made to their algorithm, which saw a fairly big change in rankings for some sites. Having been busy trying to decipher the changes, it looks like it could be related to either their Panda or Penguin update . However it could be the ironing out of some bugs, a back-out or some tweaks.
Back on 19th August i emailed Google to ask whether they were rolling out an update and they said that they were, a minor Panda refresh. The impact doesn't seem to have had the effect that was expected, as it wasn't well received in the most part. SEO forums have been inundated with stories of rankings drops, even for (apparently) SEO friendly sites and reports of lower quality sites jumping up the rankings. We have been looking at a lot of the sites in question and it appears that as part of the update, Google were targeting sites that had build lower quality links from irrelevant sites. It also looks to be looking at the number of these links as a percentage of the total, to determine malpractice. Of course this update didn't negatively impact all sites. Many have been writing about massive jumps in traffic.
Without naming and shaming, most of the sites that had seen significant drops in their rankings had a fairly high number of one way links from what might be classed as 'spammy' sites. Interestingly enough, these sites seemed to be hit harder on some pages than others, so it wasn't a penalty against the site. Many of these 'spammy' links were from sites with high a Alexa Rank however in truth, many were still in breach of the Google Webmaster Guidelines.
Google also claimed that this this refresh was only going to affect about 1% of search results, although listening to the post match chit chat, it seems it has had a wider impact than was initially expected. It's a difficult proposition when dealing with one way links, as was the algorithm to penalize bad quality one way links, this would open the door for competitor attacks. All you would need to do is find the worst link builder and ask them to build links for a competitors site - that would be considerably easier than finding a quality link builder!
So What's the Change?
We spotted yesterday that either Google has backed out some of the recent Panda refresh changes, made some tweaks or it's part of the long awaited Panda update. It is also possible that they have ironed out a number of bugs. However Matt Cutts indicated that the next Penguin update 'would be jarring' and since then the SEO world has been waiting for the penny to drop. Whether the changes yesterday are related remains to be seen. As yet, there is nothing out of Google that i have seen to suggest that this took place yesterday.
Either way, most of the sites i have been tracking that took a hit in August, seem to have been restored to their former Glory - many of them an increase in position from last month. Good to see that people have been busy building quality links as part of last months Google scare. Whether this was a back-out or further update is open for debate.
I will be keeping an eye on the situation over the coming weeks as this might not be the last Panda update we see. I am interested to hear if any of you have noticed anything as part of yesterdays update.
In closing, i think this will be an eye opener for some, as it points considerably more Google focus in the direction of spam and their prevention against ranking manipulation - not an issue for those of us that keep on the right side of the line.