2012 has been an interesting year for SEO. It’s been more than a full time job trying to keep up with all the algorithm changes. Google wants to restrain on the number of people manipulating its algorithm and also improve search results and quality for the end user. However, the Pandas and Penguins have made the World Wide Web a difficult place to be at. Google has changed their search algorithm more than 500 times over the past year and while most of them were very minor, some of the big changes had website owners clambering to cope up with these changes. Let’s take a look at some of the major changes to the search algorithms that happened this year:

 1. Search + Your World – January 10, 2012

Google announced a drastic change in personalization by aggressively pushing social data and user profiles into the SERPs from its own social network – Google+.

This shift also facilitated Google to make more users active on Google+ which in turn helped them promote their social network. As a strategy, we aggressively started creating Google+ business pages for our clients. Apart from this, we also performed some activities as mentioned below.

  • Adding related people / businesses to Google Plus circles
  • Integration of Google +1 button on the website
  • Gathering Google +1 votes via Google Search
  • Posting content regularly on Google Plus business page

These activities were later added in our core deliverables. Working on these activities immensely helped to promote our clients websites in personalized search.

2. Ads Above The Fold – January 19, 2012

Google announced a change in its page layout algorithm to devaluate sites with too much ad-space above the “fold”. It was previously suspected that it is a Panda refresh since it was directly related to visible content on the web page. The update had no official name though, and was referenced as “Top Heavy” by some SEOs. As always, we focused on creating unique search engine friendly content and most importantly optimized the page by placing the content above the fold.

 3. Venice Update – February 27, 2012

As part of their monthly changes, Google mentioned code-name “Venice” which was confirmed in an official post look at these guys. This update appeared to be more aggressively localizing organic results and more tightly integrating local search data. With this change, Google started displaying the local 7 pack as well as locally optimized websites from the region where the query was searched (even for generic searches). For example, if you search for “cosmetic dentists” with the location set to Chicago, IL; Google will display the local 7 pack as well as local websites (optimized ones) from that particular area. Local optimization factors became more important than ever. After doing an in-depth research on local search optimization factors, we developed strategies to be implemented for websites (with local target) which gave them a fair chance of appearing in the search results. We have covered a comprehensive article on Local Search Audit Checklist in this newsletter.

4. Panda Refresh – March 23, 2012

Google announced another Panda update, this time via Twitter as the update was rolling out. Their public statements estimated that Panda 3.4 impacted about 1.6% of search results. Throughout 2012, Google proclaimed 12 Panda refreshes affecting a fair percentage of sites. The latest update occurred on November 5, 2012. Here are some recommendations to protect websites from the Panda update:

  • Content Freshness – Make sure to update the site at regular intervals with new pages, blog posts, etc.
  • Number of Pages on the website should be higher. Point 1 should help this cause.
  • Site Speed – Although we keep ignoring this, make sure that the site loads up quickly. We feel the 2 second limit set by Google is a bit harsh. We recommend the load time to be under 8 seconds.
  • Thin Content – Do not use hidden content or content with tiny font size.
  • Avoid duplication of text and page titles. Make sure they are unique.
  • Avoid keyword stuffing and hiding.

5. Penguin Update – April 24, 2012 

Google finally rolled out the “Webspam Update”, which was later renamed as “Penguin.” Penguin attuned a number of spam factors, including spammy link building, over optimized websites, keyword stuffing, etc. which affected majority of websites globally. Some of the preventive measures you can take to avoid the Penguin update are:

  • Do not stuff keywords on pages.
  • Do not use spun or duplicate content. The content should be at least 85% unique and should be human readable.
  • Since social signals are given some importance, make sure to link your website to your Google+ profile using rich snippets. Facebook likes, shares and Twitter retweets might also give a boost.

Although a full recovery is not possible after this update, we recommend the below measures to be taken if your site has been affected by Penguin:

  • Build more positive / quality links. This will lower the number of negative links to your website. Make sure to use a combination of both generic (branded) and keyword targeted anchor text.
  • If the inner pages are affected, copy content from the Penguin affected page to a new page. Start building quality links to the new page. Obviously, disallow the old page from indexing.
  • If the home page is affected and nothing seems to be working, the only option is to create a new site and start link building for this new domain from scratch.

Throughout 2012, Google announced 2 more Penguin refreshes affecting some percentage of sites. The latest update occurred on October 5, 2012.

6. Domain Diversity and Shrinking First Page Results – August 14, 2012

Google made a significant change to the Top 10, limiting it to 7 results for many queries and in some cases displaying 5 to 6 results are from same domain. However, the latter was taken care of by Google. Even industry experts like Danny Sullivan and Dr. Pete criticized this discrepancy by Google.

7. Exact Match Domain (EMD) Update – September 27, 2012

Google announced a change in the way it was handling exact-match domains (EMDs). This led to large-scale devaluation of keyword rich domains. Although the change aimed to target low quality sites that might be riding on the basis of exact matching, some may have dropped unfortunately in ranking due to factors that had nothing to do with this algorithm update (and were only coincidentally just EMDs). Well, we can say a full recovery might not be possible. However, according to some trusted resources, we can take a few steps to ensure that the rankings are partially back. Take enough time to re-write the low-quality content on your site and make sure it meets the quality guidelines.

Make sure that the pages are well optimized. Do not stuff or spam. Avoid excessive on-page optimization. Work on getting quality backlinks for your domain. However, make sure to carefully choose the anchor texts this time. Use variations of the anchor text. Do not over use the “exact match” keyword. Once the above things are cleared, file a reconsideration request to Google using the Webmaster Tools account. Finally, if you think the above steps are not working out, the last option would be to get a new domain (a branded one this time) and perform a proper 301 redirect from the old domain to the new one. Follow the above 1 to 3 steps for this new domain.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

As far as domain recommendation is concerned, make sure to avoid exact match or keyword rich domains. For optimization, unless the domain is well established with higher DA (Domain Authority), PA (Page Authority), Page Rank and strong link profile, it is a good idea to avoid these types of domains and go with a partial match or a branded domain. Remember, Search Engine Optimization is still very important but far too often, website owners get caught up in black hat tactics and they forget the purpose of it all. Even if you move your way up the search results with the right techniques, you won’t keep human readers around or convert visitors to genuine customers unless you have something of value to offer. Finally, as Google says – Always think from the End Users perspective!!