“The Angry Panda”
2011 was the year of identifying bad practice in SEO, shown by the shady link practices of overstock.com, they managed to get university and colleges to link to them by running promotions of promised discount for the links which in January saw them being penalised by Google very publicly. Something Google did weeks earlier with another large retailer who were ranking higher than some brands due to their intense black hat link building, J.C. Penney ….. Slap wrists, Happy new year!
Google responded again in late January with a small update to the Algorithm to help eliminate some of the content which was being copied and duplicated without the authors knowledge (aka scraping) and also to stop some high profile content copying cases from happening again. Probably the highest profile was the German defence minister at the time, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. He had copied large chunks of text from the graduate doctoral thesis. This Google update affected around 2% of search results overall.
Late February saw Google start to release the major algorithm update, Panda, in the US only. Google stated it affected up to 12% of search results when they released it. The Aim of Panda? To eliminate bad practice in SEO, rewarding the original high quality content providers who work on bettering and providing reliable and of course, important content throughout each page on their websites.
The Panda 2.0 update hit Europe and the rest of the world in April, this included data about sites that had been blocked by users via the SERPs directly or via Google Chrome and new signals were also integrated. This was shortly after Google added the “+1″ button to SERPs, this allowed users to influence search results within their social circles which affected both the organic and paid search results.
May 2011, what’s this? Panda 3.0? “No, it’s Panda 2.1 because it has minor changes in comparison to Panda 2.0”. Google were very sly with this release as they did not reveal any details nor did they release a percentage of queries impacted by the change.
Responding to competition yet again, “Google+” hit the world in late June which saw an influx of over 10 million users in just two weeks! It just shows how much power they have when it comes to change or releasing a new product.
Oh yea and another Panda update, 2.2 was released with an aim to nstrate the ranking factor as a prime objective of the update. Panda 2.3 was a minor update adjusting certain attributes to the previous release.
August saw Google release, on a global scale, the fully blown Panda 2.4 update which hit the entire world and updated all SERPs English and non English queries except for Chinese, Japanese and Korean. 6-9% of queries were affected in the relevant countries and expanded site-links were also officially rolled out, starting with 12, Google then limited the expanded site links to 6.
September bought us Panda 2.5 which apparently was a minor update, again with no details but some sites reported large-scale losses after this was rolled out. Pagination created some problems with crawl and duplication issues which were fixed by some new attributes (rel=”next” and rel=”prev”) and an improvement in automatic consolidation.
Through October there was a Panda Flux! No not a surge of Panda’s on the loose but constant updates, one of which contained encrypting search queries which upset a few people due to keyword referral data containing the value “not provided”. Google did not entail any details for any of these updates for “privacy reasons”
November…… Panda 3.1! This is the update which Google announced affected 35% of search results!! With the largest share of search result population in the world this was BIG.
Google ended the year with new query refinements, parked domain detection, recent content detection and image search freshness updates as well as announcing on to expect changes every month in their endeavour to eliminate the spammers and content copiers. 2012 looks to be an exciting year for SEO, as it moves closer to being the most important part of inbound marketing affecting all aspects of a business’s online presence. Long live Best Practice!
I applaud Google in their bid throughout 2011 to provide richer search results and eliminate the content farming, spamming sites we see so frequently. After all, if it was too easy businesses would not a need an SEO expert. Instead the SEO expert is now becoming more and more the most important role in marketing as it has a say on the web presence, brand strategy and the content demands ensure a consistent amount of freshness is required to be in the top results. Looking forward to working hard for it in 2012!