Google Changes Search Algorithm

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Google Strikes Again!

Google Launches Yet Another Algorithm Change Today Affecting 12% of Searches. Google seems to be on the prowl in February having released a second major algorithm change earlier today. This round appears to have mainly been targeted at content farms such as eHow and Demand Studios. Demand Studios is one of the largest content farms out there.

So what is a content farm?

They employ thousands of writers and just churn out content like a machine releasing a thousand or more articles per day of content onto their site. The content is considered to be of average to low quality and is highly SEO optimized. Because of the sheer volume of content they’re pumping out and the fact that they are clearly targeting quantity over quality, they have become known as content farms.

Some of the alternate search engines actually block their content entirely because of their domination of long tail keywords. This has created lots of complaints to Google over the past few months and they appear to be really cracking down. Here is a quote for Google’s official announcement.

Straight From Google

“Many of the changes we make are so subtle that very few people notice them. But in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking – a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries – and we wanted to let people know what’s going on. This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites – sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites – sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.”

The impacts from today’s changes seem to be fairly minor, but we have seen a lot of them. Mostly in the 1 to 3 position loss ranges where they show up. For others that have been hit harder, it really does seem to be content quality related. We’ve seen a couple sites that just have okay to mediocre content and have been hit pretty hard. Re-read the quote above: “This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites” – well, that pretty much says it all. If you’re seeing your rankings negatively impacted by this algorithm change, then try to take a look at your site form a content quality perspective and compare it objectively to the sites that passed you up in the rankings.

Exact Match Domains Affected As Well

Earlier in the month Google also released an algorithm change that shook things up as well. The earlier changes appeared to be similarly focused and had similar results. However, there apparently was another focus from what we’ve observed in the extensive number of domains we manage. The trend that we saw was that EMD’s or Exact Match Domains and even domains that were not exact matches but had partial keyword matches were affected by the algorithm change (and not for the better). Many have complained about EMD’s for a long time now that they were given far too much favor in the rankings and apparently Google is listening.

Apparently Matt Cutts of Google made some comments in a speech back in November that he thought that exact match domains where getting too much credit in the rankings and that they would be looking into that in the next few months. Well, looks like they have. Now, we have seen varying degrees of impact. Some very minor, just losing a couple of spots down the page and others losing 30 to 50 placements. As always, domain age, authority and other metrics clearly have a significant influence as well, but it is clear that EMD’s value has been degraded. Furthermore I would extend that speculation beyond just EMDs and say that the benefit of having your primary keyword in the domain at all has been impacted. I say that because we’ve seen it first hand on dozens of sites and very few of them were exact match domain names, but they all had their primary keyword(s) in the domain name.

Another observation that we have seen is that site age seems to have more relevance now as well. Many of the sites and keywords that we analyzed that dropped a couple of spots were almost always newer than those that were now ranking above them. Again, there’s a lot that goes into the “authority” equation and age is just part of it, but in the update that hit a couple weeks ago, it seems to have been given a slightly higher weight.

Google is Watching

One of the comments that was interesting that they disclosed in their blog post was in regards to the Personal Blocklist Chrome extension. This is a feature that they recently released for Google Chrome that allows users to “block” sites from showing up in the search results. Google went on to say that they didn’t use this data for this update (okay, but who really knows) but that when they compared data to the most popularly blocked sites by users that 84% of them also were affected by this algorithm change. What you’ve got to take away from this is that everything you do on the Net is being used by Google. Time on site, page views per visitor, bounce rate, social buzz – it all matters – and they are constantly looking for new metrics as well such as this site blocker in Chrome.

So What Do You Do Now?

The facts are, Google’s goals today are the same as they were two years ago and the more you can get inside of their head and understand what they’re looking for, the better off you’ll be. Referring back to that same article quoted above, the very first sentence says: “Our goal is simple: to give people the most relevant answers to their queries as quickly as possible”. So stay focused on that goal – delivering quality and relevant content.

When changes come like this we have seen historically that at first (the first couple days) they hit more severe and then seem to back off a little bit. So be patient, things may improve in the next couple of days – time will tell. I think that when Google releases a major change like this and they get a lot of backlash they tend to “dial it back” just a bit. Again, that’s complete speculation but it is based on past observed trends. The most important thing that you can do is stay consistent with your linkbuilding efforts and stay the course.

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