Yup, its that time again where Google once again tweaks its search engine algorithms in the never ending quest to deliver more relevant results to users (or at least that’s the official line).
I just did a check on all my sites and I’m happy to report that they have been largely unaffected. Only one site resulted in lowering of rank for two keywords by one. Some of my sites even got a boost in rankings.
Their latest blog post lists 40 changes in total that have been made. You can read the full blog post here – http://insidesearch.blogspot.co.nz/2012/02/search-quality-highlights-40-changes.html
Out of the 40, the ones that stood out to me were:
1. Improvements to freshness. [launch codename “iotfreshweb”, project codename “Freshness”] We’ve applied new signals which help us surface fresh content in our results even more quickly than before.
This indicates to me that Google places a priority on news that is fresh and I believe more than ever it will look to user activity to draw conclusions on that. Social media avenues like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube all play a big part. It is probably also safe to say that any news related sites (like press releases) will be closely monitored by Google bots.
2. Panda update. This launch refreshes data in the Panda system, making it more accurate and more sensitive to recent changes on the web.
Lots of marketers will probably use the refresh as an excuse to sell more shortcuts to #1 rankings. I believe that most SEO best practices are already known and that those that want to thrive need to plan for the long run. Like I mentioned, my sites weren’t affected and they have held their rankings over the last few updates as well. I believe one of the key factors contributing to this was consistency. Most of my sites are over a year old and I have been consistently updating the content when I can and still building links to inner pages.
3. Link evaluation. We often use characteristics of links to help us figure out the topic of a linked page. We have changed the way in which we evaluate links; in particular, we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years. We often rearchitect or turn off parts of our scoring in order to keep our system maintainable, clean and understandable.
As far as experts can guess, the best type of links are anchor text links whereby the links are contextual and have your keywords in it. Your guess is as good as mine what factor has been turned off but I think that aside from evaluating anchor text information and link address, Latent Semantic Indexing will play a larger roles whereby the surrounding text will influence evaluation of what the topic of the linked page is about. There’s a great ebook (free) by Dr Andy Williams about LSI and how to future proof your SEO which you can download here – Future-Proof SEO
Those were some highlights for me when reading the Google post. If you aren’t already subscribed to their blog, then I highly suggest you go here and add it to your reader. There’s nothing like hearing things from the horse’s mouth if you’re interested in SEO.
Do post in the comments your thoughts on the latest update and let me know if your sites were at all affected. I read all comments.