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Google had a busy year in 2012 with about 33 groups of major updates released to its proprietary search algorithm and other parts of its platform. With the flurry of updates keeping search engine marketers and SEO’s on their toes, it can be difficult to keep up on all the changes. That’s why we have compiled them all here for you to see in a 2 part post. So sit back and buckle up, the scenery changes quickly.

The Venice Update
On February 27, 2012, Google launched the Venice update which was one notable change of 40 that occurred to the algorithm in this month. The specific wording of the algorithm modification was “This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.” This means that location based signals (such as the location setting in a Google account, a user’s IP address and other signals) are playing a larger role in the results that Google delivers to its users.

The Rest of the February 2012 Updates
Along with the Venice update, there were numerous other changes to the algorithm for February. Among some of the more exciting updates were the international launch of shopping rich snippets which allowed users to more easily identify sites that have relevant product information along with featured reviews and ratings, better support for English spelling correction especially for rare queries and a Panda update that made the previous version more sensitive to changes on the internet.  SEOMoz provides some great visual examples of how the Venice Update impacted localized results.

Panda 3.3 and 3.4
PandaThe Panda update is noted as having an unusually long lifespan for an algorithm update. At the end of February (Panda 3.3) and March (Panda 3.4), Google released minor updates to the famed Panda change. What was notable about 3.4 was that the company announced its update via Twitter. Google’s Tweet below indicates the scope of searches that will be impacted. An update (Panda 3.5) made later in April was also of small significance.

 


March Batch of Updates
In April of 2012, Google released a batch of updates for the month of March. Among them were improvements to the handling of symbols for indexing, autocomplete improvements for equation related queries, better results for navigational type queries (searches where people are looking for a specific website), and more relevant image search results. A really cool part of this update was that when Google put out its monthly blog post featuring the latest updates, they also included an uncut video showing a search quality meeting. It gives great insight into how these decisions are made; very cool!

My Domain is NOT parked
On April 16, 2012, the search giant rolled out an update that fixed an issue with domains mistakenly being recognized as parked when they were not. When a domain is seen as parked by a search engine, it is devalued in the SERP’s because there is no real content for users to see.  Search Engine Land covers the topic here.

And Then There was a Penguin

PenguinThis is starting to sound like some strange dream. On April 24, 2012, Google rolled out the Penguin update to combat web spam. This was a highly anticipated update and one that changed the way many websites optimize their content and structure today. Google’s post was titled “Another Way to Reward High-Quality Sites” and the update targeted sites that were blatantly engaging in webspam tactics to deceive both users and Google.

A screen shot from Google’s post highlights a site that may appear legitimate at first glance but that is obviously using tactics that create a poor user experience.  Notice in the screen shot how the anchor text in the links has nothing to do with the overall theme of the article.

Example of Link Spam

There were also 52 other updates in April including an increase in the company’s “base” index and numerous updates to sitelinks. The last update that was rolled out in April was Panda 3.6 which, like the other updates to Panda, had a relatively small impact on overall searches.

The Other 52 Updates for April 2012

Some of the notable improvements made to Google’s algorithm in April of 2012 include: More domain diversity which delivered users a wider spectrum of separate websites in SERP’s, more improvements to local navigational searches, and better search query interpretation. The improved interpretation actually better predicts the intention of user queries based on their previous searches. Another important part about his batch of updates was one that increased the size of Google’s base index. The base index is the database which is used to match a user’s query. Google points out that updates to their indexes are not always mentioned in their monthly update blog posts.  Click here for the  full list of updates in April.

The Knowledge Graph

Google takes a step toward building the next generation of search with the Knowledge Graph. On May 16, 2012, the company began rolling out the project. Instead of focusing on strings of characters and words, Google began to deliver results based on objects and their relationship to other things in the world. The graph currently contains more than 500 million objects and more than 3.5 billion facts about the relationships among those objects. The knowledge graph is truly one of the most exciting and unique updates of 2012.

Penguin 1.1
On May 25, 2012 Google rolled out the first data update for Penguin.

39 Updates for May 2012
This batch of updates (posted in June), featured an updated search app for iPhone, better detection of pages that have been hacked and improved detection of link schemes. The link scheme detection is a notable improvement as this is one  of the most widely used ways of increasing the popularity of a website. It also reaffirms that this is a strong signal that Google looks at to determine the value of any particular website.

That does it for the first half of 2012. Check out the rest of the updates for the year as well as the most recent changes to Google’s algorithm in the second part of this post.

About Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher has written 384 post in this blog.


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Comments
Harvey Specter
Posted at 11:05 pm November 29, 2012
Matthew Hunt @ Small Business Online Coach
Reply
Author

I think the “Venice” update is the biggest un-noticed update to date. Almost no talks about it and yet, Google has sifted much of it’s search results to local. This amazes me.

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 12:50 am November 30, 2012
    Matthew Laurin
    Reply
    Author

    So true Matthew! Sometimes a lot of emphasis is placed on certain updates and others that impact many more users fly under the radar. Thanks for the comment!

Harvey Specter
Posted at 11:16 pm November 29, 2012
j.
Reply
Author

The Panda rollout in 2011 and updates through beginning of Q1 2012 had a much bigger impact on me then anything since April 2012.

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 12:57 am November 30, 2012
    Matthew Laurin
    Reply
    Author

    I hope it effected you positively. Thanks for the comment!

      Harvey Specter
      Posted at 4:12 pm December 5, 2012
      j.
      Reply
      Author

      I guess I should have said “negative” impact. So, no. It wasn’t a positive experience.

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 5:46 am December 1, 2012
    Shawn Manaher
    Reply
    Author

    Hi J. Thanks for taking time to post your comment. Would you mind sharing what exactly happened and how you ended up dealing with the changes?

      Harvey Specter
      Posted at 4:19 pm December 5, 2012
      j.
      Reply
      Author

      One of my large clients had old, poorly written archived Web content still online that caused it to lose ranking even though its recent (past several years) content was superbly written and vetted. I lost work and experienced financial losses because of Panda. I understand Google’s side of the argument, and my client was able to ride out the changes, but a lot of businesses tanked completely because of Google.

      I feel strongly that one company on the Internet shouldn’t be allowed to consciously and purposely affect so many others in such a way. Instead, Google should have given companies adequate time to pull their poor content and a bullet point list of the type of content that needed to be pulled. Google should not be the Internet’s version of the “content police.” In fact, Google is always stating how as a company it wants to protect users and their right to post the content they want. Yet, when it doesn’t fit Google’s business model, then they become as controlling and abusive with their behavior as any government entity.

Harvey Specter
Posted at 11:35 pm November 29, 2012
Tad Stephens
Reply
Author

Very helpful and saved me a lot of time.

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 12:58 am November 30, 2012
    Matthew Laurin
    Reply
    Author

    I’m so glad you found it helpful. Thanks for commenting!

Harvey Specter
Posted at 1:00 am November 30, 2012
Justin
Reply
Author

A great synopsis for Google’s 2012 updates. One hell of a year for a lot of online businesses. I know Ill always remember it.

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 1:17 am November 30, 2012
    Matthew Laurin
    Reply
    Author

    Thanks Justin! Yes it has been an exciting year. Its so amazing to watch things unfold in the online world. The internet has become the central conduit through which we consume so much information. Thanks for commenting!

Harvey Specter
Posted at 1:28 am November 30, 2012
Boling
Reply
Author

HI MATTHEW LAURIN,

Thanks for you sharing. Every google update it’s mean quality of SERP.

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 3:19 am November 30, 2012
    Matthew Laurin
    Reply
    Author

    You have that right Boling! With every update Google always asks “Does this make sense for users?” If it does, they launch it. Thanks for commenting!

Harvey Specter
Posted at 6:40 am November 30, 2012
mlanguzi@Work from home
Reply
Author

I wasn’t aware of the comprehensive list. Thanks for the comprehensive list of the Algorithms.

Harvey Specter
Posted at 12:39 pm November 30, 2012
Jocelyn
Reply
Author

Thanks Matthew for writing this article about Google Algorithm update.
How long do you think Google search algorithm update will stick around?

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 1:43 pm November 30, 2012
    Matthew Laurin
    Reply
    Author

    No problem Jocelyn! Great question about updates. Google’s mission is to organize the world’s online information and deliver the most relevant content to a user’s query. I think as long as there are ongoing changes in the ways we use, search and market information, the company will have to continually improve the way it serves up results to users. Thanks for the comment!

Harvey Specter
Posted at 10:17 pm November 30, 2012
Todd
Reply
Author

Good post. I am looking forward to part 2 as that is when even my non-internet marketing, off-line business, website got hammered. It was 7 years old with amazing content and nothing funny going on.

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 5:41 am December 1, 2012
    Matthew Laurin
    Reply
    Author

    Sorry to hear that Todd. Hopefully you have been able to recover from that. Thanks for commenting!

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 5:45 am December 1, 2012
    Shawn Manaher
    Reply
    Author

    Todd, care to go into more detail around what happened? When it happened? Have you worked through any scenarios on how to recover? Have you been able to recover? Thanks for taking time to comment!

Harvey Specter
Posted at 4:33 am December 1, 2012
Scott
Reply
Author

Matthew,
Having been somewhat new in the SEO and internet marketing and Google local business (1 year), Google’s Venice caught me by surprise too. But in a very good way. I started my internet marketing business getting local businesses online through uploading keyword researched descriptive content on 50+ directories plus Facebook and Google Places for Business. No extra backlinks and no articles or press releases. I could only do what I knew..what can I say.
Every single one of my clients went to the first page for their main keywords (services and/of products) and has remained there since. Talk about being blessed.
Thanks for the well researched and super informative post! I’m linking this in my blog site “Googles Search Changes for 2012″ post for my clients.

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 5:50 am December 1, 2012
    Matthew Laurin
    Reply
    Author

    Thats great Scott! I’m not surprised that you have had success. Too often even experienced SEOs and web marketers lose sight of their ultimate goal which should be to design for users. We get so wrapped up in ranking a website in search that we start to build for search engines. In reality, if we just focus on making quality content for the user, both search engines and the people that consume the content they serve up will be satisfied. Keep up the good work and thanks for commenting!

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