2012 Google Algorithm Updates: Part 2


Google updates its algorithm hundreds of times in a year. Here are the rest of the updates for 2012 ending with some of the most recent changes to date.

Multiple Panda Updates Panda 3.7, 3.8 and 3.9

An update (Panda 3.7) was applied to the Panda change on June 8, 2012 affecting less than 1% of queries. Later that same month on the 25th, Google rolled out another refresh update (Panda 3.8 data only) but no algorithm change. On July 24, 2012, one month after the first Panda update, Google rolled out a new change (Panda 3.9) that affected about 1% of queries.


Unnatural Link Warnings
On July 19, 2012, the company sent out unnatural link warnings through web master tools in another effort to combat link spam. The company also announced that these new warnings may not represent a serious problem. Search Engine Round Table provides an overview of the update.

Massive Changes
In one of the larger releases for the year, Google posted over 80 changes to the algorithm for June/July. Notable in this batch was Google’s improvement of “when is” and “what is” queries. The change allowed for better understanding of queries that ask questions like when is Halloween? Other improvements include better understanding of queries about weather, improved display of business information for mobile, and improvements for autocomplete that gives users more accurate information based on their home country.

DMCA Takedown
On August 10, 2012, Google released an update that penalized sites with repeated copyright violations.

SERP Change
In a more radical change to their user interface, Google rolled out an update that would decrease the amount of results that appear in SERP’s. On August 14, 2012, only 7 results could be seen in a Google SERP as opposed to the previous 10. The update had a much larger effect on overall searches at about 18%. This update indirectly created much more competition for the coveted first page of Google making it slightly more difficult to reach that spot. This post on 7-result SERP’s from SEOMoz gives a comprehensive overview on the subject.

20th Panda and EMD (Exact Match Domain) Update
On September 27, 2012, Google rolled out a rather large Panda update that affected about 2.4% of queries. In that same update came a lot of changes concerning exact match domains or EMD’s. A huge swath of websites that utilized EMD’s were devalued largely because of other poor ranking signals and not because the site used an EMD.

Penguin Update Number 3 and Page Layout Number 2
In October of 2012, Google introduced another Penguin update. The company reported that changes would be significant but when the time came, they rolled out a minor update that only affected less than 1% of queries. Also in October, a second page layout update was introduced but it was unclear how significant a change would happen. The original update was targeted at websites that had too many ads above the fold in the header of their pages.

Panda #21
In November of 2012, Google put out yet another update to Panda. This one officially impacted 1.1% of queries and was not seen as a significant change.

This list is essentially a summary of major and minor updates that Google has applied to its algorithm over 2012. There are hundreds of updates that go on throughout any given year that are not necessarily promoted to the public. Google makes changes to its algorithm in some form on almost a daily basis. It can also be difficult to gauge the performance of a website in search at any given time because of the way Google rolls out its updates. First the company tests changes on a subset of real users before rolling out a change across the entire user base. Therefore behavior of a website in search cannot always be predicted and sites may sometimes behave oddly.

Google is always thinking of its users when it is planning a change and it recommends to SEO’s that they do the same. Many of these updates mentioned may have little to no significance if webmasters are creating great content and designing for the people consuming that content instead of for search engines.

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

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