Ayima Offices

Timeline for Google Updates

Penguin Update

The focus of Google's Penguin update was to target webspam tactics that were still working after previous updates. Penguin affected 3.1% of English language search results, but was only intended to eliminate a small percentage of websites that were benefitting from spammy techniques. Rob Kerry explained this further in a Whiteboard Friday video for SEOmoz.

Winners

Websites that have maintained a natural backlink profile and have invested in well-written, user-focussed content.

Losers

Sites that have previously built too many links using the same commercial anchor text - creating a very unnatural looking backlink profile, as well as keyword stuffing and other on-page over-optimisation techniques.

Panda Update

An algorithmic change that was aimed at reducing the prevalence of low quality websites who were providing a poor user experience. The first update only affected US search results, then 6 weeks later Google rolled out an updated algorithm in both the US and all English Language versions of Google.

Winners

Sites creating quality, in-depth, engaging content who attract and retain visitors and links.

Losers

Websites that host low quality, scraped or thin content. Generally these pages have a strong focus on adverts, have a low dwell time and provide little or no value to the user.

Google Instant

Google launch a new "suggestions" style search box that shows popular search terms and live web results as you type. Google claim that Instant saves their users between 2 to 5 seconds per search.

Winners

Websites ranking well for short-tail / generic terms or that rank consistently well for the suggested terms listed by Google.

Losers

Site's that do not rank well for short-tail / generic keywords, or that target search terms which do not appear in Google's list of suggested queries.

Google Caffeine

Google rolled out a new way of indexing the web, enabling them to show 50% fresher results for online web searches. They do this by heavily prioritising the websites that regularly publish fresh content. The Caffeine infrastructure also improved the speed and relevancy of SERPs, with many observing a more blended set of results.

Winners

Google once again steal the headlines with Caffeine, taking the limelight from the launch of Bing.com. Websites with regular fresh content appear in Google search results much faster.

Losers

Microsoft who had recently launched Bing.com, plus sites hosting old content that rarely changes.

Mayday Update

Some large brand and authority sites lost up to 20% of their long-tail organic traffic due the May Day update. Many of their internal pages used to rank purely on the authority of their homepage and not necessarily because of their on-page optimisation or quality content. Typically their pages of thin content, which used to rank well for long tail terms, suddenly plummeted down the SERPs.

Winners

Lesser known brands who had quality content and a good backlink profile, spread across a large number of pages on their site.

Losers

Big authority websites and brands that previously ranked well for longer tail terms. Many of these authority sites relied too heavily on the weight of their brand and not on quality content or natural links into deeper content.

Real-time Search

Google start to incorporate real time content from across various online sources such as Twitter, Facebook (Feb 2010), MySpace and FriendFeed into their search results.

Winners

Websites that generate regular, fresh content which benefit from additional traffic after finding themselves top of Google.

Losers

Those pushed further down the SERPs by the real-time results.

Vince Update

Matt Cutts referred to Vince as a "simple change" (not an update) and explained there was a shift toward promoting more authoritative, trusted websites toward the top of the SERPs. This applied across some of the most competitive search terms and negatively affected a lot of aspiring brands.

Winners

Big brands naturally have more trust and authority, hence seeing their rankings increase for a number of high volume commercial terms that were synonymous with their brand.

Losers

Start-ups and young companies without much brand presence.

Big Daddy

Google starts to roll out their new software / infrastructure affecting how they crawl and index new content. There is a direct correlation between the quality and relevancy of inbound / outbound links and the number of pages Google are serving up in SERPs.

Winners

Websites who build quality, relevant links.

Losers

Websites who obtained high volume, irrelevant links.

Jagger Update

Google make multiple algorithm updates within a short space of time. Google penalises websites involved in "link-mongering" (obtaining large amounts of links with little or no relevance), linking out to irrelevant sites, scraping content, and other forms of search engine manipulation. Google start to check new documents or pages against their existing index and history in order to identify spam.

Winners

Webmasters obtaining highly relevant, quality backlinks without duplicate content issues on their websites.

Losers

Those participating in link networks that generate a high number of irrelevant links. Also websites with duplicate content, especially www/non-www canonical issues.

Austin Update

A further update to combat low quality sites that survived the Florida update. Better at detecting on-page spam, hidden text, keyword stuffing of META tags, FFAs (Free for All) link farms.

Winners

Websites who weren't over indulging in on-page optimisation with a good mix of brand and commercial backlinks.

Losers

Those over-optimising their website with high keyword density and a backlink profile consisting of similar link networks and Class C IPs.

Florida Update

Google rolled out a new algorithm, which seemed to apply a filter to websites over-optimising their keyword targets. This caused a major shift in the SERPs with many high-ranking websites dropping significantly and some being removed completely. Within the Florida update was the launch of a new algorithm, "Hilltop", which aimed to stop the manipulation of paid links from irrelevant, high PageRank websites. Hilltop calculated PageRank based on the relationship between Expert and Authority pages and thematic relevancy.

Winners

Those using on-topic and varied anchor/authority backlinks, on-page copy and Meta Data.

Losers

Websites over-doing basic SEO techniques; like the overuse of their primary keyword targets in their Meta Data and other on-page factore, building too many commercial anchor text links with no diversity and also a lack of supporting vocabulary in their page copy.

Pre

The Google Dance

The name "Google Dance" was coined at the time when Google updated its index on a monthly basis. During this update, Google would be crawling the web and identifying new pages, deleted pages, new links and also rolling out algorithmic changes. As Google would be continually serving up search results 24/7, there was no way of updating all of their datacenters in one go. Hence, over several days there would be multiple ‘live’ indexes that would show differing results. As the results seemed to dance around in various positions it was referred to as the "Google Dance".

Winners

Users of Google were oblivious to the large movement in rankings from one minute to the next, as Google was trying to make sure that the most relevant results appeared at the top of their index. Few websites were winners, unless they were able to predict what changes Google made based on the freshest datacenter results.

Losers

Businesses who relied heavily on traffic from Google could inexplicably drop from the SERPs for no particular reason. This could mean a major loss of revenue until their listing reappeared a short while later. SEOs would also have a tough time explaining these major shifts to their clients who would want answers to why they dropped and for how long.