Keeping Rankings Intact in 2012
While most are breathing a sigh of relief that rankings will remain unscathed by Google updates over this holiday season, the calm before the storm only reminds us that Panda will inevitably return. The good news is, this hiatus gives webmasters the opportunity to gear up for the new year and with some preparation, rankings will remain intact even after any future Panda updates.
January – Google publicly penalizes Overstock.com & JC Penney for shady SEO tactics, no doubt inspiring the Panda update we experienced in February.
February – The first of many in the Panda series came with a vengeance, affecting around 12% of U.S queries. The infamous Panda/ Farmer update nabbed sites with low quality content, duplicate content, & excessive ads.
April – Panda 2.0 rolled out the update globally to all English language Google users. In addition, 2.0 incorporated user feedback signals, like the ability to block sites, which would help Google deliver more meaningful queries.
May – Panda 2.1 originally caused a panic for webmasters, thinking that ‘Panda 3.0’ was going to be another devastating update, but 2.1 was relatively minor in comparison. Google kept pretty quiet about the updates they made, but some minor changes were noticed.
July – Another minor update was acknowledged; whether it was a new update entirely or just another change within the Panda series was unclear.
August – Panda 2.4 was rolled out internationally to all non-English queries with the exception of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese languages.
August – Expanded sitelinks were improved for a better user experience by reducing link duplication and helping Google determine which section of sites were most popular. Originally a 12 pack, Google reduced sitelinks down to 6, which still remains today.
September – Panda 2.5 again left webmasters in the dark on what changes took place, but many speculated that excessive ads may have been a defining factor.
October – Panda ‘fluxes’ were a series of minor updates in October and into November, affecting less than 2% of searches. As tweeted by Matt Cutts, “Weather report: expect some Panda-related flux in the next few weeks, but will have less impact than previous updates (~2%).”
October – Encrypted Search causes an outcry in the SEO industry as Google adds secure search for users, causing some organic data to turn up as ‘not provided’ in Analytics and tracking software.
November – Freshness update resolved to bring newer content to users in search queries. Although Google said the update affected 35% of search queries, it only noticeably affected 6-10%.
November – Matt Cutts revealed 10 minor algorithm updates on the Google blog that took place around November, including the Freshness update.
December – Another 10 updates were reported on the Google blog in December. Google claims these ‘search quality highlights’ are becoming a monthly series that will be published every month.
There’s a lot to reflect upon over the last year, with many sites taking a dip in rankings as a result of the Panda updates. It’s important to not let history repeat itself and also to keep an eye open for new trends in the upcoming year.
What to look out for in 2012
Duplicate Content: Trying to eliminate duplicate content has been worked into the algorithms for a while now and continues to be a factor that can slash rankings. Kick off the new year with fresh original content and give the boot to any duplicate content.
Thin/ Sparse Content: Search engines will continue to deliver the most informative pages to searchers. Websites that have quality content will provide more information to the search engines and users, and will likely be rewarded in rankings. No need to write a novel, but content on each page gives webmasters the opportunity to show what each page is about and can help boost rankings in the SERPs.
Excessive Ads: We’ve seen Google crack down on web pages with excessive ads above the fold in previous Panda updates this year. Search Engines prefer clean websites with few advertisements, if any, in order to create a better user experience.
Up and Coming Trends
Social Media: Social Media has been a hot topic for a few years. While this year did not show significant impacts in rankings for Social Media, next year most likely will. We saw some impact on rankings from likes, tweets and +1s, but expect it to become more prominent in 2012. If you haven’t jumped on board with Social Media already, 2012 is a great time to start.
If you have any questions about past or upcoming trends, or how to help your website increase its standing in the new year, contact your SEO Agency.