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Google Updates: Are your sales and traffic where they could be?

Are your sales & traffic where they could be?

This is a very important and slightly long, but if you are concerned about your sales, please take 5 minutes to read this.

Google’s updates have really thrown a monkey wrench into many online businesses. In fact, the search landscape has changed so much in the last three years that business owners are rightfully puzzled as to why they have lost rankings on keywords that they held for years. Because this is a confusing and in many cases a distressing situation clients are facing, we have created a list of the biggest updates with some high level solutions.

To give some perspective on the increase in the volume of changes released by Google, we wanted to share the number of updates per year:

2 in 2006

2 in 2007

2 in 2008

5 in 2009

8 in 2010

21 in 2011

33 in 2012

7 as of July 2013

June 2010: Caffeine Update

Google’s new algorithm analyzes the web in smaller portions to index pages faster, many sites noticed top rankings disappear after holding them for years.

  • What does this mean?  Newer content is updated faster and therefore in the top of search results quicker, sites that do not update their content often lost rankings.
  • How to solve the problem?  Add new content more often and use social media as tool to generate new fresh content from users.

February 23, 2011: Panda/Farmer Update

A major update hits sites hard affecting up to 12% of search results. It targeted thin content, content farm, and sites with high ad-to content ratio. It was such a large update that it took a couple of months to roll-out.

  • What does this mean?   Duplicate content, too much advertising, and old site design were not your friends after Panda. If you noticed a significant drop in traffic then you were what is referred to as “Pandalized”.
  • How to solve the problem: 
  1. Have rich, authentic content and user generated content.
  2. Re-build site with a more modern, high quality, and user friendly design
  3. Remove blocks of intrusive advertising.

September 28, 2011: Panda 2.5 Update

It was unclear what exactly this update involved, but sites reported large-scale losses in traffic and sales.

November 3, 2011: Freshness Update

Google announced that this change would be rewarding fresh content and impact up to 35% of search queries.

  • What does this mean: An even stronger focus on recent content, including social media updates.
  • How to solve the problem:
  1. Have rich, authentic content and user generated content on your site.
  2. Use social media to create a fresh stream of user generated content.

January 19, 2012: Top Heavy Update

Google updated their page layout algorithms to devalue sites with too much ad-space above the “fold”. It was previously suspected that a similar factor was in play in Panda but “Top Heavy” took it to another level.

  • What does this mean? Too many ads on the top half of a page will devalue your website in search.
  • How to solve the problem:
  1. If you have any of banner ads on the top half of any page on your website then you need to remove them or move them down the page
  2. Keep your advertising blocks to a maximum of two per page and keep them on the bottom half of the page

February 27, 2012:  Venice Update

This was the beginning of a bigger local update. Google aggressively updated localized search to integrate with local search queries.

  • What does this mean? Local search is much more integrated with search results and Google now uses Google+ pages to take up prime real estate in the top 10 positions.
  • How to solve the problem:
  1. If you do not have a Google+ page, it’s time to get one.
  2. Open accounts for social media sites such as: Yelp, Foursquare and niche specific sites for your industry.

April 24, 2012: Penguin Update

This one was a doozy! Penguin update penalized “over-optimization”. It was really targeting spammy websites that used too many SEO tactics to rank higher, however, unfortunately many businesses were using the same tactics to a lesser degree and were impacted by Penguin.

  • What does this mean? If you have been over using keywords in your content, or paying for links, then you were penalized and probably noticed a large drop in traffic overnight.
  • How to solve the problem:
  1. Remove links that use a keyword as anchor text, if you can.
  2. If you cannot remove the links then “dilute” them by running a press release or writing articles with your URL as the anchor text, or what we call “naked anchor text” or

September 27, 2012: Exact-Match Domain (EMD) Update

This was another doozy!  This one led to a very large-scale devaluation of websites that are using a major keyword in their domain name

  • What does this mean:  If you have a domain name that uses one of your major products then your site was sent to the back of the line. I.e. “Sam’s Store” located on the West Coast sells widgets. He decided to use the term “widget” in his domain, so he chose “” instead of “”. As a result of this update, Google decided that it will not give additional value to the domain just because it has the word “widget” in it as it had in past. Unfortunately, many sites ranked very well because of their domain name but they were of lower value in user experience, and when this update hit those sites suffered losses in traffic and sales.
  • How to solve the problem:

If you have an exact match domain then you need to start at the beginning and take care of any violating issues with the search engines, especially questionable SEO practices and webspam.

May 22, 2013: Penguin 2.0 rolls out

This is the fourth Penguin-related launch Google has done, but because this is an updated algorithm (not just a data refresh), it’s been referred to as Penguin 2.0 or Penguin Webspam Algorithm.

  • What does this mean? This update targeted webspam as a whole and some specific industries such as porn and online pharmacies. In the pursuit of higher rankings or traffic, some webmasters use techniques that don’t benefit users, where the intent is to look for shortcuts or loopholes that would rank pages higher than they deserve to be ranked. There are all types of webspam techniques used every day, from keyword stuffing to link schemes that attempt to help sites higher in rankings.

Bottom line is those techniques use to work 5 years ago, they do not work now. However, many site owners used SEO companies in the past and still have webspam on their site, so unfortunately they suffered the consequences of the mighty penguin.

  • How to solve the problem:

There are many ways to solve the problem, however there are some websites that have been completely obliterated from the search engines because of black hat practices in the past. In these cases it is my recommendation to start over with a new domain and a new website. Either way, a complete review of the website it’s link profile and a historical inventory of it’s SEO practices are imperative.

We are now in May 2013 and Google has had a total of 64 updates since 2010, in fact Panda has been updated 30 times and is now up to version 3, Penguin has updated numerous times and is now up to version 2.0 as of May 22, 2013.

If your site has broken any of the “rules” listed above, then you have probably noticed a big drop in traffic. If so, give us a call to do an evaluation. For those of you who have an SEO program with us, we are adjusting work being done to help counteract some of these changes.