Watch out with overly SEO’ed sites!

The head of Google’s search spam team, Matt Cutts, announced that Google is releasing an algorithm update specifically to target sites that are overdoing their SEO.

According to Matt Cutts this is Google’s attempt to “level the playing field” between webmasters that build quality content versus webmaster who are just simply doing aggressive SEO.

Barry Swartz quoted Matt Cutts in his article in Search Engine Roundtable:

“What about the people optimizing really hard and doing a lot of SEO. We don’t normally pre-announce changes but there is something we are working in the last few months and hope to release it in the next months or few weeks. We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect. We have several engineers on my team working on this right now.”

There has been complaints of ranking changes this week, even though Google has denied any updates of any sorts. Maybe it is just Google testing the becoming update…

You can listen the audio recording from the panel Matt Cutts was on at SXSW about a week ago, when they were discussing about the new update.

Google Panda 3.3 Update confirmed together with 40 search updates

Again new Google Panda update confirmed. Together with confirming this new 3.3 Panda Update, Google announced 40 search updates that happened in February.

This article will point out few of the search updates I find most important and explain what Google says about the newest Panda update.

Google Panda 3.3 Update

“This launch refreshes data in the Panda system, making it more accurate and more sensitive to recent changes on the web.”

So basically, this update sounds very similar to the update that Google launched mid-January, Panda 3.2. This update was described only as a “data refresh” and not related to new or changed ranking signals.

You can check again this infographics to see the full background of the Panda update that Google introduced 1 year ago.

Evaluating Links

Google has been using for years a certain link evaluation signal. Now it will be getting rid of that, surely causing some discussion:

“We often use characteristics of links to help us figure out the topic of a linked page. We have changed the way in which we evaluate links; in particular, we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years. We often rearchitect or turn off parts of our scoring in order to keep our system maintainable, clean and understandable.”

Google is reluctant to give away too many details about ranking signals and the company has indicated that the blog post says everything they want to say.

Local Search Rankings

Google says that traditional algorithmic ranking factors are playing bigger part in improving local search rankings.

“This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.”

Since Google launched its Places Search in late 2010, traditional SEO has played a bigger part in Google’s local search. This seems to be even further enforced.

According to Google’s post local results are being improved because of a “new system to find results from a user’s city more reliably. Now we’re better able to detect when both queries and documents are local to the user.”

More accurate detection of official pages

Google has made an adjustment how they detect official pages by using codename “WRE”. By this adjustment Google wants to make identifications more accurate.

“We’ve made an adjustment to how we detect official pages to make more accurate identifications. The result is that many pages that were previously misidentified as official will no longer be.”

Improvement to Freshness

Google introduced its “Fresh” algorithm change in late 2011. The purpose was to make search results more fresh, more current. Now Google wants to improve this algorithm change:

“We’ve applied new signals which help us surface fresh content in our results even more quickly than before.”

Other Google Updates

I won’t recap all the 40 search updates in this post, but you can find them here. There are some thing pointed out that you should pay attention to, such as:

  • “Site:” query update
  • International launch of shopping rich snippets
  • Updates related to sitelinks and related searches.

Videos to illustrate how SEO works and tips for planning your AdSense

I have recently posted articles about SEO Ranking Factors and Google’s new Page layout algorithm. The purpose of this article is to show with videos how search engines work to rank websites and give tips how to plan your content and using AdSense.

The infographic about SEO ranking factors is very detailed. Maybe this video simplifies and helps to understand the very basics on how search engine algorithm works to rank websites:

The next video gives you some tips on how to plan your content and ads on your website to avoid getting penalized by Google because of the new page algorithm update:

You can read about the different SEO ranking factors more detailed from Search Engine Land’s infographic.

Do you have too much ads on your site?

Google has introduced again a new algorithm change, “page layout algorithm”.  The new change is aimed for penalizing sites that are too heavily loaded with ads.

Google posted the same information about the new change on its Inside Search blog and Google Webmaster Central blog:

“We’ve heard complaints from users that if they click on a result and it’s difficult to find the actual content, they aren’t happy with the experience. Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see content right away.

So sites that don’t have much content “above-the-fold” can be affected by this change. If you click on a website and the part of the website you see first either doesn’t have a lot of visible content above-the-fold or dedicates a large fraction of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads, that’s not a very good user experience.

Such sites may not rank as highly going forward.”

This change doesn’t impact on sites that are using pop-ups, pop-unders or overlay ads; it only applies to static ads in fixed positions on pages themselves.

How do you know what is too much?

According to Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s web spam team, Google won’t be offering any kinds of tools to tell if you have too much ads or not.  Google is encouraging people to make use of  e.g. its Google Browser Size tool to understand how much page’s content compared to ads is visible to visitors under various screen resolutions at first glance when they open the page.

Google’s blog post addresses though, that the change should only hit pages that have abnormally large number of ads above-the-fold (compared to the web as a whole).  And according to Cutts again, the change will impact less that 1 % of Google’s searches globally.

So if you have little or no content showing above the fold for commonly-used screen resolutions, I would advice you to fix your site, just in case. And do it fast, the change has already started going into effect.