The end of September and beginning of October 2012 have proved to be busy times for Google. The search giant rolled out several updates that jostled the rankings of many websites. SEOs have also been busy trying to sort out the updates and analyze their impact. Here’s our rundown of the most important updates in chronological order.
Panda Update: Google rolled out its Panda algorithm for the 20th time during Sept. 27-30. Ordinarily, Google runs Panda about once per month to filter through search results and penalize sites with low-quality content. But, Panda’s algorithm was upgraded for this 20th run, which had a dramatic impact on search results. The last several Panda updates only affected about 1% or less of search queries — while this new Panda update affected 2.4% of English queries.
EMD Update: The Exact Match Domain (EMD) update was a brand new algorithm that Google pushed on Sept. 28, which affected about 0.6% of English searches. This update specifically targeted websites that had high rankings by virtue of their domain name being an exact match for search queries. However, this doesn’t mean that all EMDs will rank poorly. Google’s real goal with this update is to penalize low-quality websites that are only riding high because of their domain names. Having an EMD is fine, so long as website is a source of good content. These high-quality websites still have high rankings after the EMD update:
In a way, the EMD update is very similar to Panda — maintaining high-quality content on your website will keep you from being penalized. Google will roll out the EMD update again in the future (possibly every month, like Panda), but exact dates are not known.
Penguin Update: On Oct. 5, Google ran its Penguin update for the third time since it debuted in April. This had a small impact on search results, affecting only about 0.3% of English queries.
Top Heavy Update: Officially known as the page layout algorithm, the Top Heavy update rolled out for its second time on Oct. 9. This also turned out to be a relatively small update, affecting only about 0.7% of English searches.
Since all of these algorithms are being run periodically, it’s important to keep them in mind when modifying the content of your website. To check if any of these algorithms have impacted your site rankings, cross-reference your Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools data with the release date of each algorithm to see if there’s a correlation.
At the end of the day, the rules for SEO really aren’t any different. All of updates are taking aim at weak content and poor user experience. If you continue to create original content; follow best practices; and maintain your site with users first in mind, search engines second, then the quality of your site will be rewarded in search rankings.