Even though Google tweaks their algorithm very frequently for how listings appear in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages), every so often the impact is substantial and creates a frenzied dialogue among website owners and marketers. Of course, as with any update or shift, some websites fare positively (improved web rankings) and others do not (drop or loss in website positions or rank). Last week, a big improvement to the Google algorithm was announced on the Search Engine giant's blog. They forecast that approximately 12% of Google's search queries will be impacted. That means this update will be far-reaching. For now, it is only impacting the U.S. results, but should be rolled out elsewhere in the future.
Some of the preliminary feedback indicates that it is the low-quality content sites primarily who have been hurt, places where content is reproduced for the sake of additional backlinks or keyword visibility. Many have started to refer to this as the "Farmer Update" as content-farms seem to be the primary point of attack. However, some of the sites referenced in blog comments and forums appear to be very legitimate sources of content, as well as viable (white-hat) opportunities for linking. These include Business.com, ehow.com and some other "How To" type websites.
So, the question remains as to why Google made this change and what was the goal.
Here is the feedback offered by Amit Singhal, Google Fellow, and Matt Cutts, Principal Engineer at Google:
This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites-sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites-sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.
One can't help but question the timing of this change, given some recent developments and enhancements tied to the Google SERPs. One of these was introduced by Google last week and is an extension used with Chrome to create a personal block of specific domains or websites from appearing in your search results. Google indicates they are monitoring the sites added to the Personal Blocklist and comparing against the changes from this latest update. Just two weeks ago, the New York Times reported on how J.C. Penney was found to have thousands of unrelated backlinks yet ranked extremely well in Google for a large number of key phrases. More recently, the Wall Street Journal detailed penalties to Overstock from Google because they were found to be artificially boosting their rankings and violating the Search Engine's policies.
I encourage you to check your positioning and more importantly, website traffic and referring visits before February 23-24 and after, to analyze any impact this update had on your site. MoreVisibility remains firm on our approach to a "white-hat" and "best-practices" approach for website optimization and SEO techniques. There are always shortcuts available or companies promising results that seem unrealistic or out of whack in comparison to what other companies may tell you. The bottom line is that Google is cracking down harder then ever on companies gaming their system. If you are looking for long-term results and success in Google (and with your online marketing efforts overall), play by the rules because "slow and steady" will win this race!