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What do the Latest Google Updates Mean for SEO? on Dec. 21, 2012

When it comes to search engine optimization, things are changing all the time. Aside from the rollout of Google’s “Search, Plus Your World” in January 2012, the biggest update to the search company’s algorithm is Google Panda.

Google Panda updates.

Google Panda was first unleashed upon the Web a year ago in February 2011, and, in that year, there have been several updates to its algorithm. Below is a comprehensive list of all Panda updates to date. Check this space regularly for news and updates about them as they are released. And in honor of Google Panda’s first birthday, Search Engine Land has a great infographic that covers its first year.

Panda Dance – June 11, 2013

Google is no longer announcing its Panda updates and Matt Cutts’ acknowledgement of the Panda Dance is a good indication why. This “update” is being referred to as the Panda Dance because moving forward, Panda will be updated via rolling changes on a monthly basis, much like the Google algorithm changes of yesteryear.

‘Payday Loan’ Update – June 11, 2013

Unlike most of Google’s algorithm updates, this one will be rolled out slowly and is expected to take about one to two months, according to Matt Cutts. This algorithm change is designed to take on certain segments of the web that are notoriously spammy, with specific mention of payday loan and porn websites.

Google Penguin 2.0 (4) – May 22, 2013

While this is the fourth update to Penguin, Google is calling this update Penguin 2.0, and it contains technology that is better at stopping spam in SERPs. Matt Cutts said to that about 2.3 percent of all English queries will be noticeably impacted by the update. He also noted that the intensity of Penguin varies by language.

Domain Clustering Update – May 21, 2013

May 2013 is the month of Google updates, it seems. According to Moz, this update was designed to “control domain crowding/diversity deep in the SERPs (pages 2+).” And while it’s unclear exactly when this update was rolled out, it appears it hit sometime just before Google Penguin 2.0.

‘Phantom’ – May 9, 2013

The Phantom update is referred to as such because Google has never confirmed whether or not an actual update took place. Based on a variety of data, though, it appears that something was happening as many websites began reporting significant dips in traffic around May 9.

Google Panda 25 – March 14, 2013

This update is what’s known as Google’s final manual Panda refresh. At SMX West, Matt Cutts told the SEO community that there would be one more Panda update before it was fully integrated into the Google algorithm. Based on Moz data, this appears to be that update.

Google Panda 24 – January 22, 2013

Google didn’t waste much time before it released its first Panda of 2013. Like the previous update, this one is affecting about 1.2 percent of all English search queries. With this data refresh, it appears Google has finally hit a consistent rhythm with its updates as this is the third in as many months. And while we haven’t seen a Penguin update in a while, it can’t be too far off in the near future.

Google Panda 23 – December 21, 2012

This update, like Panda 22, wasn’t announced, but was confirmed to Search Engine Land. The Panda 23 refresh is bigger than many of the recent ones, though. It affects around 1.3 percent all of English search queries.

Google Panda 22 – November 21, 2012

Unlike the past few Google Panda updates, the search giant did not announce this update. In fact, it didn’t even confirm it until Nov. 30, nine days after Google Panda 22 was released. Google Panda 22 will only affect about 0.8 percent of English search queries, but the company did note that some regular users might notice a change in search results.

Google Panda 21 – November 5, 2012

Compared to September, October and the beginning of November were pretty quiet when it comes to Google algorithm updates. All of that changed on Nov. 5, though. Google released its 21st Panda update and it was a big one. Unlike many of the previous updates to Google Panda, this one is affecting approximately 1.1 percent of all English search queries in the United States.

Top Heavy 2 – October 9, 2012

About 0.7 percent of all search results are going to be affected thanks to Google’s latest algorithm update, dubbed Top Heavy 2. This is part of Google’s continuous effort to increase the amount of high-quality sites in search results.

Google Penguin 3 – October 5, 2012

Remember back in August told webmasters to expect future Penguin “jolts”? Well, the latest one–Google Penguin 3–made its debut on Oct. 5. Matt Cutts tweeted that Penguin 3 (a “data refresh”) would only affect about approximately 0.30 percent of all English search queries. And while this update doesn’t appear to be one of the “jolts” the company eluded to a few months ago, it definitely is a reminder that it’s important to monitor the link profile of your site. Just like keyword packing, bad, low-quality inbound links will eventually hurt your site’s rankings.

Google Panda 20 – September 27, 2012

If you thought we would have to wait a month for a new Panda update, you were in for a big surprise. Matt Cutts confirmed via Twitter that Google had updated its algorithm so that low-quality sites with exact match domains don’t rank as well as they did in the past. But there was much more than that, apparently. According to Search Engine Land, Google began rolling out a new Panda update on Sept. 27, only nine days after its previous update. However, Panda 20 (the twentieth update) was much more than just a data refresh, it was a distinct algorithm change that could affect up to 2.4 percent of all English search queries. This is what Matt Cutts told Search Engine Land about the latest Panda update:

Google began rolling out a new update of Panda on Thursday, 9/27. This is actually a Panda algorithm update, not just a data update. A lot of the most-visible differences went live Thursday 9/27, but the full rollout is baking into our index and that process will continue for another 3-4 days or so. This update affects about 2.4% of English queries to a degree that a regular user might notice, with a smaller impact in other languages (0.5% in French and Spanish, for example).

What makes this update so significant is the fact that regular, every-day users are going to be noticing the changes. There’s no predicting where Google will go with further updates and changes, but it’s important that as webmasters, we continue to produce high-quality sites with content users want to see and read. Otherwise, we could be part of that 2.4 percent.

Google Panda 3.9.2 – September 18, 2012

Thankfully, Google Panda updates have been coming about a month apart from each other, so we’ve been able to roughly predict when they’re supposed to happen. But, one thing we’re not able to predict is the severity or intensity of the updates. Google announced a new “Panda refresh” on Twitter, saying it would affect less than 0.7 percent of search queries. And while that’s not a huge number, per se, it’s being debated among SEOs which update this is. Is it 3.9.2 or Panda 4.0? The problem is, Google doesn’t number the updates themselves (Search Engine Land has taken on that responsibility itself), so no one is ever really sure which update this is. But we can be sure of one thing, regardless of its number, there’s going to be a fluctuation in search rankings over the next couple of days.

Google Panda 3.9.1 – August 20, 2012

Google has again confirmed a new update to Google Panda. This update, Panda 3.9.1, has affected less than 1 percent of all search results. The search giant also recently stated that Panda updates will be smoother and more consistent than its Penguin counterpart. Penguin updates are still going to come, but they’ll be more “jolting.”

Google Panda 3.9 – July 24, 2012

In its effort to provide users search results containing higher-quality websites, Google has announced a new update to it’s Panda algorithm, Panda 3.9. The company stated in a tweet that like many of the other updates to Panda, only approximately one percent of all search results will be effected. Google didn’t stop with just a “data refresh,” though. It also offered advice to webmasters who feel that their sites’ rankings are being compromised by Google Panda. In a blog post, Google offered some guidance for webmasters to follow, including the following: focus on continuing to “improve your sites, rather than focusing on one particular algorithmic tweak.”

Bad Link Warnings Update – July 19, 2012

When Google unleashed it’s Penguin on the web, it was designed to fight spam and prevent websites from benefiting from spam. One of the things Google started doing was sending out warnings to webmasters stating that they better remove bad links or face the consequences. Those consequences would be lower search rankings, and once you’re in Penguin’s doghouse, it’s tough to get out. But last week, Google threw a wrench in the system when it said its latest round of bad link warnings could be ignored. The search giant began sending out “link advisories” as well as “link warnings.” It’s the advisories that can be safely ignored, but if you see a little yellow caution symbol next to a unnatural link notification, you might want to take a  look at that.

Google Panda 3.8 – June 25, 2012

Google announced a refresh to Google Panda via Twitter yesterday. According to the tweet, Panda 3.8 “noticeably affects only ~1% of queries worldwide.” Search Engine Land notes that there were rumors of an update over the weekend, but the official roll out didn’t start until June 25.

Google Panda 3.7 – June 8, 2012

According to a Tweet from Google, there was a “Panda data refresh” that began rolling out on Friday, June 8. Panda 3.7, however, isn’t huge. It affects less than one percent of all search queries in the United States and about one percent of search results worldwide.

Google Penguin 2 – May 25, 2012

If you’re confused about the difference between Google Panda and Google Penguin, you’re not alone. The primary distinction between Panda and Penguin is that while both are algorithmic changes, Panda targets sites with low quality content while Penguin targets sites that are engaged in spammy practices and bad backlinks. There was a Penguin update today, called Penguin 1.1 or Penguin #2, that affects <0.1% of English searches.

Google Penguin | April 24, 2012Google Penguin – April 24, 2012

In Google’s endless fight against webspam (or search spam) it released a new search algorithm named Google Penguin that will affect about 3 percent of all search queries. According to Search Engine Land, Google is fighting against sites with “keyword stuffing; link schemes; cloaking, ‘sneaky’ redirects or ‘doorway’ pages.”

It’s worth noting that while this sounds like an addition to the over-optimization penalty announced by Matt Cutts last month, it’s a fight against spam not SEO. Cutts told Search Engine Land, “I think ‘over-optimization’ wasn’t the best description, because it blurred the distinction between white hat SEO and webspam. This change is targeted at webspam, not SEO, and we tried to make that fact more clear in the blog post.”

Google Panda 3.5 – April 19, 2012

This was the Google Panda update everyone seemed to miss. Google didn’t make a big announcement like it has in the past, but that’s probably because it wasn’t a huge update. Panda 3.5 is another refresh to the Panda algorithm and is designed to improve its ability to fight against websites of lower quality. This update specifically targets sites that utilize “black hat SEO.”

Google Panda 3.4 – March 23, 2012

Google has announced a “Panda refresh,” dubbed Panda 3.4 by Search Engine Land, that will only affect approximately 1.6 percent of all search queries. It’s unclear as of now how big this update really is, but this is clearly another step in Google’s fight against low-quality websites.

Matt Cutts Announces Over-Optimization Penalty – March, 16 2012

According to Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz, Google is working on an algorithm change that would penalize over-optimized sites. Google’s Matt Cutts said, “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.” Stay tuned to this space for more information about over-optimization penalties.

Google Venice – February 27, 2012

In the same blog post that announced Google Panda 3.3, the search company also announced the release of Google Venice. This puts the emphasis on local search results, which will start coming up in organic search results. Google Venice will force more local companies to localize their SEO to improve their rankings.

Panda 3.3 – February 27, 2012

Google’s February update to Panda, update 3.3 is again similar to the previous two updates. Google said, “This launch refreshes data in the Panda system, making it more accurate and more sensitive to recent changes on the web.”

Panda 3.2 – January 18, 2012

Google Panda 3.2 is another minor update to the Google Panda algorithm. Search Engine Land said, like Panda 3.1, it’s just a data refresh and that “there were no additional signals or algorithm changes.”

Top Heavy Update – January 19, 2012

In it’s quest to remove low-quality sites from the top of search results, Google has released what Search Engine Land is calling a “Top Heavy Update.” This update does something Google has never done before; it punishes sites based on their layout. The punishment is based on the number of advertisements “above the fold” (top half of the site). This penalty is projected to only affect less than 1 percent of all searches, so it will likely go unnoticed by ordinary users, but it’s a good reminder to webmasters to keep advertisement placement in mind when designing their sites.

Panda 3.1 – November 18, 2011

This update to Google Panda was very minor. According to Google, it affects less than 1 percent of all search queries. In a tweet, Google referred to Panda 3.1 as an “algorithm data refresh.” One of the things Google Panda fights against is duplicate content, and while duplicate content has been an SEO issue for years, Panda has upped the ante. SEOmoz has a great explanation of how duplicate content is affected by Panda.

Panda 3.0 – October 5, 2011

When Google released Panda 3.0, they barely made a sound. In fact, there was no blog post or mention about it from the company. But Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz said a Googler “expressed that one of the 2.x updates we labeled as a “minor” update, should have likely been named as a major update and thus labelled a 3.0 update. I personally believe that was an October Panda update … ”

Panda 2.5 – Sept. 28, 2011

While Google declined to specifically share what changed in Panda 2.5, there were clear changes for a few sites. But sites like popular tech blog The Next Web, The Today Show and blog aggregator Technorati all saw decreases in traffic via Google. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Android.com, YouTube and AOL.com all went up in search rankings.

Panda 2.4 – August 12, 2011

Update 2.4 is the biggest update to Panda yet. Google released its Panda on all languages except Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Google said that only six to nine percent of all non-English language search results would be affected by Panda 2.4 as opposed to the 12 percent of English-language sites affected. Because Google Panda is changing the way the search engine views content, link building expert Eric Ward has some great suggestions on how to combat Google Panda.

Panda 2.3 – July 23, 2011

This is another minor update to Google Panda in the form of Panda 2.3. According to Google, this was a manually-pushed update that “incorporates some new signals that help differentiate between higher- and lower-quality sites. As a result, some sites are ranking higher after this most recent update.”

Panda 2.2 – June 21, 2011

When Google rolled out Panda 2.2, it improved its detection of scraper sites, further enhancing search results for users.

Panda 2.1  – May 9, 2011

Google said this update to Panda, update 2.1, is a minor change in comparison to Panda 2.0. The search giant also said that a much smaller percentage of sites will be affected by Panda 2.1.

Panda 2.0 – April 11, 2011

The first update to Google Panda expanded Panda’s reach to all English-language search queries. This update also incorporated data about sites than individual users blocked in either the Chrome browser or via the SERPs.

Panda 1.0 – February 23, 2011

This is Google’s initial update to its search algorithm, which targeted content farms and scraper sites. The update, deemed Google Panda, was designed to lower the rankings of sites that simply reproduce other websites’ content or pack their sites full of extraneous keywords. The goal was to make the search experience better for all users and will affect around 12 percent of all websites. When Panda first debuted, it only affected search queries in the US.

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