When we think of summer, we envision children playing in pools, beach BBQs and much-needed family vacations. But, for webmasters, the summer may become anything but bright, sun-filled and cheery.
Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, released a video that details what Google is planning for the next few months. And although some of these changes may boost webmasters’ sites, anytime Google makes BIG changes, someone inadvertently loses their shirt.
Should you be worried?
According to Cutts, what he often states in many media outlets… if you create high quality content and a valuable user experience for visitors, you shouldn’t really be focused on Google’s changes and how they can impact your site.
But, I am sure the thousands of webmasters who lost their rankings and their income after Panda and Penguin would beg to differ.
The primary question asked of Cutts was, “What should we expect in the next few months in terms of SEO for Google?”
Here is a rundown of the changes as summarized by Matt Cutts…
Penguin 1.0 was the “macdaddy” of all Google updates. It sent thousands of webmasters into a panicked state.
If you were a fly on the wall of the Google forums around April to July of last year, you will recall the surge of people complaining about their lost rankings as a result of Google Penguin. It was like an all out war on Google.
To summarize, Penguin dealt specifically with over-optimization, whether on site or in links. It downgraded sites for over-optimizing link anchor text and using any other technique to manipulate Google rankings.
Penguin 2.0 is on its way and it will rival Penguin 1.0. According to Cutts, Penguin 2.0 will be more comprehensive and it will go deeper than Penguin 1.0 which means it will impact more sites.
The silver lining?
Some sites experienced an increase in their rankings after Google Penguin. You don’t hear about these sites often because who would want to wave a piece of meat in front of a den of hungry lions? Would you gloat about your positive boost in a forum of complaining webmasters out to sue Google?
If you follow Google’s webmaster guidelines, there is a good chance you will notice a positive boost in your rankings once Penguin 2.0 launches. Someone has to fill the spots of the websites that lose rankings… and it might as well be you.
Cutts spoke specifically about advertorials that violate Google’s quality guidelines.
If you pay for ads, they should not pass PageRank. Whenever you advertise, your links should be nofollow so you do not float PageRank or earn any organic ranking success from the links. If you do, Google could penalize you—no matter how popular you are.
The well-known flower delivery website in the UK, Interflora, was penalized in February for doing some form of this and they lost their page one rankings instantly once Google discovered their “suspect” practices.
According to Cutts, you cannot pay for rankings. They are earned. They should also have clear disclosure that they are paid ads so users realize they are not editorial in nature.
Better Spam Detection
Google is getting more serious about detecting spammy queries. In the video, Cutts offered the example keyword “payday loans” and mentioned pornographic searches. Because of the input Google receives from webmasters who complain about these types of queries, Google has made a decision to take a closer look.
Link spammers beware! It seems like Google is getting even more sophisticated at detecting spammy links. I predict that by the end of the summer many existing blog networks that have remained under the radar will feel the sting of a new Google paradigm.
Cutts said Google is working on improving their link analysis and it is in the early stages of developing a more sophisticated system for link analysis. Though this system is still in the early stages, we will continue to see more changes as Google dedicates its time to deterring link spammers and devaluing spammy and low quality, forced links.
Tip: Never use automated tools to acquire links. These tools most likely take advantage of blog or site networks and if you use them, you will have no control over your link profile. Nothing good can come of this—especially since Google is getting smarter. Acquire links naturally via creating link-worthy content and reaching out to partner with organizations and blogs who want to publish your valuable content.
The Last Shall Be First?
Google is shifting its focus on what Cutts calls “regular webmasters.”
These webmasters may run a site that is not necessarily a large budget brand, but it is an authority in its industry. According to Cutts, Google is doing a better job of detecting when someone is an authority in a space and trying to rank those sites a little higher. The changes coming will help small/medium businesses as well as “regular webmasters” gain a little more ground in the rankings.
Were you hit by Panda? Still haven’t fully recovered? There may be hope for you.
If your site falls into what Cutts calls the “gray area,” you may see a boost in rankings during the next few months. These “gray area” sites have been affected by Panda, but they also display additional signs of quality. For these sites, the changes coming will soften the effects of Panda and help those previously affected.
Cutts also mentioned better detection for hacked sites and an increase in communication transparency between Google and webmasters. Also, Google will work on improving the search pages as it relates to clusters of results. If you see a cluster of results from one site, you would be less likely to see results from that same site as you search deeper into the next pages.
Are these changes set in stone?
Not at all. Cutts said this is just a rough snapshot of what is to come but Google can change the plans at any time. In fact, he said to take them with a “grain of salt.” How’s that for a disclaimer?
If I were a betting woman (and I’m not), I would put my money on Penguin 2.0 as being a sure thing—to be launched sooner, rather than later. And then the obliteration of more link networks will soon follow.
What do you think? Are you concerned/curious about the next round of Google changes?