Reviewing Google’s Updates for 2011

Every year Google creates hundreds of updates to the way their search engine produces search results. Although it is hard to keep track of all these updates, SEOMoz produces a list of the most important Google updates. If you are thinking about ways to improve your website, this list is a solid place to start. If you are short on time like most, here is a quick checklist for the top three that are most relevant for the little guy for 2011.

The Panda Update

“Panda seemed to crack down on thin content, content farms, sites with high ad-to-content ratios, and a number of other quality issues.”

The Panda update has been a part of multiple updates throughout the year starting on February 23rd of this year. At the heart of the Panda update Google reinforced a core message; websites that produce quality, relevant, unique content will be rewarded over those that rely on scraped content, thin content, content farms or those pages focused on mostly on ads. The take-away: make sure your content is unique, relevant, and there is more of it than there is other elements on a page. Some have a hard time with how vague all of these ideas sound particularly with thin content. For more on this see my post on thin content.

The Schema Update

“Google, Yahoo and Microsoft jointly announced support for a consolidated approach to structured data. They also created a number of new “schemas”, in an apparent bid to move toward even richer search results.”

The Schema update hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves considering that this was a joint announcement by the big 3. Anytime the major search engines agree on something, it is worth making a note. The Schema update offers a way to mark up content with micro-data types. The take-away: as the Search Engine Land Schema post mentions, ”If you’re building out a new site structure and want to have support built in, especially as the engines use microdata in other ways, then it makes sense to include it.” Although you might not go through every page right now, it is important to consider weaving into your overall SEO plan going forward.

Query Encryption Update

“Google announced they would be encrypting search queries, for privacy reasons. Unfortunately, this disrupted organic keyword referral data, returning ‘(not provided)’ for some organic traffic. This number increased in the weeks following the launch.”

When someone is logged into their Google account while performing a search instead of showing the keywords the person used to get to a site, Google instead shows “not provided.” Interesting about this update is that the paid Adwords subscribers would still see the data. If the update was really for security reasons then it should apply regardless on if the user paid Google or not. In feedback to SEOMoz, some users were seeing up to 50% of their traffic affected. The take-away: there will always be updates from Google could negatively impact your site or your analysis. It is best to make sure that your efforts are focused beyond Google such as with other search engines like Bing, social media, and other online alternatives.

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