[avatar user=”Mark Alperin” size=”thumbnail” align=”right”]

The Summer of Algorithm Changes

The last few months have been tumultuous ones in the world of search algorithms and SEO, with potentially devastating results. It is difficult to remember the last time there were so many different updates happening simultaneously and over such a long period. The worst part? It doesn’t look like it will slow down, at least not for some time. A lot of the changes are incorporating filters into algorithms and setting up a process of updates that happen monthly with a roll out period. That means we are seeing rankings bouncing around. The majority of the updates have had to do with spam but perfectly good content with perfectly good backlink profiles are being penalized as well. Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on.


Panda updates are now updated monthly with rollouts over a 10 day period. So basically, 1/3 of every month is chewed up with Panda changes and normalization. There has also been an emphasis on softening Panda’s impact, though the extent of that is unknown. However, we do know that a new one is propagating now.


We’ve talked a lot about Penguin updates and a lot about why we’ve liked them. There isn’t any new here, so I won’t waste time on things we’ve already covered. I’ll just mention, in case you live in a bubble or nothing of SEO, that there was a major Google update this past May that rolled out and normalized in a swift day or two. Google stated that they won’t be informing us on new algorithm releases anymore, so we’ll have to see if they are equally as swift or will follow this trend of rolling out over multiple days.

Mobile Sites:

Google’s interest in keeping the Internet a user-friendly place and applying that to the mobile world isn’t anything new. There has however, been a new update to what they want to see from the mobile experience and that experience is directly influencing rankings. The update has to do having a mobile friendly site and it’s configuration. A specific example deals with how mobile websites handle links pointing to the site. Google doesn’t want to see those links being redirected to the mobile home page even if isn’t the mobile URL listed in the link, the site should simply display the mobile version of that page. It’s hard to argue with good UI and it only makes sense.  For the most, the penalties here are contained within smartphone / mobile searches and shouldn’t affect non-mobile searches. Additional factors to look out for here in the future include mobile-site specific load times. This is another updated that was is/was being rolled out over time. The best answer to a good mobile site: responsive design!

Spammy Queries:

In the middle of June, Google rolled out an algorithm update that dealt with spammy, big money keywords. It also seems to have affected a good amount of commercial keywords, not just ones related to spam and their industries. Spam keywords like pay day loans, give another example and related keywords were targeted,  Yet again, another update rolled out over time. Is there a trend here? I think so.

Image Searches:

While this isn’t exactly an algorithm update, it most certainly impacts traffic and referrals from Google. Technically this happened before summers started, but it was only a couple months ago. Google changed the way images are displayed in the image search, which I think is great because things are looking much better. What they also changed however is how the user interacts with images. Before when a user clicked an image, the site that hosted the image would be displayed behind the image, which would be displayed over it. That made it easy for a website to get traffic from images through an organic method. Now, when an image is pulled up the site isn’t loaded, the user stays on Google’s site and needs a click to move off Google’s domain. The addition of this extra click has the effect of decreasing referral traffic from Google and thus decreasing traffic from organically ranking images.

10 Changes Matt Cutt’s said we should expect over the summer:

  • Penguin Update
  • Advertorial Spam
  • Spam Queries
  • Going Upstream At Link Spammers
  • Sophisticated Link Analysis
  • Improvements On Hacked Sites
  • Authority Boost In Algorithm
  • Panda To Soften
  • Domain Clusters In SERPs
  • Improved Webmaster Communication

I’ve been reading that things should settle down by the middle of July, I guess we will have to wait and see. Keyword tracking has been an up and down roller coaster ride. Actually organic traffic on sites seems to be a bit more normal than the keyword rankings would indicate. Of course, it’s always best to look at multiple metrics and real work traffic rather than hyper focusing on any one metric or just keyword ranking.  Time will tell how all of these updates shake out, we’re just glad that we keep things white hat and have strong social, PPC and other tools in our belts rather than relying on any one strategy.