At the start of 2012, Google seemed to come out of the gate with both barrels blasting. They were ready to show webmasters that they were serious about improving the quality of sites, and improving the user’s experience. These changes left many webmasters reeling, and scrambling to make changes and improvements. By now, most online marketing companies seem to have a good handle on what is working and what the necessary changes are to cooperate with the new and improved algorithms and get back to a good search engine placement.
Here is a recap of some of the biggest changes that have affected SEO in 2012:
1. The Penguin Update: This one seemed to shock the SEO world, even more than last year’s Panda Update. Penguin came along and added to the changes that Panda started. First, it was just poor content that was a problem, now the links were being seriously examined. Google penalized thousands, or more, of sites that had what they considered to be unnatural links.
2. Google Messages: Not only were sites penalized, but many sites received a personal message from Google that warned them about their sites, and the links on their sites. Some reports indicate that Google sent out nearly a million warnings to webmasters, scolding them for their bad links and threatening them with further penalties if the links were not removed. This sent webmasters into a tailspin, and overran many of the internet marketing firms with new clients needing serious overhaul to their site. Google offered a new tool, the Disavow Tool, to help webmasters take control over which links stayed active on their sites.
3. Over-optimization: Another side effect of the Penguin update, sites that were over-optimized found themselves dropping in the SERPs considerably. This mainly affected sites that used repetitive titles and tags, and used their main keywords for more than 50% of the anchor text for links. As it turns out, online marketing firms are finding that one or two links within a post or article seem to help, but considerably more turns into what they consider over-optimization.
4. Personalized searching: Google, more and more, is customizing the results that a user sees based on their search history. This can help the SEO efforts when the user has already been to your site, but if they are shopping around for products, they are increasingly likely to get results that include sites that they have already discovered. This makes your SEO more important than ever, because breaking into these SERPs can be a challenge.
5. Google Places and other products:Local search has become stronger than ever. Google tends to prefer sites that belong to users of Google products. Having a Google Places page, as well as other products like Google+, is going to help you rank higher in the Google SERPs.
These are only a few of the major changes brought to SEO by the changes made by Google in the past year or so. Understanding what these changes and updates mean to your SEO plan is important if you plan on keeping (or improving) your placement in the SERPs.