For Better Or Worse, A Lot Of Change Is Coming To Google SEO

    May 15, 2013
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Google has a lot of stuff in the works that will have a direct impact on webmasters and the search engine optimization community. In a seven-minute “Webmaster Help” video, Google’s Matt Cutts (sporting a Mozilla Firefox shirt), ran down much of what Google’s webspam team has planned for the coming months, and what it all means for webmasters. It involves the Penguin update, the Panda update, advertorials, hacked sites, link spam, and a lot more.

Are you paying close attention to Google’s algorithm updates these days? Are you looking forward to the updates, or are you afraid of what they will bring? Let us know in the comments.

Cutts is careful to note that any of this information is subject to change, and should be taken with a grain of salt, but this pretty much the kind of stuff they have planned at the moment.


We already knew the Penguin update was on the way, and he touches on that.

“We’re relatively close to deploying the next generation of Penguin,” says Cutts. “Internally we call it ‘Penguin 2.0,’ and again, Penguin is a webspam change that’s dedicated to try to find black hat webspam, and try to target and address that. So this one is a little more comprehensive than Penguin 1.0, and we expect it to go a little bit deeper in have a little bit more of an impact than the original version of Penguin.”

Before the video came out, Cutts was already talking about this update on Twitter, saying that it would be “larger” and roll out in the “next few weeks”.

Updates To Panda

Google recently changed its updating strategy for Panda. Webmasters use to anxiously await coming Panda updates, but Google has turned it into a rolling update, meaning that it will continue to update often and regularly, to the point where anticipating any one big update is not really possible any longer. On top of that, Google stopped announcing them, as it just doesn’t make sense for them to do so anymore.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t Panda news, as Cutts has proven. It turns out that the Panda that has haunted so many webmasters over the last couple years may start easing up a little bit, and become (dare I say?) a bit friendlier.

Cutts says, “We’ve also been looking at Panda, and seeing if we can find some additional signals (and we think we’ve got some) to help refine things for the sites that are kind of in the border zone – in the gray area a little bit. And so if we can soften the effect a little bit for those sites that we believe have some additional signals of quality, then that will help sites that have previously been affected (to some degree) by Panda.”

Sites And Their Authority

If you’re an authority on any topic, and you write about it a lot, this should be good news (in a perfect world, at least).

“We have also been working on a lot of ways to help regular webmasters,” says Cutts. “We’re doing a better job of detecting when someone is more of an authority on a specific space. You know, it could be medical. It could be travel. Whatever. And try to make sure that those rank a little more highly if you’re some sort of authority or a site, according to the algorithms, we think might be a little more appropriate for users.”


Also on the Google menu is a bigger crackdown on advertorials.

“We’ve also been looking at advertorials,” says Cutts .”That is sort of native advertising – and those sorts of things that violate our quality guidelines. So, again, if someone pays for coverage, or pays for an ad or something like that, those ads should not flow PageRank. We’ve seen a few sites in the U.S. and around the world that take money and do link to websites, and pass PageRank, so we’ll be looking at some efforts to be a little bit stronger on our enforcement as advertorials that violate our quality guidelines.”

“There’s nothing wrong inherently with advertorials or native advertising, but they should not flow PageRank, and there should be clear and conspicuous disclosure, so that users realize that something is paid – not organic or editorial,” he adds.

Queries With High Spam Rates

Google will also be working harder on certain types of queries that tend to draw a lot of spam.

Cutts says, “We get a lot of great feedback from outside of Google, so, for example, there were some people complaining about searches like ‘payday loans’ on Google.co.uk. So we have two different changes that try to tackle those kinds of queries in a couple different ways. We can’t get into too much detail about exactly how they work, but I’m kind of excited that we’re going from having just general queries be a little more clean to going to some of these areas that have traditionally been a little more spammy, including for example, some more pornographic queries, and some of these changes might have a little bit more of an impact on those kinds of areas that are a little more contested by various spammers and that sort of thing.”

Denying Value To Link Spam

Google will continue to be vigilant when it comes to all types of link spam, and has some new tricks up its sleeve, apparently.

Cutts says, “We’re also looking at some ways to go upstream to deny the value to link spammers – some people who spam links in various ways. We’ve got some nice ideas on ways that that becomes less effective, and so we expect that that will roll out over the next few months as well.”

“In fact, we’re working on a completely different system that does more sophisticated link analysis,” he adds. “We’re still in the early days for that, but it’s pretty exciting. We’ve got some data now that we’re ready to start munching, and see how good it looks. We’ll see whether that bears fruit or not.”

Hopefully this won’t lead to a whole lot of new “fear of linking” from webmasters, as we’ve seen since Penguin first rolled out, but that’s probably wishful thinking.

Hacked Sites

Google intends to get better on the hacked sites front.

“We also continue to work on hacked sites in a couple different ways,” says Cutts. “Number one: trying to detect them better. We hope in the next few months to roll out a next-generation site detection that is even more comprehensive, and also trying to communicate better to webmasters, because sometimes they see confusion between hacked sites and sites that serve up malware, and ideally, you’d have a one-stop shop where once someone realizes that they’ve been hacked, they can go to Webmaster Tools, and have some single spot where they could go and have a lot more info to sort of point them in the right way to hopefully clean up those hacked sites.”

Clusters Of Results From The Same Site

There have been complaints about domain clustering in Google’s results, and Google showing too many results from the same domain on some queries.

Cutts says, “We’ve also heard a lot of feedback from people about – if I go down three pages deep, I’ll see a cluster of several results all from one domain, and we’ve actually made things better in terms of – you would be less likely to see that on the first page, but more likely to see that on the following pages. And we’re looking a change, which might deploy, which would basically say that once you’ve seen a cluster of results from one site, then you’d be less likely to see more results from that site as you go deeper into the next pages of Google search results.”

“We’re going to keep trying to figure out how we can give more information to webmasters…we’re also going to be looking for ways that we can provide more concrete details, [and] more example URLs that webmasters can use to figure out where to go to diagnose their site.”

So Google has a lot of stuff in the works that SEOs and webmasters are going to want to keep a close eye on. It’s going to be interesting to see the impact it all has. Given that Google makes algorithm changes every day, this has to be far from everything they have in the works, but I guess the video makes up for the lack of “Search Quality HIghlights” from Google in recent months. Still wondering if those are ever coming back. They were, after all, released to keep Google more transparent.

What do you think of the changes Matt Cutts talked about. Looking forward to any of them? Dreading any? Let us know in the comments.

  • http://www.yogurtiera.eu Alba

    I’m getting confused by all these info about next future. I guess the best way is to keep working as usual and wait until next change/changes.

  • Sammy M

    If Google needs to make 500+ changes to search ranking algorithms every year, isn’t it obvious their algorithms are broken…….

    People who use broken search engine – will make mistake every day, get wrong information, buy wrong products/services at higher price.

    Learn browser “Bookmarking” 😉

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      By the reasoning that changes = broken, is it safe to assume you still ride a horse and buggy to work each day or, have you updated your modes of transportation with the latest technology available as time passed?

      • Sammy M

        Change means people will stop using Google! just like we stopped using Altavista, Excite etc. Already we SMB company website and E-commerce website owners are feeling cheated, google is freely “using” our content to sell advertising and sending us no traffic.

        Displaying Adwords advertising at the top is fine. But manipulating the search engine results pages 3-4 times a day to increase adwords click through is not kosher. Major manipulation and traffic shaping is also happening through “Autocomplete”. It is subtly misguiding people to wrong products/services and making them pay higher prices.

        • http://www.conceptworld.com/ Gautam Jain

          Google need to make the changes because people are very creative in black hat techniques. External circumstances keep changing (social network, html standards, ways of cheating – most challenging, javascript etc).

  • http://www.opace.co.uk Opace

    More changes? Thanks for posting, its good to always be on top of any new updates and changes relating to SEO and Google in general.

  • http://geekyfaust.info Faust

    This is a bit scary for some webmasters and seo’s out there.

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      Scary for SEO’s, I agree. Scary for webmasters? Why?

      If one’s webmastery is based on SEO, I can understand but if one’s webmastery is based on the original guidelines that Google published years and years ago, there is little to worry about.

      • http://www.seointelbiz.com/10-updates-announced-by-matt-cutts-in-terms-of-seo-for-google.html Manohar Thakur

        That is not scary at all ,if we focus only on good content.

  • John

    Yes I watched the lying Matt Cutts talk about a level playing field. I supported efforts against treaties Matt said would make SERPS nothing but the big boys…Google did that on their own concerning products.

  • http://www.frontlineweb.biz Mick

    I say don’t believe the hype, it just does my head in google this google that.

  • Kevin

    Abandon google, get your traffic elsewhere. The WORST position to be in is getting the majority of your traffic from google, because you could lose it all in a second… I NEVER look at google anymore, and I do MUCH better than when I did

    Bottom line on Google is that they are trying to push all webmasters into adsense

  • http://ripsychotherapy.com Mike

    Nicely done. Thanks for the timely heads up on this. The last set of changes put what I thought were spam, e.g., paid directories, the white pages, etc. on page one for searches that would otherwise target my site. Hopefully, that gets undone on the next round.

  • http://robertjduncan.me Robert J. Duncan

    Just noticed the Like and Dislike buttons. Nice, but the size of them is distracting. You could just get rid of the words “Like” and “Dislike” since you have icons?

  • http://www.run-it-direct.co.uk Dave

    I posted comments on Matt’s own blog but unsurprisingly they never got published! Even since MayDay our sites have been subject to a Google “glass cieling”. Daily traffic is manipulated to such a degree that out data shows the same site visits per day going back years! Each update since has taken a little bit more away from the small players like us yet we see SERP’s ALWAYS dominated by Amazon & eBay. Google used to be a way for the little guys to complete, these days they seem intent on KILLING us in favor of big brands & sites. We aren’t alone here, many site owners see the same thing in different countries too! Google has slowly killed what the Internet was all about in the last 2 years or so, maybe these next round of updates will reverse that somewhat, somehow my gut tells me the opposite will be true! Only time will tell…..

    • John

      And it was all of us small niche sites that supported and MADE Google from the start … They have thrown us under the bus.

  • http://searchengine-socialmedia-optimization.blogspot.com/ Kajal

    Thanks for posting, its good to always be on top of any new updates and changes relating to SEO and Google in general, and WEBPRO NEWS is always next to Matt Cutts :-)

  • http://www.bing.com Jon

    Organic for the big boys. Adsense for you and me.
    Publicly of course, they’ve taken the cape against “evil web spam” from killing us in our sleep.

  • http://www.onlinetv.com Randy Penn

    Google is a lost cause. It is <strong?NOT A SEARCH ENGINE. It is an advertising engine with the largest affiliate network in the world. It’s updates force those interested in its advertising search to do the work it’s product should do. What kind of bull is it to ask you to disclose to them which links should pass their “juice” which is a secret google formula? They created their juice but can’t control it? Then they penalize you in their advertising search for passing juice you have no idea how it is created or passed? They want you to mark ANYONE ELSE you sell advertising because they can’t tell and want you to just do adsense? SO WHAT ARE THEY? Slavers renting you space on their returns if you till their soil.

  • Anthem

    I haven’t even bothered to look at what Google are doing for a couple of years so I thought I’d read this article when it landed in my Inbox to see what state we’re at.

    They still seem to really hate people buying links, don’t they?

    I still don’t understand what their problem is. Surely when people are buying links for a certain phrase, that is doing half of Google’s job for them in terms of relevancy.

    You wouldn’t buy links for “Buy iPads in the UK” if you sold bottles of chilli sauce in Norway, would you?

    Still idiots. I’ll go back to ignoring them for a while.

  • https://nfanflorida.com/ Rod Vaughn

    If we could just get rid of the exact match domain ranking, that is the surest way to create a bunch of spam sites. We keep hearing about branding, but how many people actually brand with their keywords, almost none!

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      You are assuming that exact-match domains have anything to do with search results. SEO’s will tell you they do but then again they will say that URLs are important too, with their only proof is that Google highlights searched for terms, wherever they exist in a given listing.

      Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar but to many SEO’s who have forgotten or never even knew of the Google Webmaster Guidelines in the first place, a cigar could be an alien space ship hovering over search land ready to stick an alien probe in any webmaster not properly “protected” by an intergalactic SEO.

      I think more often is the case that it is the SEO’s hoping to stick a money probe into those gullible enough to believe them.

  • http://www.anytimepetsitters.com Randy Fox

    Google will be rolling out it’s new algorithm called Dung Beetle which personifies Google taking manure and rolling it up in a ball. Matt Cutts is a weenie, smart a## nerd. When is Google going to understand Google is a search engine. The want adwords sales but you have to spend a dollar to make a dime. Bing it on! My friends and Yahoo is doing well too. They know what a search engine is. Plus they are not guilty of hiding profits offshore, not paying their fair share of taxes,antitrust, privacy invasion and a litany of high crimes Google has committed Google has lost it. The beginning of the end.

  • http://www.procalisxonline.info Reuben

    Double standard that is what. Buy (or pay for) Ads? For God’s sake what does Google do with adwords? Are they giving those away FOC (Free Of Charge)?

    I can write a whole “Encyclopedia” about my findings with the so called Google “Good Guy” attitude for the past years. Money is what it is all about and “little guys” have no place among “Giants”.

    Is there a way we webmasters as well as users can boycott Google?

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      So write your encyclopedia and make money if you think you can.

      As for boycotting Google, add a line to your robots.txt file to prevent the Google-bots from crawling your site. A webmaster would know how to do that.

  • http://www.marketsharewebdesign.com/ Kathy

    Can’t wait for the next update. Hoping to see some improvements. One year is a long time to wait for an update to Penguin. Surely they are going to make some improvements on that beast.

  • http://localmarketingmuscle.com Thaddaeus Hubbard

    So far all of the Google changes have benefited me and my websites. Let me keep my fingers crossed that my “good luck” will continue.

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      I would guess you followed, whether you knew it or not, the Google Webmaster Guidelines and so Google algo changes have only ever benefited your site, as they only ever have sites of mine.

      Let those who don’t know what they are doing try to guess what Google is doing and take their shortcuts that they think will help them, which they will find more often than not only hurt.

  • http://www.superiorwebsitehosting.com Brandon

    Does anyone else get shivers when they read: “whatever…we think might be a little more appropriate for users”. Google has a little too much power if they think they control what’s “appropriate for users”. Ridiculous!!!

    Anyway the best advice about SEO I ever got was don’t worry so much about SEO. Google’s going to do whatever it wants to do and it has the power to do it so why stress over it. If Google doesn’t want your site to rank there ain’t a damn thing you or your SEO guru can do about it no matter what kind of SEO strategy you use.

    I’ve been in this industry long enough to see brand new sites with almost zero back links have a PR of 4 and an 8 year old site with tons of unique content and thousands of quality, natural back links with a PR of 1. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. It’s truly whatever Google thinks is best.

    Let’s just all bow to the all mighty Google and be done with it.

    PS – Google keeps making all these promises about “authority sites” yet on the first or second search result for almost every search is a wikipedia article. How’s that for a double standard?

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      Based on what users click on, click back on, stay but a second before bouncing or spend hours clicking through a website that they’ve come across in search, Google has a very good idea what users are looking for.

      It’s not rocket science.

  • Anon

    Google is after one thing, total control. It is a corporation, and corporations are all the same in their very nature – total domination of a market and the creation of a monopoly.

    No business should EVER have so much control over others. One little tweak and they could put millions of people out of business.

    No one elected Google as “internet Police”. It has been given total power and control, and it is a private profit-making corporation. This should NOT BE LEGAL.

  • http://binaryone.com.au/train-tracker/ AllanIT

    Wow what a lot of negativity.

    If there is one thing in life you can rely on it is change. Role with the punches guys.

    In my experience those who complain the loudest are the ones who get caught with there hands in the cookie jar. :)

  • http://www.gorillasafariholiday.com Wilberforce

    I just need to see Page rank.

  • http://www.neverpaintagain.co.uk The house painter

    Well, at least Mr Cutts bothered to tell everyone what to expect this time. From what i can gather, as far as google is concerned, do not pay for ANY links at all, only earn them, and write good content. Paid for social bookmarks, no, paying for articles with a link back, no, paying for being interviewed and a link back, another no. It’s probably gonna kill off a lot of SEO services on the net for sure, plus loads of sellers on fiverr .com!

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      Killing off a lot of fake SEO ‘services’ would be a good thing.

      Follow the Webmaster Guidelines and one can’t really go wrong.

  • http://www.run-it-direct.co.uk Dave

    Unless of course you are a big corp like Interflora eh??!! They got slapped for all of a week. What do you think would be the outcome for a small player? Yep, business OVER. Double standards, big players get granular help from Google, small get stamped all over & forgotten.Oh great, today see’s the return of junk foreign traffic yet again for us. That means one thing & one thing only, they are rolling out something that will take another bite from our ass & hand it to Amazon & eBay.

  • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

    The only updates I’ve ever paid any attention to have been updates to the Google Webmaster Guidelines, which have been virtually zero other than style and layout from day 1.

    Anything else is nothing more than a matter of treating the symptoms without touching the cause.

    The rankings on pages I’ve published, some of them 6 and 7 years old, haven’t dropped out of the first 3 slots that they’ve been in pretty much since being crawled after publishing.

    All of Google’s engine and filter updates are nothing if little more than their attempt to get closer and closer to making the webmaster guidelines a programmatic reality.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/full-service-seo Nick Stamoulis

    It’s going to be an interesting couple of weeks. We can speculate and argue and panic but until the hammer actually falls no one can say for sure what is going to happen or who is going to get caught. Just be honest with yourself about your SEO–is there anything in your past that might land you in hot water?

  • http://fruition.net/ Anca Bradley

    Cutts said that the update will target the black hat SEO practices for website, so less and less spammy links. If you’re doing what you’re supposed to by getting relevant backlinks, you should be fine.

    There is a free tool that will tell you how a Google update affected your website called the Google Penalty Checker http://fruition.net/seo/google-penalty-checker-tool-launches/. It’d be great to use and see how the Penguin 2.0 affected your site.

  • Ashley Ayling

    Well what can one say, in my opinion it’s high about time that Google clamped down on the tricksters and slightly grey tax tic operators. Surly google has the ability to find, locate and penalise all But they won’t ! They will focus on small to medium operators as usual, punishing them and letting the high rollers and large blue chips get away with there usual approach, what once used to be a level playing field of sorts has now become a google £ $ munching machine. Those who can pay through the nose will pay and the rest that can’t or won’t will fall by the wayside. I have been preaching content over pounds for many years, however google is keen to portray the best and most ethical practices however BIG BUSINESS lays the way and after google has to satisfy the shareholders greed. For a company that promised to do no evil many years back , go tell that to the business owners who were crippled and busted up no thanks to their last set of updates, which delivered no real quality benefits non what so ever …

  • http://www.anytimepetsitters.com Randy Fox

    Content!!! What ever happened to simplicity? I have a very small business I can’t afford a full time web master to write a novel. I have a cute entertaining & informative website what do they want Shakespeare? Stop black hat spam and mature sites being available to kids and otherwise keep your nose out of the internet. Google now working with the Bilderberg group. The over paid elite leftist nerds are detached from reality.
    The secretive Bilderberg Group is currently undergoing a major transformation that will see it and other high profile networks merge under the banner of Google as the elite accelerates its plan to consolidate its technocratic agenda.

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  • http://promotions-pr.com Sue Zhang

    The updates is alerting towards public relations and advertising people.

    Advertorial is too much a “natural” way to gain news-like exposure online and offline. If doing advertorial with hyperlink back to clients’ webpage is penalizible by Google, it may have considerable impact on the availability and price for online advertorial.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3VQjxyjy7w Simon

    SEO plan is going to be more sophisticated when the new Penguin 2.0 updates comes, but the key principles of SEO keeps the same, It is all about providing high value content and maximize the outreach methods that naturally attract traffic, links, shares, leads and sales. Content marketing is likely to search all purpose rather than just getting or driving traffic. Content marketing will help us build brand and boost conversion rate.

  • John

    Frankly, I thinks Cutts say’s many things to purposely mislead us!

  • http://www.intersmart.in John Ren

    Changing algorithms is always welcome. It will help people who using white hat method to improve ranking in google.

  • http://www.websitedesign-cwd.co.uk Hayley

    It would be great to see a bit more transparency from Google & communication.

  • http://anuragaggarwalinstituteofpublicspeaking.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/public-speaking-tips-on-award-acceptance/ Anurag Aggarwal, Public Speaking Trainer

    This is a big change but as it is said people would now choose fairer ways for their websites.