Friday, January 21st, 2011

How 2011 Google Algorithm Changes May Affect You


Photo of Matt Cutts - head of web spam prevention at GoogleGoogle’s Matt Cutts recently announced enhancements to its spam reduction methods that have already taken place and are impacting search engine results.

NOTE: First I will recount some of what he said but if you want to get to the meat of it all skip below to “So What Does this Mean for Your Website?”.

And now, without further adieu let us start with a snapshot on the gravy Matt Cutt’s dished:

… we recently launched a redesigned document-level classifier that makes it harder for spammy on-page content to rank highly. The new classifier is better at detecting spam on individual web pages, e.g., repeated spammy words—the sort of phrases you tend to see in junky, automated, self-promoting blog comments.

This is great news for many of us but there is a wide swath of decent businesses with legitimate products and services who have top rankings partly due to overly optimized content; in many cases they were forced to use the techniques competitors were winning with. It is these businesses that could feel the wrath of this update along with the additional updates to come in 2011 according to Matt Cutts:

… we hear the feedback from the web loud and clear: people are asking for even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content.

And we’re evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content. We’ll continue to explore ways to reduce spam, including new ways for users to give more explicit feedback about spammy and low-quality sites.

So What Does this Mean For Your Website?

Depending on the current status of your website this could have a variable impact:

  1. If your website does not have overly repetitious keyword use (pretty obvious – do specific keywords appear many times over?) you are not likely to be affected by the spammy keyword issue.
  2. If you own a site that has a lot of repetitious wording and high rankings you are likely weary of proactively messing with your content – I get that. That said, if you see rankings take a tumble at least you will have a good idea of why and what to do next; you need to tone down your word repetition and then wait for Google to index the revisions and see how it reacts. If you don’t see improvement in rankings within a couple of weeks you may need to request reconsideration using your Google Webmaster Tools account.
  3. If you have a new website and you are trying to compete in a competitive marketplace you may be tempted to copy competitors who are successfully using keyword repetition to attain top rankings; however, that would be a mistake. I suggest creating lots of excellent content (all original), optimizing it carefully, then using a blog to disseminate great articles which, in-turn, help to build your link base. Links drive a great deal of the credibility Google looks for when considering site rankings so this is the better long term solution for success. It is only the borderline spammy sites that have been online for a long time which may succeed in weathering these filters due to the credibility they have already achieved.
    Link Building TIPs: how to build high quality links.

Last but not least, if your website features a high percentage of reproduced content from other websites you MUST make changes immediately and create your own custom content. There is no question whatsoever Google is going to be taking a hard-line on websites with little original value.

Questions? Listen in to the next episode of SEO 101 on WebmasterRadio.FM where my co-host John Carcutt and I (Ross Dunn) will be discussing these developments. The show airs live every Monday at 2pm PST / 5pm EST and you can download past recordings (all 60+ episodes) of SEO 101 for free on iTunes here.

Still have a question? Okay, here are two options, one is for private inquiries and the other for public.

by Ross Dunn, CEO, StepForth Web Marketing Inc.
Increasing the bottom line online for businesses since 1997

30 Responses to “How 2011 Google Algorithm Changes May Affect You”

  1. Bryan P. Hollis

    Great article! I have an seo firm that provides a lot of (quality) writing services. Late 2009, I decided to take our small firm to another direction, an additional direction if you will. I was just about to run a report for a client with the auditing software that we use (it consistently checks and upgrades the software). When I got started, there was in fact an upgrade with an alert that Google algorithms had made a change, so I immediately found this article. (It also mentioned the addition of a few international Google search engines as well) Anyhow, it’s good that someone had the jump on this. I would like to write about it as well, I’m just not sure that I have anything to add. Maybe I’ll casually mention the changes to Google in general, and one-way link back to you specifically regarding the algorithms. Bryan P. Hollis

  2. Tihomir Petrov

    very true and good advices. Praise you!

  3. Ross Dunn

    Hi Bryan, thanks for the kind comments. I would certainly appreciate any link to our article(s) you can provide. In addition, if you have any new and substantive intel to add please let me know and I will happily link to it as well. Cheers, Ross

  4. Dana Lookadoo

    I have a query space I’ll be watching and crossing fingers the link farm moves out of #1 placement.I downloaded the Chrome extension and reported the site. Thanks, Ross!

    Look forward to listening to the SEO 101 podcast coverage!

  5. Steven van Vessum

    Good article Ross! I see some (positive) big changes in the rankings for some of my clients in the Netherlands. The measures are having an effect already!

  6. Kes

    I can’t believe in this day and age anyone still tries to keyword stuff! SEO is all about not compromising the user experience. If you need a higher ranking build links to the page.

    The keyword only needs to appear once (not advisable for competitive terms but still works) on the page as long as you have enough quality links.

  7. Ross Dunn

    Kes I couldn’t agree more. Although we both know the heavily competitive sites often skirt the greys and blacks to compete. That will hopefully all change though once Google slams (if they ever do) all of the competitors that try to win by cheating.

  8. Ross Dunn

    Hi Dana, thanks for stopping by and commenting! I would love to hear how your query pans out. Please let me know if/when you publish anything on the subject! As for SEO 101, yes, it was this Monday’s show and I hope Brasco was able to make it come together (he is a wizard thankfully) because we had connection issues. Take care!

  9. Amanda

    Great article – I have heard that with the old algorithm, ~8% keyword density was appropriate, but that with the new one, you should be targeting more like 3%!

  10. Ferodynamics

    I’m slapped so hard by this algorithm update, today I turned off my RSS feeds and turned off comments.

    1. RSS just makes it 1000x easier to scrape a site. That’s why I turned off RSS. Oh and WordPress by default enables multiple comment feeds–see #2.

    2. As far as comments, I often get the same question over and over again, sometimes 500+ times phrased in slightly different ways. I can see how it looks like spam but it’s human nature to play “follow the leader” and emulate other people. Maybe this is especially true with young people. Also they see other people doing it, maybe they think I will reply to each person individually by email, they want to know what will happen if they ask the same question, etc.

  11. Troy


    Hoping someone can help me out on this issue. . .

    I am a small computer hardware etailer–in my bus, there is a ton of competition, all with similar products. My product listings typically contain a product title, subtitle, original basic description of a couple paragraphs, then product specs. My question is if so many people having the same products with identical specs will hurt me . .


  12. David O'Donnell

    Good to hear that Google are taking a stance on low quality content farms and/or free for all article submission sites that accept any content, which is usually very low quality and laced with anchor text links. It should mean that those who obtain higher quality links will float to the top, well… hopefully.

  13. Ross Dunn

    Hi Troy, we should speak further one-on-one because there is much more to this than I have time to explain here. That said, to answer your question partially – yes, product info is often of less benefit if it is duplicated everywhere. That is why it is important to have many more pieces in place to make up for it. Sorry to be at all cryptic here. Feel free to contact me if you want to speak further

  14. Ross Dunn

    I am sorry to hear that. If you think you have a compelling case why Google’s new algorithm is affecting the wrong people (you) please let me know and/or pass along a case study – I will be happy to publish it if your arguments are sound.

  15. Jason

    Google’s algorithm certainly wasn’t very well tested. I have articles that I have written for the past 3 years that were not SEO optimized at all as the value was in the content. I wasn’t even trying to sell anything. Over the past week and a bit, my traffic has been reduced by 99.9%. All I want to do is flip the bird at google.

  16. Jame

    I know someone that does up wp sites with 4 pages and just one article. They hope to rank it higher and then sell it based on the keyword to local businesses.

    My thoughts are that googles changes may make these pages much harder to rank, regardless of backlinking.

  17. Motorcycle Market

    Our website got hit pretty hard from both bing and google and we have not even done anything out of the ordinary. I am seeing it come back though. Maybe you just have to stick it out sometimes.

  18. Ross Dunn

    Hi Tasha, here is a start and I suggest monitoring for the latest news on the subject – they are on top of it.

  19. Stuart

    Its some months on now since the update, and as I have sites with daily unique content, we dont seem to have been affected, so for sure, unique content, and not overuse of spammy keywords, ie watch the keyword %, and all should be good, also, you are right, google still like it when other similar sites like yours, but adding many similar backlinks to a new site, still may spell trouble, do it organically, and if you need backlink advice, I am sure someone here will have some good advice, great article tho, thanks

  20. Real Estate Dubai

    Hi! Matt, I’m in internet marketing field since 4 yrs, but still I could not understood your (google) algo. before my website was PR3 after june 27 2011, (google dance)it’s decrease pr1. Can I accept from you’s what the actual issue?

  21. seo santa barbara

    A lot of websites have been hit hard by the Panda algorithm. It is difficult to pin down the main reason for the changes as PR’s have been fluctuating wildly as well as rankings. It’s like the Google dance begins again for everyone. Those of us who weren’t using questionable marketing methods should not feel the brunt of these changes. But there have been some interesting cases of scraped content ranking higher than the original sites after the algo was implemented. Even the great Google can’t get everything right.

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