February Google Update – What You Need to Know

March 1st, 2012 • By:  • Search Engine Optimization

February Google Update – What You Need to KnowDoFollow Thursdays

On Monday, Google’s inside search blog announced they were rolling out (and had already rolled out) 40 changes to the Google algorithm, “Search quality highlights: 40 changes February“. While Google makes changes to their algorithm on what seems to be a daily basis, updates such as these can cause some alarm. After highly publicized updates, such as Panda, more and more website owners are paying attention. With so many changes, updates and announcements, however, it can all be so confusing! What do you do with the information?

When any of these announcements are made it’s always best to step back and remember – Google makes changes to their algorithm all the time, daily even. Hundreds and hundreds of changes were made just last year and even more will be made this year. It’s important as a website owner to take notice, but remember: don’t freak out!

The announcement made recently certainly showcases some of the great things that Google is improving upon, but many of them we were already made aware of. It’s just a continuous tweak made to the Google algorithm. How a website owner or marketing manager can use this information is to speculate what’s on the horizon. Whenever Google makes an announcement they’re showing us a little bit of what goes on behind the curtain and what they’ve been working on for the past few weeks/months.

So what can we speculate with this recent announcement? I’ve identified a few key updates that you should take notice of. Did one update over another stick out to you? Share with us in the comments below (and you’ll even get a do-follow link out of it!).

Images

“Expand the size of image index in Universal Search, fresher images, & improved detection for SafeSearch in image search”. This was certainly needed and with the growing popularity of sites like Pinterest they’ll need to keep improving. Being able to properly identify images and rank them appropriately can be a tough job using only the semantic data available.

Make it as easy as possible for Google to identify the images on your site. If you have great images on your site make sure they are optimized. Do you have your priority keywords in the filename of the image, alt tags and caption? How large are the photos and do they cause page load speed issues? Each of these items is important for your image optimization.

Takeaway: Make image optimization a priority in 2012.

Local Search

Traditional SEO has previously impacted local universal results but now even more with Google’s recent update. Local citations, local links with geo-modifiers, reviews, etc… are all important factors to local search. This recent announcement leads me to believe that social factors, link factors and local content factors will be even more important for local search, due to it’s large importance in traditional SEO. Google also announced more locally relevant predictions in YouTube too – so don’t forget about local video in 2012!

Takeaway: Link build with a local focus and integrate video into your local search marketing (optimize video with Schema.org) in 2012.

Links

One update that stood out from the rest was the “Link Evaluation” item near the bottom of the list.

“We often use characteristics of links to help us figure out the topic of a linked page. We have changed the way in which we evaluate links; in particular, we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years. We often rearchitect or turn off parts of our scoring in order to keep our system maintainable, clean and understandable.”

It’s hard to speculate what this particular change is or how it might impact our industry. Speculations have ranged:

With such an ambiguous statement you can’t really speculate. In these instances I just remember to keep doing the right things and not get caught up in the hype: build website authority, get in content links, build social proof and make sure your onsite SEO is tight.

Takeaway: Sometimes there are no takeaways just reminders to keep doing the right thing.

Freshness Factors

“Improvements to freshness & consolidation of signals for spiking topics”. Freshness of your onsite content is still very important and Google is slowly but surely improving how quickly they surface fresh content in their results. Site speed , in my opinion, plays a part in this. If they want to identify your content as quickly as possible then: use CSS sprites, use a CDN, compress files at the server level, and follow these tips to improve your website load speed.

Takeaway: Freshen/thicken your content and improve page load speed in 2012.

I think the most important takeaway from any announcement like this is that Google is just one of the many inbound marketing channels we have in our arsenal. We have to play by their rules and they change them on us all the time. Use their announcements as a tool to help you forecast industry changes and help you to align your priorities for the coming year.

What were your takeaways from the recent announcement?

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Kaila Strong

As Senior Director of SEO Services, Kaila oversees both the SEO department and our Internet Marketing Strategists. She works with our expert team to uncover SEO strategies, develop link building campaigns, conduct competitive analysis, review Google penalties, execute backlink analysis and train peers on SEO fundamentals.
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This entry was posted on Thursday, March 1st, 2012 at 4:30 am and is filed under Search Engine Optimization. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “February Google Update – What You Need to Know”

  1. Kane Jamison Says:

    Regarding the linking change:

    My hope is that it’s anchor text. It’s one of the most overweighted signals and 90% of exact match anchor text is being done by SEOs.

    My guess is that it’s not nofollow – it’s too prevalent for advertising and comment spam to totally throw out the window.

  2. Kaila Strong Says:

    Thanks for the comment Kane. My hope is it’s anchor text too. Too much over reliance on exact match anchor text by newbie (and sometimes even advanced) SEOs.

  3. Lynna Says:

    I’m interested in this – “Improvements to ranking for local search results”.

    It’s good to know that they’re consistently working on these updates but it’s also frustrating. For example, a client ranks well organically but not so well on Maps or even has their listing disappear then reappear sporadically… which I think is closely tied to algorithm updates. I hope Google works out the kinks soon and lets us know more about the local ‘signals’ they’re interested in.

  4. Kaila Strong Says:

    I’m right there with ya Lynna. It’s so frustrating and also hard to explain to a client who doesn’t deal with this stuff everyday. Thanks for the comment!

  5. Anton Koekemoer Says:

    Great post – Totally agree with what Kalia wrote. Thanks for a great read.

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