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What Will The Next Google Algorithm Update Target?

Mike Essex

by Mike Essex on 15th March 2013

Zoo AnimalsWith a Panda update planned for this weekend and a big Penguin update predicted in Q2 2013 there are plenty of algorithm changes on the horizon. But what will these updates target? And could there be a whole new type of update on the horizon?

We asked sixteen of the Koozai team to speculate on what’s next to come:

Chris SimmanceChris Simmance (@Koozai_Chris)

I think the next update will focus further on a site’s backlink profile. With the rollout of the Disavow tool recently I think that Google will be doing what they do best with the data they are getting from other sites and may penalise those with poor link profiles more effectively. They must have something in the pipeline for all the data people are willingly sending them regarding what they feel are negative links. This may kill generic directories and set the sights up for big Social Bookmarking sites next.


Emma NorthEmma North (@Koozai_Emma)

I’m a firm believer that the next Google algorithm update will target social. With the increasing significance it places on the Authorship scheme and social signals, it is no surprise that people are already looking for ways to game the system. I believe Google will want to stay on top of this and find new ways to identify falsified or spammy social profiles and unnatural use of Authorship to penalise sites accordingly. In January I wrote a blog post which goes into more detail on my speculations of a Google Zebra algorithm update and I still feel it’s every bit as likely to come true over the next twelve months or so.


Tara WestTara West (@Koozai_Tara)

I think the next Google algorithm update will be another measure to detect unnatural link profiles. They might start placing more emphasis on the way links are built, rather than simply the kinds of links that are built. For example if they discover too many links in a short period of time then you may face a penalty. Although this is already a tell-tale sign of an unnatural link profile, I think we might find Google paying more attention to it in the future. Other elements of the way links are built might also be targeted in the future, for example if all links are built from the same IP address and if the same amount of links are built on a regular basis (rather than being randomised and looking more natural).

My tip for getting around these kind of updates would be to ensure your link building has a strong strategy behind it and takes into account the historic link profile of the site so it can best emulate this and remain as natural and random as possible.


Dean Marsden (@Koozai_DeaDean Marsdenn)

I believe the next Google algorithm may target slow and poorly coded websites. An element of SEO has been to optimise for site speed and tidy invalid code but the effects of this have usually been immeasurable. I think Google will penalise slow and buggy websites in the search results and reward those with fast, fully functional websites.


GemmaGemma Holloway (@Koozai_Gemma)

I think the next algorithm update will be a social based update targeting sites whose associated social profiles have a disproportionate amount of subscribers in comparison to the amount of engagement they generate within their community.  We have seen an increasing importance on social within SEO, but in the same way people originally misinterpreted that it was the number of links which counted not the value, we have also seen website owners focusing on building up likes, followers and circles etc. as opposed to encouraging quality engagement amongst these subscribers.  Those within the industry understand the importance of engagement, but I think it will be those who don’t which will be the next to be hit.


Oliver EwbankOliver Ewbank (@Koozai_Ollie)

I think the next algorithm update will clamp down on overuse of advertorials and widely distributed footer links.

Why advertorials? The recent ‘Interflora Incident’ is a clear indicator that an advertorial without ‘nofollow tags’ will not be tolerated.

Why footer links? The Google Webmaster Guidelines highlight bulk footers as link schemes yet I still see hundreds of backlink profiles that have not suffered. Sooner or later Google will have to back up their guidelines with stricter algorithm updates.

I would also like to see the next algorithm update target brands with false social signals. Buying Twitter followers and Facebook Likes should not be enough to give your brand authority in the eyes of Google. An update on false social signals will force the industry to get more creative which is better for everyone.


Samantha NobleSamantha Noble (@Koozai_Sam)

One of the factors that Google look at is site speed and how fast a page loads when a user visits it. There are lots of tools that are targeted at helping sites analyse and improve their site performance including two of Google’s own products; Google Analytics Site Speed and PageSpeed Insights. When you look at an AdWords campaign, a higher Quality Score is rewarded to sites that load quickly which in turn means a decrease in the amount that advertiser pays per click. Google like sites that load quickly as it keeps their customers happy and engaged with a site. I think one of the next algorithm updates will look at targeting sites that have a slow load time and those sites that take donkeys years to load will start to see drops in their rankings. This update will be called the ‘Google Cheetah Update’.


Rob ArkellRob Arkell (@Koozai_Rob)

As like many others, I’m not too sure what the next major Google update will be called, but whether it’s a Badger, a Skunk or a Whale, it will continue Google’s anti-spam fight and really hammer home the importance of becoming a high-end content publisher in order to ‘earn’ links. I also think the importance of social signals as a ranking factor will also continue to rise in 2013.


Andrew CurtisAndrew Curtis (@Koozai_Andrew)

What do I think will be the next Google algorithm update will be?  We’ve have had Buffy, Dewey, Vince, Caffeine, all the variations of Panda, Penguin each of which were rolled out to maintain Google’s authority as the number one search engine and to provide you and I with the best possible search results.  Let’s not forget, Google don’t make money from organic but the more we use Google, the more PPC ads we’re likely to click on!  Therefore, considering that we’re searching more and more on mobile devices, maybe they’ll roll out something to reward sites that incorporate responsive design.


Graeme BengeGraeme Benge (@Koozai_Graeme)

Much has been made about the impending rise of Bounce Rate as a ranking factor, so perhaps an algorithm update will look to reward sites that engage visitors (by penalising those that don’t). This is clearly a tough one to get right though as it arguably is not an exact science. Blogs for example, will tend to have a high bounce rate due to people finding and consuming the content they have sought and then leaving. The fact that a visitor moves on does not signal that the visit did not result in value being gained so it’s a tricky one.


Laura PhillipsLaura Phillips (@Koozai_Laura)

As per my Viral Spam post & Emma’s Zebra post, I would like to think that Google will start refining how they judge social signals to prevent these spammers from flooding social media channels. I am noticing it more and more in twitter too, and it’s pretty tedious.

However I think it is more likely that ‘easy’ links such as social bookmarks will be targeted.


Anna LewisAnna Lewis (@Koozai_Anna)

I don’t know what the next Google algorithm update might be, but wouldn’t it be great if it was something that meant that it would be okay for webmasters to care about their websites and promote them how they see fit? Wouldn’t it be great if Google was to penalise themselves for breaking their own guidelines? Wouldn’t it be great if Google didn’t have the power to reduce businesses to bankruptcy with the flick of a switch? Or to initiate massive losses, redundancies and job cuts? I’m sure they are striving for the ‘greater good’ and part of the fun of being an SEO is keeping up with new challenges, but when the changes have such big impacts on people’s lives and not just the results that end users see, people should be asking what Google are doing to help the economy in this difficult time. No they are not obliged to, but with a monopoly in most of the world I would have hoped to see some level of realism within their updates.


Andy WilliamsAndy Williams (@Koozai_Andy)

I don’t think we should expect anything ground breaking or new from Google (from an algorithm point of view) in the near future, simply more of the same.

Poor link profiles will continue to be high on their radar. With the introduction of the Disavow tool they are quite openly highlighting that site link profiles are a big focus point right now. The more people ignore this the harder they will get hit. This has been public knowledge for a while now and it is only a matter of time before we see a big culling. Site owners have had a lot of time to sort this out or at least review their own link profiles. Google have sent out their warnings and tools are available – the logical action next is for them to release an “I told you so” update.


Tom HowlettTom Howlett (@Koozai_Tom)

I think Google will continue looking at page layout in more detail, ranking sites lower that do not have a clear and thoughtful navigation and those that make content hard to find. This could also crossover into mobile and content that is difficult to find or navigate to on mobile platforms may not rank so highly on those devices. Added to this is a continuing watchful eye on the page elements, looking at commonly over-optimised page elements to a degree where it is no longer beneficial from a usability standpoint and seeks only to encourage higher rankings. As Google continues to improve their ability to understand page context, pages should naturally rank for search queries if thought has been given to the site visitors and how they will use the site and serve up appropriate information. Therefore I believe having a website strategy that forces content to be a certain way for ranking’s sake is likely to fall out of favour with Google in the near future.


LenkaLenka Istvanova (@Koozai_Lenka)

I think the next Google update would target again ‘spammy’ links. The next hot targets could be all the fake profiles with thousands of links which have been bookmarked only because of SEO purposes. So if you haven’t a good strategy in place in terms of link building then you may be hit by Google.


Mike EssexMike Essex (@Koozai_Mike)

Part of the problem with almost all of Google’s past updates is that although they claim to fight a specific tactic – thin content, exact match domains, spammy link profiles – there are millions of awful sites that continue to survive. Given that this occurs in industries such as the Payday Loans and Casino sector – where results are often dominated by black hat sites – there’s a real risk that Google could be seen to not be doing enough to protect customers.

Which is why I believe the next update will either:

a) Use the aggregated data from the disavow tool to better discount or punish the link tactics that allow these sites to thrive, or:

b) Start to feed AuthorRank in to the ranking process by considering the authority of the authors who wrote content AND also those who read and share content. So if high profile people read content or write it there will be the potential for a rankings boost.

There’s a possibility for both and I feel both have to happen for Google to remain relevant for the future, but I feel like the work required to achieve either of these tasks would likely make them singular updates.

What do you think?

Do you agree or disagree with the team’s findings? We’d love to hear what you think and what you feel Google will target next:

Image Source

Zoo Animal Friends from BigStock

Mike Essex

Mike Essex

Mike Essex specialises in digital marketing and everything search. A recent project of Mike’s was featured on BBC News, Radio 5Live and the Times here in the UK, whilst also featuring on USA Today and ABC News in the US. He will be writing throughout the month about digital marketing and much more...

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  • Paul Profitt 15th March 2013

    Despite all of Google’s algorithm changes,I am still seeing a lot of the same old keyword stuffed sites remain high in their search engine ranking. I wonder why this is?

    Reply to this comment

  • Sandeep Shinde 18th March 2013

    i think next algorithm is based link building Strategy,google going to penalize whole website because of single bad link .

    Reply to this comment

  • Alex Gilmore 20th March 2013

    This is my answer to a client after reading this post:

    The opinions are varied but the big two was links and social. Personally I believe it is social. Google wants to own the internet and who stands in their way Facebook. That is why they are putting emphasis on Google + and Google Local. Now to be in Local you have to be in Plus. What does that do? It makes businesses now focus on Google + and draws their primary attention away from Facebook. Now you have to sign your content, so you can help them prevent plagiarism, with what? Your Google + account. Again they are forcing you into their territory and I believe we are just at the beginning. Before Google + you used to see Facebook accounts listed in SERPs but now where are they. Has anyone said anything about Facebook being banned? Did Facebook get the website death notice telegram through webmaster claiming unnatural linking detected. Basically have two power houses going against each other Google and Facebook and the rest of us are just cannon fodder.

    I also agree with Anna Lewis, Koozai_Anna. Google has no accountability with their updates. It amazed me that back in 2003 2004 that Google touted in their webmaster guidelines that hyphens in domains helped their spiders truncate words in your URL. They also virtually preached exact match domains benefited in the positive side of SEO and they went further and said exact match domains with hyphens work really well. Now Exact Match Domains are not white hat, they are not even grey hat since that category is what the algorithm team is working on to make black, so in my opinion we now have a fourth type of SEO so let’s just call it charcoal.

    Let’s also talk about Penguin. In 2003 2004 again Google touted in their webmaster tools that they would never punish you for bad inbound links since they view it as a possible cyber-attack from a competitor. They still think it is a possibility but they want webmasters to monitor the inbound links and clean them up before they get the death notice. So what do we have now when they penalize your site for what they consider unnatural linking? Now all those bad link directory websites are being put out of business but what do you think they are going to do now? The algorithm team obviously has never heard of the “Law of Unintended Consequences” when it comes to algorithms.

    All an algorithm is statistical analysis of certain parameters. The problem is they have some 200 different categories with how many sub categories in the top category, only the team knows. They cannot predict exactly how the algorithm will work but they come pretty close. Oh back to what the webmasters of these dead directories are doing now? When Google came out with their disavow tool it finally came to me they have gone into the cyber-attack business. How so? Here is my explanation. A category of SEO was inbound linking specialists. So what has happened to all those legitimate linking specialists jobs? They have dried up, gone the way of a Dodo Bird, but some of these professionals have adapted and are now back in business as a “Backlink Monitoring Specialist”. Think about every website out their can have a competitor say now, “I can hire someone to create a large amount of websites and then systematically create large amounts of links to a competitors website and have them get the telegram of death”. Then they have to go through the appeals process, which takes months, but in the mean time they either go out of business or start doing PPC ads. Now you see what Google is really doing they are not the benevolent overlord of the internet but have been taken over by greed. They want SEO to cost as much as PPC which raises profits and lowers costs.

    Reply to this comment

  • Jackie De Burca 27th March 2013

    Firstly thanks for lots of interesting opinions. I found it especially refreshing to read Anna Lewis, Koozai_Anna – comments about Google and their behaviour in our current economy. Between what happens on Adwords and the natural listings, it is an area that I wish more people would talk about publicly.

    As Alex Gilmore noted in his post above, at a certain stage we were told exact match domains were the way to go. This being one example of many elements that have changed. Talk about moving the goalposts …

    Whilst content has always been king, I think that in an ideal world, it should in fact be the main factor to rank a site. If highly specialised experts across niches were to judge sites for their content, as opposed to algorithms, or in conjunction with algorithms, then the playing field would be fairer.

    Even working on SEO for only one site, with the current ranking factors, can be a full time job, to be truly successful. There are only a small percentage of businesses who have the budget to employ a full time SEO expert/s. And even still we can be penalised for something that was previously acceptable practice.

    Without ranting on for too much longer, I would like to say that I am in total agreement with the comments made by Alex.

    Reply to this comment

  • Alex Gilmore 27th March 2013

    I want to thank Koozai in allowing my comments. Believe it or not i comment about Google quite frequently on blogs. In doing so sometimes it sounds like I am standing on a soap box preaching. However you are the first blog to allow such comments about Google.

    Kudos to Anna, finally someone criticizes Google. I have intentionally left out my website as I use a acronym of it for email purposes. I started criticizing Google four years ago when I named my business and purchased the domain. Then I took credit cards through Google Shopping to start and in about seven months I sent quite a large amount through them and all of a sudden then stopped processing credit cards for me. So I sent in my appeal which did not work either. Their statement to me as the reason why “Your Business does not align itself with our Ideals”. So I persisted to find out what that means but no one at Google would give me a definitive answer. In 2010 I was invited to participate in a presentation at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. I just happened to talk with someone who had worked for Google at on Time and he or she said it just might be the name of my business.

    Reply to this comment

  • Alex Gilmore 27th March 2013

    Sorry one more thing. I have heard about the unnatural linking death notices in Google Webmaster however I had not seen one personally until now. In doing an evaluation of a website I found one of these death notices in their webmaster account that was dated 4/7/12, 17 days before the announcement. Now everyone that I have talked to, seen blog comments saying they have received one, or heard about in other ways their site was banned within 60 days. That is scary since 94% of the websites affected by Penguin still had not recovered. This was two weeks ago. So when I saw this in their account, a month ago, I went and checked to see if any of their pages is indexed. Almost everyone is indexed in Google. But that goes against what has happened to others. The answer lies with the difference of the websites marketing model. The ones that were banned were information sites only and the website I am talking about is eCommerce but are exploring the organic side of SERPs. Now this does not mean that a website can go eCommerce and start a Google PPC campaign because the site I am talking about is PPCing six figures a year.

    To this evidence I have another account of a website that has huge Penguin issues with their inbound linking but never received the death notice. This website has a PR 6 and has almost a half million links to them from three websites that the highest PR is a 2, with a joke of an Alexa rank of 23,333, and the registration records puts the owner of the domains not on this side of the world. Why have they not received the death notice, these spend in the seven figures a year in PPC but are also performing extremely well in the Organic.

    Googles prime directive:

    Past – Do no harm to their end user
    Now – Make SEO as costly as PPC

    Reply to this comment

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