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James Perrin

Google Updates: Panda, Local Search and Links

28th Feb 2012 SEO, Link Building, SEO, Local Search 3 minutes to read

Google have announced a mammoth update, with 40 changes and tweaks to the way the search engines will work all over the world. The main focus of the changes revolve around the ongoing Panda update (we’re up to version 3.3 if you’re keeping track), as well as a few other key areas.

A couple of the standout adjustments in this monthly update will impact the way that Google evaluate their links and the way they rank websites for local searches. This will no doubt raise a few eyebrows amongst anyone working within SEO, and Digital Marketing more broadly.

Thanks to the vagueness of the wording provided by Google, this topic is open to interpretation; so if you want to contribute, feel free to comment at the bottom of the page. The full list of the 40 changes can be found on Google’s Blog, but we have picked out some interesting ones that look to be quite pivotal when it comes to performing SEO and search engine marketing.

Panda 3.3

Since Panda’s initial launch, every month or so there have been updates and tweaks to the algorithm. In Google’s latest round of updates, once again Panda has been adjusted, now at version 3.3. Google said they changes will “refresh data in the Panda system, making it more accurate and more sensitive to recent changes on the web”.

Already people have seen changes to their rankings as a result. Whilst the impact is unlikely to be as sizeable as the first days of Panda, it is good to see they are keeping it refreshed and updated. As mentioned there have been many tweaks along the way, but for a full list of the changes, and what they meant be sure to check out Search Engine Land’s latest infographic detailing the history of Panda algorithm update.

Link Evaluation

This announcement has left the SEO world scratching their heads. Whilst we are not entirely sure of the implications or the impact it will have, we are certain that Google have changed the way they evaluate links. Here’s what they said, “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. ”

Some have speculated that when Google says, “characteristics of links to help figure out the topic of a linked page”, this is referring to anchor text. Others believe it’s to do with the topic of the page on which the link is. It’s inevitable that as algorithms evolve, there will be more sophisticated ways of determining relevancy of sites. This has pointed towards other signals, for example @koozai_steve has posed the question, Will Social and Quality Signals Nullify Traditional Ranking Factors?

Whilst this isn’t suggesting that link building is dead, of course it isn’t, Google’s admission that they have changed the way they evaluate links leads me to think that social signals, and thus the strength of links which have been shared, will play an increasingly significant role. Is it at the cost of traditional link building though?

Traditional Ranking Factors for Local Search

Google have also revealed that when it comes to ranking for local search, they will use traditional ranking factors that they use for their main search results. Here’s what they’ve said, “This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.”

This revelation will be good news to those practicing SEO. In terms of the specific traditional ranking factors in question, well that’s open to debate. Google have focussed on traditional SEO to help with local search, which is evident with Google Places. Specifically, is this a message for SEOs to keep calm and carry on? Implement all of the traditional ranking factors, and this will help with local SEO? Well we have given tips on local SEO before [See: Optimising Your On-Site Content for Local SEO and SEO For Local Businesses], but in terms of traditional ranking factors, well this is anyone’s guess.

What do you make of the changes? We would love to hear your thoughts on the matter, specifically regarding link evaluation and local SEO.

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James Perrin
About the author

James Perrin

Content Marketing Manager, James Perrin is a regular contributor to the Koozai blog. Well experienced in sales and marketing, James also has a passion for journalism and media, especially new media. From the latest industry related new stories to copywriting advice, James will provide you with plenty of digital marketing information.


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