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With 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:
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 North (@MorphNorth)
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 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_Dean)
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.
Gemma 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 Ewbank (@OliverEwbank)
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 Noble (@SamJaneNoble)
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 Arkell (@RobArkell)
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 Curtis (@Mad_Hollywood)
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 Benge (@GraemeBenge)
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 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 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 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 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.
Lenka 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 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.
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:
Zoo Animal Friends from BigStock
Samantha Noble is well known within in the search industry, she even won the UK Search Personality 2016 at the UK Search Awards in November. This year, she continues to make an impact on the industry by judging not only one, but three, prestigious industry awards.