Google’s 2012 Natural Search Spring Cleaning
What a wild 2012 so far for Google. Through all my years in this game I’ve never seen them so aggressive in updating the organic search algorithm. If we’re entering a post-panda era, it appears only to be in name. Labels aside, it’s still ratifying one of the same fundamental pillars – clean the index of low relevance litter.
In March, Google’s stopped sweeping nearly everything into the supplemental index (as Panda would do). Now they’re actually taking some of the trash bags they stored in the garage out to the curb. Instead of just the traditional filtering we’ve become accustomed to, tens of thousands of sites have been deindexed in March alone. It’s not clear whether it’s a penalty or just a new way of looking at quality.
What? You didn’t hear about it? Well, it’s not getting a lot of mainstream attention, possibly because we’re getting numb to all the flux. But if you play with link building blog networks (like Build My Rank or Authority Link Network), you’re probably in the know. These networks, which conduct through thousands upon thousands of interrelated blogs, are now reporting a huge chunk of deindexed inventory – well over 50% of the sites. These are typically thin sites on flimsy domains with junky spun posts. But managing that was supposed to be a job for Panda – not a rabid grizzly bear.
Maybe the jail is just too full of criminals, and they’re starting to escape through leaks in each algorithmic update? I guess if that were the case, you need to eventually get the big guns out. In my opinion they’re a little trigger happy now.
I personally have a stable of “experimental” sites where three were kicked out last week. They weren’t the best sites, but they had original content and were true passion pieces. They were about things I actually cared about, and did have some expertise and strong points-of-view posted on them. They weren’t big money makers, and didn’t have much of an audience, but they did link (in some cases) to affiliate landing pages – in a tasteful and useful way. They weren’t over SEO’d, and they didn’t have too many ads above the fold. They had nothing to do with a link building blog network. If these sites got swept up in an aggressive algorithm, I’d say Google grossly miscalculated their value, or identified them incorrectly. To a few very niche visitors, I’m sure these sites were a decent pit stop on the world wide web. Hardly kickworthy.
With all the sites being cut I wonder how many innocent bystanders are getting caught in the net? Granted, that’s always been an issue with a search engine filter, but I’ve accepted them as the cost of working with Google. A lot of the “healthy” medicine that Google gives us winds up having side-effects. But a deindexing is a much more complex road to recovery. Even if I could turn these zombies back into people, how long would the scarlet letter be on them?
At the end of the day, Google’s spring cleaning might be a great thing, or a terrible thing for your site. If your competition is using these thin sites for links, or if these thin sites are blocking you out, you’ll likely see a bump in the SERPs. But if you’ve been working with some of these thinner sites (including sites like mine that really didn’t go against what is acceptable by Google), then it looks like a lot of your effort may have just been flushed.