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Google Algo Changes March 2012 and Links
Changes to How Links are Handled!
martinibuster




msg:4437334
 4:15 am on Apr 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

With thanks to netmeg for starting the main algo discussion [webmasterworld.com]. I want to bring attention to the updated factors relevant to link development in this discussion. The official Google blog post is here [insidesearch.blogspot.com], please read it because there are some changes there that may affect your link building.

The main algorithm changes reflect what many in last months discussion believed was the main thrust of recent changes. Here are the changes relative to link building that were officially announced:

  • Tweaks to handling of anchor text
  • Improvements to processing for detection of site quality.
  • Better interpretation and use of anchor text.


Here are some other changes that could have some effect, but it is debatable at best:

  • Fewer “sibling” synonyms.
  • Better synonym accuracy and performance.
  • Less aggressive synonyms.
  • Remove deprecated signal from site relevance signals.


The synonym parts are probably not link related. But could it be tied to how anchor text is tweaked?

What about the deprecated signal? Was that something affecting PageRank flow?

 

martinibuster




msg:4437594
 5:16 pm on Apr 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

Improvements to processing for detection of site quality.


That's borderline link building related. I included that because the quality of the site may impact the quality of the link. Or am I taking that too far? It's debatable.

Planet13




msg:4438151
 9:15 pm on Apr 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

I really don't know what to say...

all my competitors, who have massive amounts of spammy links, were left unharmed by the February update and March 23 Panda.

I, on the other hand, who has relied on link begging and most of the anchor text pointing at my site would definitely be considered not optimized, took a tumble.

so if I WERE a link spammer, I don't think that I would be changing my ways any time soon. I might invest in a legitimate site as a backup, but definitely wouldn't give up on the cash cow just yet.

Lame_Wolf




msg:4438172
 10:02 pm on Apr 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

all my competitors, who have massive amounts of spammy links, were left unharmed by the February update and March 23 Panda.
Have you contacted Google over this ? It would improve their algo for next time if you did.
CainIV




msg:4439012
 3:17 am on Apr 10, 2012 (gmt 0)


Improvements to processing for detection of site quality.

That's borderline link building related


I don't think its borderline martini - I think it is completely related.

Most of the updates in this realm, and Panda realm, are geared at understanding site quality.

Inbound links are a reflection of site quality and particular types of links that do not fit into the natural scope of quality, sticky, socially strong sites may be considered unnatural, non-editorial.

Lots of sites have survived the last update, and lots have not. I spoke to a friend recently who received the "dreaded" unnatural links message from Google. When I looked over his back links I seen a wide range of low quality junk links - the kind that has been helping spam sites develop nicely in Google SERPs over the years.

What is interesting is that in the message they referred to duplicated content links that were pointing from a number of article directories. The "inference" was that article directories are not editorial and natural, they are still forced links.

I think better interpretation of anchor text, utilizing anchor text to form a better understanding of signals and what is natural, and a drop of some anchor text signals are what many SEO's will ultimately remember 2012 for once all is said and done.

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4439712
 6:46 pm on Apr 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hyperlinks have been deprecated as a ranking factor, both internal and external. In their place a mention is all that is required to make a connection between your site and another and the connection is made stronger when social signals back that connection.

example: You mention Tom Hanks in a post and Google associates your page with Tom's official site. Since you don't mention Tom often, or from most pages, your site is not about Tom and so you're less likely to be important to Tom related searches.

If, on the other hand, you mention Tom a lot and people who also mention Tom a lot also mention your site you are deemed much more relevant for a Tom Hanks search. No hyperlink markup required. This would be further enhanced by sorting sites that simply get mentioned a lot more often upwards in rank.

[edited by: Sgt_Kickaxe at 7:08 pm (utc) on Apr 11, 2012]

bwnbwn




msg:4439715
 7:06 pm on Apr 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hyperlinks have been deprecated as a ranking factor.
Do you really belive that?

Hyperlinks will remain a good signal to Google. We all have to remember they brought this into the algo and have one of the best algo's to detect a natural pattern of gaining popularity. Not the number of links that count now but it is the way all the links combined bring show a natural spread into the web from all sources.

Emails, social, forums, tweets, youtube, websites, browser type ins, bookmarks and so on.

[edited by: bwnbwn at 7:13 pm (utc) on Apr 11, 2012]

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4439716
 7:09 pm on Apr 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

Yes, I do. Links became a nightmare to manage and social signals plus simple text/images convey a subject much more accurately than 'links' do.

I think saying 'Tom Hanks' is enough for Google to know this article may be associated with Tom's official site since I'm not also mentioning TMZ which would then make a TMZ page about Tom Hanks more related. Hyperlinks can be bought and manipulated, I think their days have been numbered for some time.

googlebot does not crawl your pages through your links either, it hits urls directly and is constantly trying to find new ones to visit(directly). My GWT is full of guessed at urls that have never existed and my gut tells me that is related to link deprecation. Google will have known that eventually people would figure out that links were no longer to be relied upon and had to be ready to discover new pages without them.

Not the number of links that count now but it is the way all the links combined bring show a natural spread into the web from all sources.

You don't need links for that, if you write about Tom Hanks just saying his name is enough to cause a connection between your site and his official site. Connection strength is based on other factors but the connection is there anyway.

[edited by: Sgt_Kickaxe at 7:17 pm (utc) on Apr 11, 2012]

bwnbwn




msg:4439720
 7:16 pm on Apr 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

Sgt. saying 'Tom Hanks' all you want without a link to get it indexed won't fly. Sorry but your wrong here. Links will remain a big part of the algo. It is the way a site gets a linking profile that has changed.

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4439722
 7:19 pm on Apr 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

Actually this article is now ranked for Tom Hanks, it was a test, and there is not ONE single link to this page with the word Tom Hanks in it. Google's building an exit strategy from the link monster they created, I feel it in my bones.

Actually there are dozens of WW pages with the word Tom Hanks in them and none of those have a hyperlink to them either. One article is ranked #617 in Google.

fathom




msg:4439754
 8:43 pm on Apr 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

It LIKELY isn't so much that links are depreciating (although you can see that clearly in some circles) it more LIKELY as Google learns it adapts addition counter signals within link values.

In a scale of 1:1 a link isn't worth anything more than any other signal IMHO... but where everything has finite values of say "1" (a title element) and a link is equally scaled as "1" but if you test only 1 link, in and of itself, it doesn't do much so the value of quantity create the illusion that they have an enormous influence.

The illusion isn't so much the quantity value nor the supposition that links have deprecated it is more LIKELY that Google is tapping into (as they suggest) pseudo-signals to offset the strength of link quantity.

fathom




msg:4439757
 8:50 pm on Apr 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

Actually there are dozens of WW pages with the word Tom Hanks in them and none of those have a hyperlink to them either. One article is ranked #617 in Google.


Actually #617 isn't meaningful.

If Google's new improved signal can only be demonstrated to a level of #617 without links... it generally suggest that #1 to position #X have links and that no matter what you do... you will never build success without them.

martinibuster




msg:4439830
 1:39 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

Anchor text is still a factor because the blog post mentions it. That we know. What isn't known is what tweaks have been made to the way anchor text is handled. Here is what was officially announced:

Tweaks to handling of anchor text


What do they mean by "handling of anchor text?" What do you think they mean? Tweak generally means a minor change, so in this instance it's safe to say it's several refinements to the way anchor text is handled.

What needed improving in the way anchor text was handled?

Then this:

Better interpretation and use of anchor text.

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4439851
 2:51 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

They've been trying to better interpret regular text and it would be a tweak to start treating anchor text the same way as regular text would it not? Also, they clearly say something was deprecated, you can't rule out the markup part being what was deprecated or the fact that link buying/selling is a problem that would be resolved by eliminating traditional links.

Fortunately there is a simple test. If you have one, turn off all your 'similar links' or 'related content' links sitewide and see if traffic heads south. I did on one site and search traffic has not changed in two weeks. While not definitive it does underscore how unimportant the similar links section was in ranking pages. (bounce rate up 3%, but no search traffic loss)

anallawalla




msg:4439853
 2:57 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

I haven't checked recently bhartzer's reports of his anchor text experiments (Supporters area) that suggested that anchor text links were not working as well as before. But these recent changes seem to vindicate his research.

austtr




msg:4439857
 3:06 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hyperlinks have been deprecated as a ranking factor, both internal and external. In their place a mention is all that is required to make a connection between your site and another and the connection is made stronger when social signals back that connection.


I don't buy the argument that says its now all about social media signals.

Some of the best, most informative websites out there are purely informational, or encyclopedic if you like, that have no social media connections, never will have and will never connect with the "guess where I bought lunch today" crowd.

If social media signals are to play a part in ranking a sites importance, then Google still needs a way to factor in the worth of these non-social sites in their niche areas.... and I'll bet links will still be the over-riding factor.

And that brings us back to link relevance which means anchor text has to still play a part.

fathom




msg:4439858
 3:15 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

I haven't checked recently bhartzer's reports of his anchor text experiments (Supporters area) that suggested that anchor text links were not working as well as before. But these recent changes seem to vindicate his research.


Although I read this I haven't been following.

I've used the "broad, exact, phrase" match in link development since 2008.

I take all holly grail phrases and cut them into single-word phrases and develop links on these... so if search engine optimization was the holly grail phrase I get links for >search< >engine< >optimization<

As with AdWords this allows me to find swaths of longtail phrases that were never considered before... and if not #1 a link or 2 is developed... that diversity allows finding more swaths that are similar to Adword phrase match for partial matches on (using the words I exampled previously) >search engine< >engine optimization< >search optimization< >engine search< >optimization search<

...which avoids bhartzer findings/issues because no single phrase is overwhelming targeted (thus no unnatural anchors).

fathom




msg:4439859
 3:20 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

I don't buy the argument that says its now all about social media signals.


This isn't an all or nothing. Load speed is also a factor but just because you have the slowest loading website around does not mean you can't be #1 because the factor is but 1 of 200... (200+ probably now)

I'm sure if Google says it is a factor it is in the weighing but it isn't the only thing.

bwnbwn




msg:4439960
 10:55 am on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have a good idea on some of the tweeks, not enough time right now will post some of my findings in a couple hours. Just took over a site were the owner can't work on it and he hasn't had a tec in some time working on it. Didn't know what a webmaster account was. Went in the acccount and he has the unlatural linking notice in his account.

ponyboy96




msg:4440000
 1:19 pm on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

I like Fathoms concept on link building. Looks a bit more natural too. For me, it just depends on the site. If it's a newer site with not a lot of links, then I target branded/URL type links from authoritative sites related to the business. For large more established companies with thousands of links, more keyword targeted. I try to stick with a 3:1 approach. For every 1 keyword link, I build 3 URL/branded links.

To the point of what this tweak means and how it impacts search, guys you can't go chasing every little change. Focus on building a long-term viable business and brand. I like to think, "if I was an engineer at G, what would I use as a signal." To me that answer is obvious, analytics and click data.

Relevancy signals are there to get a site to rank initially, then track the analytics. If site A ranks at 1, but site B gets more clicks and people spend longer, then site B should be at 1 and A should drop. Relevancy + Good Sticky Site = Long term win IMO

bwnbwn




msg:4440241
 10:22 pm on Apr 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

Here is site history. Old domain 10 years had one seo work on it back in the day directories were the thing. Looking at his profile I can't find anything jump out. Old site as I said has a resource page with some links. None of them are in an anchor text, all good sites most of them old. When I say old over 8 years.

The only thing I can see were this site could trigger a email on the Google Webmaster Tools notice of detected unnatural links.

He has a page on his blog to be specific were he has in text "Advertisements Add your Link here" and some of the partners added from the resource page. He was trying to increase revenue anyway he could. This was added years ago like 5 or more so really nothing new. I guess the tweek has to pick up on terms within the site and if this has a links page could cause the email.

Nothing else there took some time looking over the site. The blog is really a good one full of good information for the user, he hasn't lost positions so far. Nothing else there. Like I said in the other post he hasn't had any SEO work done on the site in years, no new links added in years on the links page. All of the outgoing links are quality sites. Got to be the Advertising and add links on the same page to cause this.

No anchor links as I said, no bad links, profile is fine nothing jumps out he has affilates but these are linked differently so they don't show up in profile.

I feel it is this one page with the text and partners that triggered the email all I can find.

As Paul would say "Now You Have The Rest Of The Story Good Day"

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4440264
 12:02 am on Apr 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Bwnbwn, if you were to tell Google 'I suspect you made a mistake and didn't pay me enough' without providing specifics do you think they would even look into your claim? If they asked you for more information and you respond with 'my system still detects you didn't pay me enough' do you think you'd be given the bird at that point?

So why is a vague message without examples from Google able to put you to work for them, about content that's not even on your site? It's ludicrous and, in my opinion, a sign of just how useless GWT has become. Worse than useless, a timewasting stress creating strain of useless.

I'd send off a message saying "provide me with examples and I will fix them" and see what they say? Otherwise the bird is as productive a response as any, and probably better for your health.

jmccormac




msg:4440269
 12:24 am on Apr 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

The funniest message from WMT is the period "Googlebot detected a large number of URLs on your site.". They don't seem to understand that it is a 350 million webpage site with the hosting history of domain names in various TLDs and webhoster statistics going back to 2000. As Sgt_Kickaxe said above - it really is just a source of stress.

Regards...jmcc

fathom




msg:4440328
 3:22 am on Apr 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Here is site history. Old domain 10 years had one seo work on it back in the day directories were the thing. Looking at his profile I can't find anything jump out. Old site as I said has a resource page with some links. None of them are in an anchor text, all good sites most of them old. When I say old over 8 years.

The only thing I can see were this site could trigger a email on the Google Webmaster Tools notice of detected unnatural links.


Forget looking for anything specific. Do broad strokes firsts.

What's going on in Analytics of the past year?

He has a page on his blog to be specific were he has in text "Advertisements Add your Link here" and some of the partners added from the resource page. He was trying to increase revenue anyway he could. This was added years ago like 5 or more so really nothing new. I guess the tweek has to pick up on terms within the site and if this has a links page could cause the email.


The problem with this style of research is... if what you see has nothing to do with anything Google found you'll start digging and finding what you want to see and not what actually occurred.

Again... you research MUST start with Analytics.

If anything occurred where Google took action you will LIKELY see a drop in traffic.

It may not be a massive overall drop it could be a topical drop if say unnatural anchor targeting occurred... this would produce a drop in specific phrases where an overall upward trend which could cover a specific decline.

This is where wmt Keywords can help drill down a traffic drop due to a unnatural targeting starting at the top of the word list and moving down.

Nothing else there took some time looking over the site. The blog is really a good one full of good information for the user, he hasn't lost positions so far. Nothing else there. Like I said in the other post he hasn't had any SEO work done on the site in years, no new links added in years on the links page. All of the outgoing links are quality sites. Got to be the Advertising and add links on the same page to cause this.

No anchor links as I said, no bad links, profile is fine nothing jumps out he has affilates but these are linked differently so they don't show up in profile.


Google (John Mu) has conceded that while a message was just sent the problem could have been there for a while... If a while it is possible the link credits can no longer be seen (to Google anyway).
I feel it is this one page with the text and partners that triggered the email all I can find.


I highly doubt that.

Google detecting that as "unnatural" isn't like looking for a needle in a haystack it would be more finding a specific needle in a stack of needles. The roar of natural linkage isn't all that different from the muffle cry of manipulation... I find it impossible to believe this would be the problem.

That said, if this is a case of selling links rel="nofollow" all of them fixes that issue... but I would move on.

fathom




msg:4440332
 3:41 am on Apr 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

So why is a vague message without examples from Google able to put you to work for them, about content that's not even on your site? It's ludicrous and, in my opinion, a sign of just how useless GWT has become. Worse than useless, a timewasting stress creating strain of useless.


This isn't necessarily true.

Put your search engine engineering hat on.

You don't have a clue who your system is emailing but you suspect these are innocent people that have been misguided by rogue service providers or bad 3rd party advice.

It isn't easy to work through all the layers of work completed on a website but the best outcome you can have is making the website owner get more involved in the promoting decisions.

It is clear (from the search engine) if you make this process "simple"... all you get in return is a growing list of habitual offender.

The owner has a choice... get legitimate help to first fix and then remain inside Google TOS or dispose of the domain and start fresh but the stress of not knowing is a hard won lesson learned.

Google does not view organic results as we do... it, in and of itself, is a money pit for them.

But a website that is marginalized in Google search is a clear candidate for Adwords and eventually a great reformed student on TOS.

If this was you, your game... you would do the same instead of losing money and the war on spam.

CainIV




msg:4441267
 6:34 am on Apr 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hyperlinks have been deprecated as a ranking factor, both internal and external. In their place a mention is all that is required to make a connection between your site and another and the connection is made stronger when social signals back that connection.


I don't see anything that would lead me to this conclusion Sgt Kickaxe.

My best hypothesis here would be that they handle anchor text differently depending on a wide range of other signals they are receiving, one being brand, another being social.

fathom




msg:4441279
 6:51 am on Apr 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

I don't see anything that would lead me to this conclusion Sgt Kickaxe.


Agreed

My best hypothesis here would be that they handle anchor text differently


If you have a diverse link anchor text profile... you don't see any depreciation in the anchors' value.

If your profile is predominantly a few different phrases... that's a red flag for unnatural.

Planet13




msg:4441290
 7:18 am on Apr 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

If your profile is predominantly a few different phrases... that's a red flag for unnatural.


I just don't see that affecting my competitors who remain at the top of the SERPs, despite having minimal variation in anchor text. They only have three or four minor variations on their anchor text, no matter which page the links point to.

Maybe in GENERAL you are correct, but I see enough exceptions to believe that there is some other issue.

fathom




msg:4441312
 7:40 am on Apr 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

I just don't see that affecting my competitors who remain at the top of the SERPs, despite having minimal variation in anchor text. They only have three or four minor variations on their anchor text, no matter which page the links point to.

Maybe in GENERAL you are correct, but I see enough exceptions to believe that there is some other issue.


Well if everyone got the same pattern doesn't that just mean they started a new low?

DanThies




msg:4441601
 6:47 pm on Apr 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

"What needed improving in the way anchor text was handled?"

How about using "Home" as the anchor text, when there's a more descriptive link further down the page.

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