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Google Announces 40 New Algorithm Changes For February

5:36 am on Feb 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

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This is the one that worries me most:

Link evaluation. 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.
9:58 am on Feb 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Regarding link evaluation change, see this discussion [webmasterworld.com] in the link development forum. More meat in that discussion.
10:04 am on Feb 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Not sure where @Marketing_Guy 's website is based - but he appears to have been the earliest.

.com hosted in the UK - largely Google.com referrals for fair mix of international traffic.
3:30 pm on Feb 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Many or most of Google's changes over are made to catch and devalue people/sites that play the system with bad information to get on top.

I agree. Some of my "trickier" sites' ranking have been much more volatile. On the other hand, I have other pages that weren't consciously optimized, but have managed top 10 ranking for fairly competitive search.. and they've remained in the top 10 for years, surviving florida and a few pandas.
5:19 pm on Feb 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I was also thinking that this link change may have to do with allowing the surrounding text and even the title of the linking page affect their understanding of the topic for the target page. This seemed like a potential source of noise and error, as far as I'm concerned. With all the evolution in their on-page processing, they might well have decided that this part of the algo just wasn't helpful anymore - they already had the topic pretty well nailed from more direct signals.

This is it.
9:37 pm on Feb 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Have been reading round the other forums to see what people are saying - and what is really interesting is that Google have accompanied this change with a separate but simultaneous action against blog networks.

From what I can tell, these networks either let you post articles, or they were "home page back links" - a net of very high PR sites, with a massive 10,000 word article on the home page about Ron Paul or Britney Spears or some such thing - and the links were randomly inserted in the sentences with the desired anchors, even though the insertion made the sentences senseless! (And what is intriguing is that until G took action, they apparently worked a treat - which puts paid to the idea that G gives much weight to surrounding text).

Anyway, lots of these nets have been deindexed, starting circa 18th Feb. What is even more interesting is that people affected say they haven't just lost link power, but been awarded a penalty - i.e. say they ranked #8 before using the nets and then ranked #1, the deindexing of the nets doesn't send them back to #8, it sends them to #100.

I don't know what it means that they've taken action against these sites at the same time as "turning something down" in the algo. It might be two unrelated actions, or it might be that something about these sites was skewing the algo, and as well as improving their detection of the nets, they decided to reduce the vulnerability of the algo to them too.

<One of the forum threads I'm following> has a lot of the people who sell these networks posting on it, and they confirm that they got nuked.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 10:10 pm (utc) on Feb 29, 2012]
[edit reason] removed forum link [/edit]

10:19 pm on Feb 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

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We normally do not reference other forums unless there is content there from an authoritative source, such as a Google spokesperson. I'm inclined to make an exception in this case because the information is quite interesting.

However, to me this does sound more like a manual action than an algorithm change - or maybe some hybrid of the two.
10:26 pm on Feb 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

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The deindexing is definitely algo based. It's not that hard for G to do - they just need to look at their big table over a say six month period and do a test on outgoing links. Most of us link out freely and it's rare that you'd find say 100 sites that all link out to the exact same places, particularly if the outgoing sites were on all manner of topics. So all they have to do is put in a % filter - if say 75% of outgoing links are identical on a number of sites, they know they have a net.

BTW - the other thing I thought was interesting was that these nets were exploiting the way G has been giving priority to links in the content area (as opposed to the sidebar and footer). Which leads me to ask whether one of the things they may have looked at toning down was content zoning.
9:08 pm on Mar 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Google has clearly announced that "characteristics of links to help us figure out the topic of a linked page". That means topic of a linked page was decided by the characteristic of links and the possible characteristic of links could be "anchor text".

Now many people are promoting their sites using keywords which have high search volume. I want to give just one example, for keyword "SEO India" many popular sites are targeting & in the process they're creating back links using this keyword, even if they're providing SEO service from India but their content mustn't have much information about "SEO India". So Google might have switched of "the finding of topics of a linked page from anchor text".

It's possibility is much more now because after Google PANDA, their algorithm can now find out high quality contents & the best possible keywords for which the page should get rank as well in Google.
5:41 pm on Mar 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

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My contribution - this explains why I saw links to affiliate sites result in seriously lowered rankings for those pages on or about Feb 6th. Time to re-evaluate how you link to affiliate sites.

I saw the same thing on Feb 1st on a site that links heavily to an affiliate site. What's interesting is that I've always nofollowed the affiliate links.
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