A Minty Fresh List of Google Winners & Losers Is Out, But Please Don’t Panic

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Google announced their latest big change to the search results November 3 – fresher, more recent results, which they initially said impacted 35 percent of all searches, but have since clarified to say that it only “noticeably impacts 6-10% of searches depending on the language and the domain you’re searching on”.

Naturally, with the 35 percent figure that was originally bandied around, site owners and SEOs began to get a little nervous, and questions began to be asked.

  • How would this change impact their site? 
  • Should they date all their pages now? 
  • What impact would this have on their evergreen content? 
  • Was this the beginning of the end for Google News? If so, how would that impact Google News publishers?

Some of those questions were actually answered in the original post with the sentence “Different searches have different freshness needs”, but obviously the big question of how the change would impact their site wasn’t.

Data points were needed, so up stepped SearchMetrics with their search visibility score to provide a ready to digest list of winners, and a ready-to-panic-over list of losers.

Now, to clarify, I don’t have anything against SearchMetrics, they’re at least trying to provide some data points for people to look at, and you can use their tool to look at historical data for any individual site (it’s a paid service to look at longer than five weeks). But, and you knew there was a “but” coming, it still has the same issues as I covered here on Search Engine Watch last month about the Panda 2.5 update panic.

When you’re looking at two isolated data points, you don’t see the whole picture. Yes, there does appear to be a trend between the two weeks when you look across the sites, but can you really say that it’s definitive yet?

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For example, Scotttrade.com was listed as a winner, with a 48 percent growth due to the algorithm change. But can you really say that a graph that’s gone up and down more than a department store elevator on Black Friday really displays the signs of being a winner?

justinbieberzone-searchmetrics

One of the listed losers is JustinBieberZone.com, which had growth last week, only to drop this week. Was this due to the freshness update, or was this due to the hot story on the alleged Bieber love child that’s had every powerful news site in the world writing about the Canadian singer, thus pushing this site down in the rankings? It’s hard to tell at this stage.

I was hard pressed to find “fresh” content on some of the “winners” sites, which would tend to indicate that their change was due to other factors outside this update, which again goes to show that nothing is done in isolation on the web. While Google announced this change, they may have made others that haven’t been announced, individual sites may have made changes that helped or hindered them, and their competitors may not have been sitting back twiddling their thumbs.

Looking through the lists of winners and losers, there are further examples of the issues above (including at least one site that has been gone for quite a while and only has legacy pages in the Google index), so the best advice that you can take about this is to, once again, not panic. Look at your analytics, look at your data, look at your trends, and make informed decisions, not knee-jerk reactions based on data that may not correctly reflect what’s going on with your site.

About the author

Simon Heseltine is the Director in charge of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) at AOL Inc. In this role Simon and his team are responsible for organic search and training across all AOL and Huffington Post Media Group properties. He has also visited the UK office on several occasions to consult and train the AOL-UK teams on SEO best practices.

In his previous position as Director of Search at a Washington, D.C., based agency, Simon was responsible for developing and implementing organic search and social media strategies for companies across several industries. He also developed and delivered training programs for clients, including a large U.S. media company, to enable them to best take advantage of the opportunities available to their companies through both organic search and social media.

Simon is a frequent speaker at conferences in the U.S. and UK on topics ranging from SEO to social search to reputation management. He also teaches SEO at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., as part of their Digital Media Management program.

Simon has a BA (Hons) from the University of Humberside, and a Masters in IT from Virginia Tech.